Photo Credit: IDF spokesman
The Marva program inducts young Jews as IDF soldiers.

The Marva program is offered in southern Israel, where participants undergo abbreviated military basic training, including several weeks of resilience training. The project is run by the Israel Experience, an educational subsidiary of the Jewish Agency, the Security-Social arm of the Defense Ministry, and the IDF Education and Youth Corps.

“The Marva program has changed my life,” says Jonatan Tiktin from Mexico, one of some 100 young Diaspora Jews who came to Israel to get a taste of life in the Israeli army.


“As a Mexican Jew, I never really thought about how important it is to be a Zionist and how important it is to represent the Jewish state wherever you go. My point of view used to be very different, and now I want to join the army and help the State of Israel with pride,” Tiktin said after completing an eight-week exposure to IDF life.

One 18-year-old participant from South Florida who underwent the Marva experience said he wants to enlist in the IDF. According to him, before joining the program, he was not mentally prepared to join the army. But now he is ready for the life of a soldier in the Israeli army and sees Israel as his home.

The Marva program inducts young Jews as IDF soldiers. / IDF spokesman

Ilya, from Germany, said the program gave him a unique opportunity to get to know the IDF way of life and enriched his knowledge of Israel, its history, society, and military, and now he understands what honor it would be to wear the IDF uniform.

The program inducts these young people as soldiers and takes them through a shortened enlistment process where they learn what young Israelis go through when they are drafted. This is followed by “IDF week,” during which they tour army bases around the country, meet soldiers, and hear about the value of military service in Israeli society. The participants spend a week in the south, on the outskirts of the Gaza Strip, meet with residents, and learn about settling the Negev.

They met with President Yitzhak Herzog, who told them, “Your participation is an emotional and spiritual experience, it reaches deep into your heart. To be proud Jewish soldiers, who are connected to the State of the Jews – the State of Israel, is amazing. I wish you all great success, that you return safely to your communities, as leaders who are ambassadors of Israel.”

The Marva program inducts young Jews as IDF soldiers. / IDF spokesman

Nili Kovacs from Los Angeles said: “When I joined the Marva program, I already knew that I wanted to enlist in the IDF and move to Israel. My family is Israeli and I grew up listening to stories about my father’s service in the Givati Brigade and how he made friends for life during his service, bonding through blood, sweat, and tears. Marva taught me how to adapt to uncomfortable situations that I would never have expected myself to be okay with. It starts in the morning when you wake up at 5 AM to run three kilometers and then take a 10-minute shower.”

Marva Commander Shir Bennett said: “It gives a sense of mission and responsibility to bring young Jews from all over the world to get to know the army, which is the place that unites Israeli society. I tell them, You are part of us, it’s an inseparable connection. Our soldiers defend the country on the Gaza front, and you are at war on the front lines against the supporters of the anti-Israel boycott.”

Israeli Experience CEO Amos Hermon noted: “For many of these young Jews this is an opportunity to get to know Israel. They fall in love with the country and then return to enlist in the IDF.”


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