2013 is behind us, but it left us with hundreds of moving stories. In honor of the new year, we bring you the 13 most inspiring IDF stories that we told in 2013.
1. Becoming an officer despite disability
Despite his lifelong struggle with Cerebral Palsy, Captain Yehonatan Cohen enlisted as a soldier in the IDF. Although unable to walk or move his hands, he eventually rose through the ranks to become an IDF officer.
2. Journey from Egypt to Israel: a 21st century exodus
There are Cinderella stories and there’s the Passover Haggadah – but Sgt. Dina Ovadia’s story is a bit of both. After growing up in Egypt with no knowledge of her Jewish heritage, she moved to Israel with her family and joined the IDF.
3. The soldiers who brought a wedding hall to tears
During Operation Pillar of Defense, two brothers were preparing for war on the same day as their sister’s wedding. The soldiers were sure they would miss the celebration, but an amazing turn of events allowed them to surprise their family and friends.
4. Muslim brothers who proudly joined the IDF
Brothers Milad and Muhammad Atrash, Arab Muslims from the Galilee, volunteered to defend their country by enlisting in the IDF.
5. IDF heroes who stopped a terrorist’s bulldozer
After a terrorist broke through an IDF base with a bulldozer earlier this year, two soldiers stood up and eliminated the threat. The IDF rewarded the heroes extraordinary bravery.
6. When a mother received the award her son never could
In April 2012, Cpl. Joshua (Shuki) Hefetz suddenly died in the middle of IDF training. At a ceremony marking the end of his unit’s training period, Joshua’s mother accepted a prestigious fighter pin in his honor.
7. From a tough childhood to excellence in the IDF
By age 18, when most Israelis begin their military service, Sgt. Segev was exposed to an environment of drugs and alcohol. Although he was exempted from service in the IDF, he proved determined to overcome his struggles and serve his country.
8. Born on the way to Israel
The Elias family left everything they knew in Ethiopia for a better life in Israel. Along the way, they suffered the tragic loss of two children, but celebrated the birth of their daughter Zehava. Today, Lt. Zehava Elias is a decorated soldier and officer in the IDF.
9. A decorated soldier who thwarted a terror attack
Lt. (res.) Omri made a fateful decision that saved many lives – he ordered his tank to fire on a vehicle overtaken by terrorists that was racing across the Egyptian border. The events unfolded in a matter of seconds, and missing his target wasn’t an option.
10. A 100-year-old Major General who made history
At age 100, Yitzhak Pundak became the first Israeli in history to achieve the rank of Major General after having completed active service. He marked the historic moment at a special ceremony attended by the IDF Chief of Staff and Israel’s Defense Minister.
11. From Uganda to Iron Dome soldier
After making the journey from Uganda to Israel, Pvt. Or Meidan joined soldiers who operate Iron Dome – the missile defense system that has intercepted over 400 terrorist rockets targeting Israeli communities.
12. Caught in a firebomb attack
Shoval is a combat photographer for the IDF. It’s his job to document the IDF’s activities in Judea and Samaria, and terrorist attacks committed against Israeli civilians in the area. In a terrifying moment, he found himself caught in the middle of one of those attacks.
13. Bedouin Muslim officer on a journey to Poland
Lt. Col. Falach Hayib is a Bedouin Muslim officer in the IDF. Ealier this year, he visited concentration camps in Poland to honor the Jewish struggle during the Holocaust. “Anything connected to the Jewish people is also connected to me,” Col. Falach Hayib says.