Q&A with a Colombian lone soldier

"I said to myself that Israel is my place, and I told myself that I had to stay and defend my country."

Lone Soldier Raymond Chalki (photo credit: IDF)
Lone Soldier Raymond Chalki
(photo credit: IDF)
When Raymond Chaki, stepped off the plane in Israel in 2012, he had no intent of staying longer than a year, let alone making aliya (immigrating) and joining the army. The 23-year-old South American had never been to Israel before, and once his MASA program ended, his plan was to return back to his home country.
Today he is an Israeli citizen serving in the IDF. The Colombian soldier spoke with The Jerusalem Post about what led him to join the army, and his journey in Israel so far.
When did you move to Israel?
“I came to Israel on a MASA program in 2012. I was on a MASA program for a year. Before that I had never been to Israel before. After MASA I made aliya because I love the country so much."
Why did you join the army?
“I was just coming here for a year to experience what Israel was. But after the year, I said to myself that Israel is my place, and that I had to stay and defend my country."
What do you do in the army?
"Right now I am in a combat unit in Nahal. We specialize in explosives and engineering. The unit is in the middle of training right now. After joining I had to take a Hebrew course. Now we are in training. But I’m looking forward to being done with training, so I can be prepared and have my objectives set and done. Once you’re done with training, you can become a real soldier.”
Is it difficult to fit in?
“At the beginning it was hard. But once you're in with your group it all goes away. You go through all your hard moments with them, and you leave everything here. It's fun and interesting. People make fun of your accent, but in the end you fit in. Because, in the end, the most important thing is that you are also serving their country and we are all here together to help out."
What would you say to people who may be thinking of joining the army?
“I would tell people who want to join the army to do it. It’s a great experience. It’s something you grow from and remember for the rest of your life.”
What does your family think of your decision?
"I feel like it's a necessity to be here and serve for this country. Yes, there is my family back home. But this is my home now."