After decade in Canadian SWAT, immigrant joins Golani

30-year-old "Y," called "Saba" by his comrades, currently in basic training with 18-year-olds.

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February 6, 2007 04:48
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He combated Islamic terror in Canada and served as a personal bodyguard to VIPs including Vice Premier Shimon Peres. He served in Toronto's crack SWAT (Special Weapons and Tactics) unit and was behind dozens of operations that succeeded in breaking up criminal and terrorist infrastructure in North America. But today, after 10 years as a Canadian law enforcement official, the 30-year-old "Y" is undergoing basic training together with 18-year-olds at the Golani Brigade's training base near Binyamina. Nicknamed "Saba" (Grandfather) by his comrades, Y. plans to join the IDF's anti-terror training school in three weeks, after he completes the four-month basic training. Y. moved to Toronto from Beersheba with his family when he was five. At the age of 20, he began training as a police officer. After two years, he transferred to the SWAT unit, where he underwent rigorous special training to prepare him to combat organized crime, terrorism and criminal gangs. "Most of our work was against criminal infrastructure," he told The Jerusalem Post during an interview at the Golani training base on Monday. "There was also anti-terror work, since Canada is a transport country for weapons and explosives that are smuggled around the world." At age 30, after living in France, South America and Africa, as well as completing four years of service with SWAT, Y. decided to leave his promising security career behind and return to his birthplace. Why? There is no place like home, he said. "Israel has always been my home and I never felt more at home than here," he said. "The more time I spent around the world, the more I realized that the world was becoming a small place for Jews and that we don't have many places left that can be home for us." By serving in the IDF, Y. said he was ensuring that "history never repeats itself and that Israel continues to serve as the sanctuary for the Jewish people." The journey has not been easy. At 190.5 cm. tall (6 foot, 3 inches), Y. needed to have a bed custom-made for him so he could sleep in the barracks. His company commander, Lt. Avraham Straus, said Y. asked to be treated like the rest of the soldiers, and cleans bathrooms and does kitchen duty. "I am adjusting on a daily basis," Y. said. "I wake up every day and remind myself why I am here and what I came to achieve." At first, the IDF did not know what to do about Y.'s request to join. But his determination paid off and after the Lebanon war this past summer, he finally got the answer he was waiting for - come enlist in the IDF. "Doing basic training in Golani means that I am certified to work in defense in Israel," he said. "I compare myself to a foreign doctor or lawyer who, in order to work in Israel, needs to first get certified." Straus said Y.'s determination and personal story served as an inspiration for the others in the company. "The soldiers appreciate what he has done and realize that there are values that they cannot yet understand," he said. "Y.'s story teaches us that the soul of a Jew is something that cannot be replaced."

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