Hi, my name is Robert Stark and I’m a 23 year old college graduate who left my home in New York for Israel, to volunteer for service in the Israeli army.

This blog is focused on my personal experiences in the Israeli military, my own adaptation to military life, the low times and the high times, the light stuff and the heavy stuff, all as they come. It will not be focused on military matters, rather it will be about the life of a human being in uniform (laced with military matters).

I hope you follow me on my journey, and feel free to comment your thoughts.

50 thoughts on “Welcome”

    1. Dear Robert, I read your article and I am very proud of you.
      I volunteered on a kibbutz when I was 18 when I finished high school
      in 1965. After that summer experience for the first time getting my hands
      really dirty in the soil I realized that this is my home. Went back to
      Great Neck and started looking for a kibbutznik in NY, found him, got
      married, came to Israel, 2 sons, divorced, 2 sons in the army, they grew
      up, grandkids arrived. We are all here because we are already home.
      Good luck to you, it won’t be easy because we crazies have to do what we have to do,
      shalom, Phyllis

  1. My dear son Robert,
    I must confess that I am proud of you, and also frightened.
    Proud that you are a young man firmly committed to something bigger than yourself ever since you were a young boy and as your father I must support and encourage what lies deep within your heart, and frightened because your family cannot exist without you, needs you back home in Brooklyn, and yet blessed you to serve in IDF, far away from home in the other country.
    In the past, when you spoke about serving in Israeli Defense Force, your mom Svetlana and I thought that as the time progresses and you wise up, your childish dreams, due to its naïve nature, would fade away to the background of everyday life, and would become one more unaccomplished thing that children speak about that would never ever happen.
    And yet it arose again and again, until one day we found ourselves in J.F. Kennedy Airport desperately waving “good bye”. Good bye to our only son Robert, whom we loved for 23 years, going away from home now to the other side of the earth to become an Israeli Army soldier in a combat unit for few years, and that, is the right thing to do. How comforting is that?
    Israeli parents anticipate this reality the moment their children are born. For us, this was a shock. Svetlana became tearful, expressing that she was never prepared for such a stressful event. Even though we should come around realizing that you couldn’t live with yourself if you didn’t go, so we would have to figure out how to live with letting you go.
    Serve well my son… serve well.

    Your father Yevgeny

  2. What a beautiful project! I look forward to your future posts. We really miss you back here in New York.

  3. There is nothing more exciting than the time leading up to service in the IDF. As someone who left the NY area for the IDF myself so many years ago, I envy you your journey all over again.

    Not once in over 35 years of service did I ever regret my decision. I can think of no greater praise for a member of our people than “Defender of Jerusalem”. Have a great, safe, rewarding service.

  4. Oh, so excited for you.

    In March 1974, Purim in fact, I arrived in Israel as an Oleh Chadash. I knew a few words in Hebrew. I cannot explain how amazing it was to be in Israel (I am the son of an Auschwitz survivor, and experienced a lot of anti-semitism in Montreal, where I grew up)

    Six months after arriving in Israel, I volunteered for the IDF. I had no clue where to go, what to do (there was no Inernet then 😉

    People suggested Nachal, so I agreed. When I went to Bakum, I was there by myself. After getting my gear, I met with an officer who told me that I only had to serve 18 months, as I was an Oleh and 19. I said no, I want full service.

    He signed me up on the spot, and then asked me where I was from. “Canada?” Ah, yes, because Israelis don’t come here asking for more 😉

    I ended up in Tzanchanim, and my years in the service were amazing!!! In fact, Boogie Yaalon, currently the Defense Minister was a MemMem (Lietenant) in my unit in the Sinai.

    I wish you the best of luck, work hard to learn Hebrew and BE ISRAELI.


  5. Best of luck, don’t be afraid to ask others for help, I also made the journey and served and now my children serve. Remember too, that the most important thing to do is to stay here and make a life here

  6. Wish there were more of you who decide to see and do such a wonderful Mitzvah. And, by the end of your tour of duty, you should realize your dream of coming closer to your identity, and Jews.
    Best wishes,
    Rocky, US Army Major retired.

  7. Robert, I was where you were almost 33 years ago at about the same age as you are now. I came from the wonderfully organized and comfortable Dutch countryside with similar feelings and ideals. It was never easy, I was having language issues and I probably wished a million times I could just “beam back” home while on midnight guard duty, in Lebanon, in the 1st Intifada and even after in the many years of call-ups in the reserves – always at the most inconvenient time.

    I respect your choice greatly and wish you all the best. Your family can be proud of you and I hope that one day, like me now, you can look back upon this period with a solid good feeling that you did something which felt so very right and gave you back so much. I often think back of those years (old fart speaking now) and I do not regret one single minute of it.

    Here’s wishing you a safe and rewarding time in the IDF, that you may accept all of the little frustrations that go with any army anywhere in the world but also my personal thanks for stepping up and standing up for your values and the safety of a country that is near and dear to my heart even though I do not live there anymore.

  8. One piece of unsolicited advice -make friends with the salt-of-the-earth Israelis who have positive attitudes about life in Israel and the army and avoid any disgruntled types who may challenge your decision, to put it lightly. (The latter think that the streets of America are paved with gold.) The former can be the best types of friends in the world and the latter are the type who relish in decreasing a new immigrant’s morale. Obviously, coming as a volunteer from the US will also set your status higher in Israeli society and serving in competitive units tends to filter out the bad apples, so you can take comfort in those realities.

  9. Kol Ha Kavod!!!! You are now entwined into the backbone of the our Jewish state. Kudos to you and may you enjoy a happy and long life!

  10. I volunteered for 2.5 years at age 20. I am 40 now and can say it was the best 2.5 years of my life. Stay strong and focused. Behatzlacha!!!

  11. I LOVE that land. Not Jewish, but if they would take a 48yr old female-Swede living in Minnesota, I would join up today. I look forward to reading your posts! The IDF is blessed to have you!

  12. Kol Ha Kavod, may you be blessed with safety, productivity and personal and spiritual growth throughout your time in Israel.

    I too intended to serve, and at 19 went in to a pre army program in Israel for potential new olim.

    Unfortunately, due to health issues, I was not able to finish the program. I realized very quickly that army life and I were incompatible due to these health issues.

    Still, I regret never having been able to serve fully.

    All the best to you!

  13. Hi Robert,

    Congrats on your decision. I am a New Yorker and lone soldier as well, currently in Imun Mitkadem (advanced training) with Tzanchanim. If you have any questions as you prepare to start your service or need anything while here in Israel, please feel free to send me an email (samdewitt1@…).

    Best of luck,

  14. Shalom Robert
    We loved your article on Arutz Sheva and we share a very common bond. May hasen keep you safe. Our son Uri is a Mefaked in Netzach Yehuda. He is currently in Bekaot. Uri Made aliah from Brooklyn in July 2012. We are very frustrated by the distortions and lies that we hear abou the Army. Here is a Letter that we sent last week to the to the editor of the Flatbush Jewish Journal . Our letter mirrors exactly what you wrote.

    One of the non-kosher birds mentioned In Parshas Shemini is the Da’ah. In Parshas Re’ei, the bird is called a Ra’ah. The Gemara in Chulin 63b, teaches us that the Ra’ah and Da’ah are of the same species of bird. The Gemara says that the bird is called a Ra’ah because of its extraordinary eyesight. The Ra’ah can rest on its perch in Bavel and see Neveilos as far as Eretz Yisroel. I heard Rabbi Frand say in a shiur, that we can learn a lesson from the Ra’ah. There are people who live comfortably in Chutz L’aretz (including Flatbush) and look for the bad in Eretz Yisroel.
    This letter is in response to Rabbi Moshe Boylan’s reflections on the Atzeres. Rabbi Boylan writes- “Thus, the gezairos on Yeshivos and Kollelim which attempt to remove people from learning there, and to instead expose them to the immoral atmosphere in the Army, is an attempt to destroy Torah She’Bal Peh in our generation .”
    To make such a statement is being a motzi shem ra. Let me share with you some firsthand information about the army. Shiurim are given at army bases. Army bases have batei-midrashim where the soldiers can learn on their spare time. Sukkas are erected meters away from the border. These sukkas are used not only for eating, but are quite crowded at night, with sleeping soldiers. Exhausted soldiers, returning after an all- night patrol, daven neitz. On erev Shabbos, groups of soldiers check the eruv around the base, as well as establish where the tchum Shabbos is. Before going out on patrol on Shabbos, soldiers are reminded by their commanders to check their pockets and make sure that they are not carrying any non-essential equipment. The highest standard of kashrus is upheld, with 2 totally separate kitchens for meat and dairy. There is no cooked dairy food in the army, so as never to have the problem of bassar b’chalav. The slightest kashrus violation is met with court martial. Is this an immoral atmosphere?
    The army just constructed a new base in the Jordan Valley to accommodate a growing influx Nachal Chareidi soldiers. The base has a large, beautiful Shul/Beis Medrash. Women soldiers are not permitted on base. Is this an immoral atmosphere?
    Last week, our youngest son who is learning in Eretz Israel, went with his Yeshiva to an army base to give chizuk to the soldiers before Purim. On this army base, the soldiers were not observant. They listened attentively as the Yeshiva boys shared inyanai d’yoma of Purim. A young officer got up and spoke to the boys. He said, that although he is not observant, he believes in Hashem and is ready to sacrifice his life for all of klal yisrael. Is this an immoral atmosphere?
    I can go on with many more examples on how the army respects, encourages and accommodates its Bnei Yeshiva soldiers- our son being one of them. But why bother Rabbi Boylan and like-minded individuals with the facts, when they have already made up their mind? Can you find pritzus and immorality in the army? Most definitely- if, like the Ra’ah bird, you only look for neveilos. Can you find an atmosphere of Torah & mitzvos, with people who display leadership, courage and morality? Absolutely- if that is what you want to find.
    Perhaps on a macro level, the pirud and enmity that has enveloped klal yisroel, is because we suffer from Ra’ah syndrome. Perhaps we are always looking for neveilos in others who don’t think like us or who don’t share our outlook- be it a fellow Torah observant Jew or one who is not yet observant.
    When Ra’ah syndrome is mixed with ego, politics, and money, then the results can chas veshalom be tragic. May Hashem grant us the Siyata D’ishmaya to overcome our differences.
    As we just observed the yarzheit of the holy tzaddik, R’ Elimelech of Lizensk, zy”a, perhaps we could reflect on his teachings in “tzetel kotton”, and see only the maalos of our fellow Jew, and not the chesronos.
    Ezra and Millie Fried

    1. I probably have seen your son around once or twice, as the guys from the Netzach Yehuda battalion and the rest of Kfir serve in similar places. I was just on their base today! And they have been on mine a few times. As have the other Gdudim in Kfir.

      Thanks for the beautiful comment. Its tough to be a soldier, its even tougher to be a mefaked!

  15. I’m thrilled to have found your blog. My son also joined Kfir just before Purim, and your writing gives me an inside (and well written!) view of what he’s going through. I’ve already asked him to look around for English-speaking lone soldiers who might be looking for a place for Seder… but if I can figure out how to contact you without publishing my email address here on your blog, you’re invited – b’kef!

    1. Thank you Sandy, Im glad I could be of help to your understanding of what your son is going through. You are very kind to have your son scout for lone soldiers, we appreciate it. I see you found me on fb, good job!

  16. It is very good to know your experience, I wish you all the best, and always thanking you ! Keep us informed!

    Shabbat Shalom !

  17. At 24, you are my son’s age. He squeaked into Garin Tzabar (their kids age out at 23), and just entered the IDF three weeks ago. If you are doing Lone Soldier without Garin Tzabar, you are to be admired even more for your intestinal fortitude. Your way is not being smoothed by that wonderful organization. And from what I understand, the army’s path is a little bumpy for the Lone Soldier. The beat of luck to you – you will hold the whole experience close to your heart throughout your lifetime!

    1. Thanks! If it was easy, everyone would do it.

      The best of luck to your son!

  18. Hey Guys,
    Firstly a great thanks to all of you doing the army, all your work and service. It is greatly appreciated.
    I am in my third year of Social Work studies at Bar Ilan University. I am doing a seminar paper and am looking for chayalim bodedim/olim chadashim at least half a year into army service up until one year post army service to fill out a short survey.
    I was wondering if there was anyone who would be interested in helping me out by filling out the survey.
    If you can help me out please email me at yafa4810@aol.com

    Behatzacha raba to you all!

  19. the Army should look into building drones that intercept the other drones. it might be cheaper that the missiles they are using. they could launch them from the top of building, and even capture the other drones.

    good luck in your service.

  20. 15 July 2014

    Hello Robert, our dear grandson !
    We finally read the stories of your life, and are very proud of you !
    Your dreams come true. But… we worry about you all the time.
    We wish you the best in your life.
    Good luck to you ,dear !

    Your Grandfather Gregory.

    Hello. Robert, hello our grandson !
    We read the stories of your life and are proud of you.
    Wishing you and your solder-friends to be safe, healthy and brave, and come home soon.

    Your Grandmother Zina.

  21. Shana Ttova, Our Thoughts and Prayers from Colorado USA TONITE , in the past and the Future, May G-d be with you ALL Brothers and sisters , may he keep YOU ALL SAFE AND RETURN HOME SOON AFTER DOING SUCH AN honorable task as protecting your home , The Holy Land. We are VERY PROUD of you All and your dedication is to be Highly commended. Safe Journey and G-d Speed . Shalom from Colorado USA

  22. My thoughts and prayers are with you, all the brave soldiers in the IDF and all of Israel.

  23. Shalom Robert, hello our grandson. We read ”Almost finished with advanced training ”.
    And we’r glad it sound humorous. But … I remember the difficulty I had 55 years ago
    and I understand your filings. Be strong , dear. Good luck to you and
    your soldiers – friends. Your Grands. 09.02.14

  24. Congrats on joining one of the greatest fighting forces the world has ever laid witness to. The Israelis are amount the toughest people on the planet. I am an American in the US Army currently in Afghanistan serving my third tour. However, I am hoping that the IDF will still accept an old man like myself at the ripe age of 32 when I return from this tour next year. Hoping that they wont think I’m too old. Cause I know I can still keep up with the new young soldiers, because I am still doing it here. Good luck and G*d bless you for the rest of your service.

    1. Thanks Benjamin, we in the IDF greatly admire you guys in Afghanistan. As an Israeli soldier, I know what its like to fight in the mountainous terrain of the kind only the Middle East can give birth to.

      If you’re serious about doing a tour in the IDF, I’d be happy to tell you about how things work here and if you qualify. Feel free to e-mail me at robstar@americaninisraeliarmy.com

      As an American, !!!Thank You!!! for your service to the United States and Freedom.

  25. Hello Robert , hello grandson ! We proud of you too…We believe – the time will come and you will safely and healthy
    return at home. Good luck to you , dear ! Your Grands Gregori and Zinaida 10. 06. 14.

  26. it is five in the morning here in florida I came across this website my son joined the idf lone soldier I don’t feel happy about his decision and have cryed many nights he is my only son and I was a single mother I am happily waiting for his return in april I am proud of him and his strong sense of commitment to isreal thankyou andrea babjak

    1. As a soldier, all I can say is that you may have let go of a son, but you’ll get back a man.

  27. Dear Robert, I’ve seen you at the Contact with Tenzer. I’m 85 and a great grand mother of Six. I do the same what your mother-I tell them that they are JEWS. I wrote a book JIDS that is awarded in NY in 2013. I’m interested in fulfilling my last wish- to do something substantial for fighting anti-Semitism in the whole world. For that I wrote a petition to USA Congress. As a result they gave $2M to JFC of LA County for Safe Jewish organizations. I understand that your goal is completely different, but if you are interested I’ll send you the petition and we could speak in my involvement in your program and make our efforts to serve our Jews in the best way. By the way, I’m the founder of the Teen Center in our West Hollywood City, where I’m a Senior Advisory Board member.. I’m eager to be involved in your group. I love you like my grandsons. Sofia.

    1. Thanks so much for your support! I took out your personal details for your safety. I have the info and will contact you soon.

  28. Shalom, I’m 17 and am joining the IDF and want to do infantry. Is there any height and weight requirements?

    1. Hi Nate, there are no specific height or weight requirements to join an infantry unit. However, one’s physical health profile needs to be good enough. The profile is determined by the IDF after a physical.

      Joining the IDF, or any military really, is a big decision. If you want to speak with me about joining the IDF, and about the decision, you can e-mail me at Robstar@americaninisraeliarmy.com

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