This is the seventh in a series of stories told by former Israel Defense Forces (IDF) reserve duty soldier-students about their time in service and life in Israel, brought to you by StandWithUs and Keren is one of 14 speakers traveling around the United States as a part of StandWithUs’ 6th annual “Israeli Soldiers Tour,” putting a human face to the IDF uniform. Last names are withheld for security purposes.

Keren, 26, studies Industrial Engineering at Tel Aviv University. Her parents are from Tunisia and France. As a teen, she was involved in the Israeli Scouts, eventually becoming a leader. Keren did a year of community service (Shnat Sherut) after high school, working with youth at risk. “It is becoming more common in Israel to spend some time after high school and before college giving back to the community and volunteering,” she offers.

What unit did you serve with in the IDF and why did you serve there?

I enlisted in 2008 and was placed in the Psych-technical diagnosticians’ course. This position entails interviewing and conducting personality testing for all the new soldiers about to enlist to determine who is fit to be a combat soldier.

This is an important point. Before soldiers in the Israeli army ever get a gun into their hands, they go through a very formal and regulated process to make sure that they are fit to hold this position.

Knowing how the IDF Classification System works to ensure that only the right people get into the right positions gives me a lot of confidence and trust in the Israeli army. Combat assignment decisions are not made arbitrarily or superficially!

It’s important to understand that even those who do my job, and process all the soldiers, are given professional and intense training. Only one out of eight candidates are selected to start the course and only 60-70% end the course; after almost a six-month process, we are authorized to practice.

Can you share a story about active duty that illustrate what life was like?

As a Psych-technical diagnostician I remember the most amazing, shocking, moving and complex stories I have ever heard. Here is one.

It started as a standard interview, the guy showed high motivation to go to combat service, and be placed at the border control (MAGAV).

As in every society in the world, there are always bad apples. This soldier was a bad apple.

He mentioned a few times that interaction with the enemy is very important to him; that, coupled with other comments he made, raised some red flags. After a lengthy interview, I realized he might not have pure intentions. This is unacceptable in the army under any circumstances, no matter how much your family may have suffered from the ongoing conflict.

This example shows how important it is to carefully check out an 18-year old boy who may be sent to train to become a combat soldier and get a weapon in his hands.

The Israel Defense force has NO tolerance for these kinds of opinions, as we are here to protect and defend and not to hurt for no reason.

What motivated you to speak about your experiences on this tour?

There is so much misinformation, distortions and half-truths about Israel and the IDF, it makes me sad. My primary motivation is to educate. I am most gratified when I find audiences who want to learn from us. I welcome the tough questions that are critical of Israel and the IDF, as long as the person shows a willingness to learn and truly wants the other side.

What message do you want people to take away from your story?

People need to learn from the source – there is no comparison to meeting an IDF soldier and getting the point-of-view of someone who has actually been there.
Don’t believe everything you hear – do your own research and come to everything with an open mind.

Not knowing when or how this conflict will end makes me feel uneasy, but as always, I’m optimistic. All I can hope for is that the future is one when my nation will no longer know wars and operations, and our children will only run when they hear an ice cream truck and not a siren.

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