Relighting the torch of Machal

"Join the IDF” is a new organization modeled on the Machal network of 1948, recruiting young Diaspora Jews to Israel to stand guard in their ancestral homeland.

IDF (photo credit: Aaron Hecht)
(photo credit: Aaron Hecht)
Although Israeli Jewish teenagers are drafted into the IDF on their 18th birthday, the nation’s daunting security challenges mean that there is always room for more soldiers.
The situation may not be desperate as in 1948, when Israel was fighting for its life against all but impossible odds, but now as then there is a strong desire among many young Jews in the Diaspora to come and volunteer to help defend the Jewish state.
And as in 1948, today there is an organization that recruits these young Diaspora Jews and brings them to Israel to stand guard in their ancestral homeland.
“Join the IDF” is a new organization modeled on the Machal network of yesteryear which channeled Jews to wartorn mandatory Palestine to defend Israel at its modern rebirth.
The idea to resurrect the Machal concept originated with Jay Schultz, an American-Israeli who has been working with Zionist causes his entire life.
“We’re actively recruiting young Jews, between the ages of 18 and 23, to come and spend a year in the IDF,” Schultz, director of, recently told The Christian Edition. “This isn’t camp! This is full enlistment on the front line.
They’re in combat units, taking a very serious step in their lives.” When asked where the idea came from, Schultz explained that there are many good programs for bringing Jewish people to Israel as tourists, as students or for other reasons. But most of the Jewish youths who come never take it further. They might come back to visit Israel later in life, but few ever make aliya and settle here permanently.
“When you get a Jew to fight for his people, you have him for life,” Schultz explained. “I want every Jew to come to Israel yesterday! Even those young people who come here and just volunteer for a year and then go back home and go to college, they’ll be more mature and responsible and able to handle things that other people just entering college won’t be able to handle. It really builds them up in terms of their character, builds them up as Jews. It’s about giving to others, and that changes them for life.” has the full endorsement of the Israeli government, the Ministry of Defense, and the Jewish Agency. But Schultz knows it will take much more than that to turn what so far has been a small project involving a few dozen people into the massive aliya machine he has in mind.
“We need our friends to create buzz about this. We need people to go to their rabbis and organize in their synagogues. We need people to spread the word in Facebook and through e-mail. We need people to write letters to their local newspapers and go on radio and TV shows and talk about it. And we need to reach out to Jewish veteran groups, so that they can help young Jewish people understand what it’s all about.
“We’re recruiting an army of Jewish leaders. Even if they don’t stay after their IDF service, they’ll be way ahead of their peers in terms of connection to Israel, and they’ll be more inclined to fight against anti-Semitism in the political, diplomatic and journalistic fields.”
The program also has the support of the original Machalniks who came to Israel to fight in the 1948 War of Independence.
“We very definitely commend and applaud all organizations and efforts to encourage young Jewish men and women to enlist for service in the defense and protection of the Jewish homeland,” said Smoky Simon, chairman of the World Machal organization which represents foreign volunteers from the 1948 War of Independence. “I believe there is no finer way for forging bonds between Jews in the Diaspora and Israel than to serve in the Jewish State’s defense forces.”