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On October 8, I participated in a most remarkable event. It was a ceremony honoring 13 outstanding soldiers of the IDF (Israel Defense Forces).

Members of their unit were in the audience, as were families of the honored army members, taking up the two front rows. As I stood facing the audience, my glance sweeping the rows of young girls and boys in the green uniform of my beloved homeland, my heart was overwhelmed with gratitude. Silently I whispered the bracha of “Shehecheyanu,” thanking Hashem for “allowing us to live, to survive and to reach this time.”

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“This time” when our ancient-new land is standing after 2,000 years of exile, serving as a home for our people. As I sat in the midst of this remarkable audience – the cream of our youth – the reality of the blessing became fully evident.

The IDF differs from most armed forces in many ways. Among them is its mandatory conscription of women and its structure, which emphasizes close relations between the army, navy and air force. Since its founding, the IDF has been specifically designed to match Israel’s unique security situation. It is one of Israeli society’s most prominent institutions, influencing the country’s economy, culture and political scene.

One of the 13 being honored as an outstanding soldier was Batya Aviya Jackson, an NCO in the human resources unit of the IDF, in care of soldiers’ personal wellbeing.

To my question, “What does human resources mean?” and what her assignment was, Batya Aviya replied: “Since the Israeli army is the people’s army – every man and woman reaching the age of 18 must join – soldiers come with different backgrounds, some good, others with problematic social, economic and family backgrounds. We get youths with criminal records or with very low level of education, or in debt to black markets. This is where I come in,” she continued with a serious tone. “I will give you an example: When one of my soldiers was still young, his father killed his mother and then killed himself. As a result, the soldier lived in boarding schools without any support. When he enlisted in the army, he was considered in the category of a lone soldier and granted better conditions.

“On the other hand, I have a soldier whose mother has 100% disability and whose father died a year ago. Before the army, the soldier took good care of his mother, feeding and bathing her every day. Now that he is in the army, he cannot do that anymore. With a lot of effort, the soldier now goes home every day and comes to base for a few hours only.  In addition to this, the soldier and his mother get help financially because of their low income. All this thanks to the special human resources unit and the soldier’s cooperation.

“As you see, not everyone has a supportive family, enough money and the correct mindset. They need help.

“It is my moral and Zionist mission to help my brothers and sisters.”

And help she does. Not only does she fulfill her duty as a soldier, but considering her assignment a “moral and Zionist mission,” she carries it out with dedication.  This was why she was honored.

One by one, the thirteen male and female soldiers went up on stage to receive their certificates and a short accolade of their accomplishments. Batya Aviya approached shyly and walked off the stage holding the certificate with obvious embarrassment. I wished to embrace her, and the others, for their devotion to our nation’s future.

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