Ugandan IDF soldier hopes to operate Iron Dome after living through rocket fire

Pvt. Or Meidan says IAF protecting her life during Operation Pillar of Defense inspired her to join the IDF.

Pvt. Or Meidan 370 (photo credit: IDF Spokesman)
Pvt. Or Meidan 370
(photo credit: IDF Spokesman)
IDF Pvt. Or Meidan’s life took an unexpected turn following last year’s Operation Pillar of Defense in the Gaza Strip.
After enduring the incessant rocket fall around her kibbutz near the Gaza border, Meidan chose to put her education at Tel Aviv University on hold and enlist in the Israel Air Force. Now the Ugandan-born soldier is close to achieving her new ambition of defending Israel by operating the Iron Dome rocket-defense system.
“I feel like I’m protecting [Israel],” she says in a recent interview. “I really like what I’m doing.”
Meidan, who was not born Jewish, describes her life in Uganda and Zambia – where she lived for two years before immigrating to Israel in 2011 – as carefree. She was studious, she says, and when her family decided to move to Israel, she planned to continue her pursuit of an anthropology degree.
But her life in Yad Mordechai, located roughly five kilometers from the Hamas-controlled Gaza Strip, inspired her to choose a new path. The kibbutz was incessantly under rocket fire, says Meidan; day and night, rockets exploded around the kibbutz and overhead.
“I was shocked,” she says.
She credits Israeli air defenses and the IAF with protecting her life there, and this compelled her to join the IDF. She now feels she is protecting fellow Israelis from rocket fire like the kind she experienced.
She also admits that becoming a soldier has molded her into a person who is “mentally and physically stronger” and who is more aware of the world around her.
After enlisting, she participated in a Hebrew course through Mikve Alon – a basic-training track for new immigrants.
Once she became more fluent in Hebrew, she was drafted into the Air Defense Command, ultimately joining a unit that operates the Iron Dome.
Last week, she passed a physical combat test that involved running 1.6 km., climbing a rope and running through tires. She now hopes to become an officer in charge of an Iron Dome battery.
After she completes her army service, she intends to resume her university studies.
Though her background isn’t typical of Israelis, Meidan says she now feels like she is a part of Israeli society – something for which she is tremendously appreciative.
“I would really [like to] thank [the Israelis] for having accepted me to join the army and for giving me a really big opportunity to feel like part of the country myself,” she says.
Another of her aspirations is to convert to Judaism. She intends to participate in Nativ, a program for IDF soldiers who want to convert.
“I want to be Jewish, because they are really good people,” she says. “I also want to feel like a part of the country itself.”