Hong Kong teen joins the IDF

300 teens from all around the world came to Israel to join the IDF (Zahal) and make their dream a reality

Date: 28/08/2011, 11:50 AM     Author: Tamara Ben Natan

Approximately 300 teens from all around the world arrived in Israel this month for the purpose of enlisting to the IDF (Zahal). In preparation for their enlistment, the teens joined the Garin Tzabar program.

In cooperation with the Israeli Scouts (Tzofim) and the Education and Youth Corps, Garin Tzabar accepts teens interested in immigrating to Israel and serving in the IDF (Zahal) from all around the world. With the Garin, they learn about the army and Israel, tour the country, and are prepared for their military service. The program gives them a home and supports the teens throughout their service.

Hadar Shabat (18) arrived in Israel two months ago from Hong Kong and is anxious to embark on her new life. “I’m extremely excited to finally become a soldier,” she told IDF (Zahal) Website. “I always knew I would immigrate to Israel.”

Soon, she will be moving to her kibbutz in northern Israel with her fellow Garin Tzabar members.

“Life in Hong Kong is very different than in Israel,” explained Shabat. “It’s a very business-oriented, fast-paced city, with lots of opportunities.”

Hadar explained that the Israeli and Jewish community in Hong Kong is on the rise. “When I was born there it wasn’t like this. There weren’t many Jews, and even fewer Israelis, which is why I studied at an international high school. Today, it’s wonderful to see that my younger siblings go to Jewish schools and are surrounded by kids just like them.”

There are many cultural differences between Israel and Hong Kong, and Hadar was the only Israeli of the 1,000 students at her high school. “There were several other Jewish students,” she said, “but we were definitely a minority.”

Studying at an international school with students from all around the world was an incredible experience for Hadar and one of the reasons she did not move to Israel at a younger age. “There’s something very special about going to a school like mine, you meet people from all around the world, with different cultures and opinions.”

She spoke fluent Hebrew at home and used English at her international high school. “I don’t actually know Chinese,” she confessed. “English is almost the first language in Hong Kong, everybody speaks it and you don’t even need to know Chinese to get by.”

Throughout the years, Hadar’s love for Israel remained strong, and when an Israeli Tzofim branch opened in Hong Kong the decision was obvious. “I felt that this was my opportunity to make a dream come true – move to Israel and join the IDF (Zahal). My parents supported me completely and with time my dream became a reality.”

Although she moved to Israel on her own, Shabat will not be enlisting alone. “It’s scary to live without your family,” she said, “but there are five friends from Hong Kong in my Garin that I’ve known for years. That’s a great relief.”

Hadar believes that joining the IDF (Zahal) should be viewed as a privilege, not an obligation. “It’s an incredible experience and opportunity to grow and learn so many new things. More than anything, it’s an opportunity to give back to the country,” she said.