IDF Spanish speaking trio 311.
(photo credit: Marc Sellem Israel/The Jerusalem Post)
Romi Kaplan still thinks she will wake up and everything will turn out to be a
dream. But on Tuesday, when he stands together with 119 others to be recognized
as the IDF’s top soldiers of the past year and receive a citation of excellence
from President Shimon Peres, she’ll know it’s reality.
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Kaplan, 21, made
aliya from Argentina in 2009 and has served for the past year and a half as an
instructor in the IDF’s Sarel Program, which brings Jews and non-Jews alike to
Israel for three weeks of volunteer service at a military base. Since its
inception in 1983, more than 125,000 volunteers have come to
Kaplan will not be the only Spanish-speaker receiving the
menorah-shaped pin from Peres. Alongside her will stand Michal Resnik, a 23-
year-old from Buenos Aires who moved to Israel almost 10 years ago and serves in
the IDF’s C4I Directorate, as well as Efraim Raza, who moved to Israel from Peru
in 2005 after converting to Judaism.
“In the beginning, I didn’t fully
understand what it meant to receive an award from the president,” Kaplan said.
“I then spoke to some people who explained the significance to me. Now I am
The 120 soldiers who receive the annual distinguished service
award, presented by the president and the IDF chief of General Staff on
Independence Day, are selected from thousands of soldiers nominated by their
Resnik, for example, serves in the Mamram Division of the C4I
(command, control, communications, computers, and intelligence) Directorate and
is part of a team whose responsibility it is to install the Windows 7 operating
system on all of the military’s computers.
Two years ago, the team
developed a computer program that automatically shuts down all IDF computers at
6 p.m., to conserve energy. It has saved the IDF millions of
Raza serves in the 7th Armored Brigade as a tank driver. His
story begins about 10 years ago when, as a 12- year-old, he began expressing
interest in Judaism after learning about the religion from his uncle who had
converted and moved to Israel.
Raza started attending Shabbat services at
a synagogue near his home and with his younger brother began keeping mitzvot.
His parents also became interested and three years later, after he turned 16,
the family converted. Two years later, they moved here.
“Looking back, as
a kid growing up in Peru, I never imagined that I would stand one day before the
president of Israel as an IDF soldier,” he said. “But I am proud and know that
the country has been good to me and that I have been privileged to serve in its
For Resnik and Kaplan there is no doubt that they are in the
Abroad, said Resnik, you can live comfortably, within a
Jewish community, but the place is not Jewish. Then you come to a place that is
also Jewish, and you know you have arrived home,” Resnik said.