Lone Soldiers: Knowing your borders

Feeling her identity and values restricted in Holland, Dina Schrijver came to Israel to feel at home, and protect it.

DINA SCHRIJVER 311 (photo credit: IDF Spokesperson)
(photo credit: IDF Spokesperson)
Dina Schrijver made up her mind to move to Israel right before Yom Kippur 2008. She was studying criminology at a local university in her hometown of Amsterdam and a test was scheduled for Yom Kippur. She went to the university staff and tried explaining that she would not be able to take the test since it fell on a Jewish fast day. A year earlier, Schrijver, today 21, had come to Israel to study Hebrew but after her year returned to Holland to study and give her birthplace one last chance before she decided where she ultimately wanted to spend the rest of her life. “I had a test on Yom Kippur and they said I would fail the test if I didn’t take it and I knew that there was another place in the world – called Israel – where I can be who I am and that I will be accepted for who I am,” she said.
A few months later, Schrijver was on a plane back to Israel. When she arrived she decided to immediately enlist in the IDF. Today, she is serving in the Field Intelligence Corps as a “Tatzpitanit,” the Hebrew name for female soldiers responsible for surveillance along Israel’s land borders.
Schrijver serves in the West Bank near the Maccabim Checkpoint outside of Modi’in. A few months ago, during one of her routine four-hour shifts, she spotted a suspicious figure approaching a nearby Jewish settlement. Schrijver immediately alerted a nearby IDF unit which intercepted the suspect and prevented what could have been a serious terror attack.
Schrijver’s passion for Israel dates back to her childhood. As a child she heard a lot about Israel and Herzl from her parents. In 2004, after her second year in high school, she came here for a monthlong summer trip and fell in love with the country.
“I believe,” she says simply, “that all Jews need to be here.” The growing anti-Semitism in the Netherlands, she said, as well as difficulties in explaining to her classmates why she couldn’t go out with them on Friday night or eat in the same restaurants as them all helped Schrijver make up her mind. She was particularly troubled by the almost-daily snide comments she would hear from her non-Jewish classmates.
“My friends just couldn’t understand why I couldn’t eat everywhere and go out with them on Friday night,” she said.
One day in school, after a certain assignment took her a little longer than the rest of her classmates, one of them started insulting all Jews.
“He asked me why it took me so long,” she recalled. “He then said that all Jews do things slowly.
Everything, we Jews do, he said takes time.”
Schrijver’s parents were not thrilled with her decision but supported her move to Israel. They had spent a year here 25 years earlier, studied Hebrew and thought about staying but in the end returned to Amsterdam.
“They said that it was my decision and what helped me make it was that it is hard to be Jewish in Holland,” she said.
“The media there is anti-Israel and all you hear is criticism,” she said. “It was very hard for me.”
While happy with her move, Schrijver says that what shocked her in Israel was the casualness of everything. “Here, you can just drop in on someone for coffee without giving any notice,” she said. “In Amsterdam, you would have to make an appointment for coffee days in advance.”
With the end of her army service in sight – she will be discharged in November – Schrijver plans to take the psychometric exam and pursue a degree in tourism and hotel management. Fluent in several languages, Schrijver feels she can help improve the way Israel is perceived by tourists from around the world.
“There are a lot of contradictions here but in the end, it is a great country,” she said.