May the 4th be with you: Israel’s Star Wars fans return after COVID-19 hiatus

Two years after the establishment of Israel’s first outpost of the 501st Legion, preparations for a Rebel Legion outpost are already underway.

May the 4th be with you: Israel’s Star Wars fans return after COVID-19 hiatus (photo credit: OFER MOLDOVAN)
May the 4th be with you: Israel’s Star Wars fans return after COVID-19 hiatus
(photo credit: OFER MOLDOVAN)
The denizens of a galaxy far, far away are back in Israel, and their presence is only growing stronger.
It’s been nearly two years since Adam Nahoum established Israel’s first outpost of the 501st Legion, one of the largest fan organizations in the world with over 14,000 members in movie-accurate attire in 64 countries worldwide. In that time, their numbers have grown larger.
And fittingly, on May 4 - recognized worldwide as Star Wars Day for “May the 4th (as in, May the Force) be with you” - they welcomed new members, with doubling their total from four to eight members. 
This is thanks to the efforts of Neta Shermister, an avid cosplayer and member of the 501st as an imperial officer. She helped launch an initiative to recruit several new members as Jawas, an iconic alien species from the franchise. So far, four new Jawas are joining.

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Joining the legion is no simple feat. It requires painstaking research and costume design, and a commitment to go “trooping” (as in, go to events in full attire) at least once a year.
But while the coronavirus pandemic had put much of that on hold, the country’s reopening has allowed trooping to resume once again. Already, the 501st has resumed doing charity work - the legion makes appearances at events and hospitals all over the world for free, as they are strictly nonprofit. Last week, Nahoum - whose character is imperial stormtrooper designated TK-51948 - and the rest of the legion visited Sourasky Medical Center (Ichilov) in Tel Aviv, their first hospital visit in over a year.

The Star Wars legion visited Sourasky Medical Center (Ichilov) in Tel Aviv, their first hospital visit in over a year. (Courtesy)The Star Wars legion visited Sourasky Medical Center (Ichilov) in Tel Aviv, their first hospital visit in over a year. (Courtesy)
 
But while the Dark Side may be strong, another force is growing in Israel, as the country could soon see the first established outpost of the Rebel Legion.
The theme of the Rebel Legion is essentially the same as the 501st, with the difference being that members must wear the uniforms of characters that are part of the famous Rebel Alliance (or the Resistance from the sequel trilogy). 
And while they may represent opposite sides of the Force and bitter enemies in the various wars that rage throughout the galaxy far, far away, their mission here is much the same: Doing good and spreading a love of arguably one of the most famous franchises in history.
Nahoum, who has two characters, is also a member of the Rebel Legion, as some characters like Jawas and Tusken Raiders - the latter of which is Nahoum’s second character - can have dual membership.
But the “commander” of the aspiring Rebel Legion outpost-to-be is Yaron Fiegenson, or as he is also known: Jedi Master Obi-Wan Kenobi.
The “commander” of the aspiring Rebel Legion outpost-to-be is Yaron Fiegenson, or as he is also known: Jedi Master Obi-Wan Kenobi. (Credit: Ofer Moldovan)The “commander” of the aspiring Rebel Legion outpost-to-be is Yaron Fiegenson, or as he is also known: Jedi Master Obi-Wan Kenobi. (Credit: Ofer Moldovan)
“Technically I’m Obi-Wan in the deserts of Tatooine,” Fiegenson told The Jerusalem Post, referencing the character’s appearance in Episode IV: A New Hope as played by Alec Guinness. 
Having the official title of Israel’s only Jedi, Fiegenson has always preferred the Rebels to the Empire, though he doesn’t hate them. 
“We don’t hate the Empire, but we want to do good, and I see myself as a good guy, not a bad guy,” he explained. “Since no one applied in Israel to form a Rebel Legion outpost before me, I took it upon myself to start the outpost.”
The outpost isn’t official yet, as the Rebel presence isn’t strong enough at this time, though with the new members joining the 501st all being Jawas - who can have dual membership - that will soon change. 
 May the 4th be with you: Israel’s Star Wars fans return after COVID-19 hiatus. (Credit: Ofer Moldovan) May the 4th be with you: Israel’s Star Wars fans return after COVID-19 hiatus. (Credit: Ofer Moldovan)
“It takes three members to become an outpost, and we have two,” Fiegenson explained. “The third member is currently applying and we are waiting for her to be approved. Then we will officially be approved.
“Until then, we’re basically in the Outer Rim,” he joked, referring to the remote parts of the Star Wars galaxy.
With such a small presence in Israel, Rebels and Empire alike have been forced to essentially work - or rather, troop - together.
“We do almost the same thing as the 501st, only we're the good guys. Everything else is done almost the same. Israel is small, so there’s a lot of cooperation,” Fiegenson explained.
And with COVID-19 restrictions being lifted, the trooping can resume in full force.
“We are coming back,” he said, adding that they plan to go trooping on May 4.
Nahoum elaborated on what: They have been invited to “troop” at a wedding!
“Not at the chuppah though!” Nahoum clarified. “Nobody is that crazy.”
But of course, just because restrictions are eased doesn’t mean they plan on trooping recklessly.
“We need to be healthy, and not take any unnecessary risks so we can fully open up again,” Fiegenson said, adding, of course, “May the Force be with you.”