Q&A with a Guatemalan combat soldier

"Serving in the IDF is a once-in-a-lifetime experience. Therefore, everything else can wait."

Lone Soilder Julio Orellana (photo credit: IDF)
Lone Soilder Julio Orellana
(photo credit: IDF)
Twenty- year-old Julio Orellana, moved to Israel on March 2013 and after four months joined the IDF to serve as a combat soldier in Kfir. He spoke to  The Jerusalem Post about what led him to make these life choices and how he feels about his army service.
Hi Julio, where are you from?
When did you arrive in Israel?
"On March 3, 2013."
And when were you recruited?
"I went to the IDF recruitment office a week after I landed in Israel. When I got there they said that I have to take some tests before I can enter the IDF. I was disappointed because I wanted to enter immediately, but I understood that if I want to be a proper soldier I have to go through the same steps that any other kid does. I did them and got my draft date which was July 1, 2013. I arrived in Mikve Alon where I learned Hebrew and went through a course which teaches you military tactics. After a couple of months I asked to be assigned as a Kfir soldier."
Why did you want to go to Kfir from all places?
"Before I made aliya I read about all the different units in the IDF and decided that the work that Kfir does is the one most suitable for me. I believed that in this unit my years as a soldier would be the most meaningful and fulfilling. I found the Judea and Samaria area the most interesting in the army, and therefore it was the right choice for me."
How did your parents react to your decision to leave Guatemala and join the IDF?
"My mom wasn't very happy about it. She offered to buy me a car and pay for me to go and study abroad. She didn't understand that I felt that it's my obligation to serve my country and my people. When I was in Guatemala I felt anti-Semitism everywhere I went. In school my fellow students called me "the Jew". I always knew that Israel was the right place for me, and I never doubted my decision to come here. Serving in the army is a once in a lifetime experience. Therefore, everything else can wait."
What did you learn from your experience as a combat soldier in the IDF?
"I learnt a lot about friendship. When I'm upset I can't go home - it's a 30 hours journey. Therefore, you have to learn to rely on other people because you don't have your family with you. Your friends are your family. They are here for me for better or for worse."
What was the hardest time for you?
"At first it was hard to get used to the many rules the army has - I wasn't used to the hard discipline. After getting used to being a soldier I had to deal with the homesickness, and the struggles of not knowing the Hebrew language. After I earned some friends they helped me and invited me to their houses - there I found my comfort."
What are your plans for the future?
"I don't quite know. Maybe I'll study engineering, travel to Asia, maybe China. I've got my whole life ahead of me."