Pvt. Jonny Petrsheim, originally from Norway, never imagined he would become a combat soldier in the IDF, protecting a country he barely knew all his life.
Earlier this month, Pvt. Jonny Petrsheim finished his beret march with the reconnaissance company of the 7th Armored Brigade. After officially becoming an IDF combat soldier, he told us about his journey from childhood in Norway, to the experience of becoming a combat soldier in the IDF.
“Growing up in Norway as part of a secular family, I didn’t pay too much attention to religion,” Jonny says. “One day, three years ago, in a regular conversation with my grandmother, she told me that she was born in India to a Jewish family. I realized that if my Grandmother is Jewish, then so is my mother, and so am I.”
Jonny described this conversation as a transformative experience. “Suddenly, I discovered my Jewish identity, and I became very interested in Israel and what it meant to be a Jew. I decided that I wanted to come to Israel, to see what it’s like and discover it.”
Pvt. Petershiem at the end of his baret mach.
Jonny originally planned to visit Israel as a tourist, but he quickly developed a deep connection with the country. “I wanted to come here for a short period of time to understand the culture and learn Hebrew,” he explains. “Ironically, I needed to enlist in the Norwegian Army, where service is also required. I thought, ‘If I have to enlist, then why not enlist in Israel?’”
Although Jonny’s parents live far away from Israel, they firmly support his decision to join the IDF. “My mother worries, but she also supports me – not with money, but with kisses and hugs,” he says. “I really miss my profession [in Norway], making jewelry. But as a lone soldier, I receive time off to visit my family and work abroad.”
Soldiers from the reconnaissance company of the 7th Armored Brigade during their baret march.
Life in the army
“I’m really enjoying myself,” Jonny says of his experience in the Israeli military. “All of the discipline and the exercise have helped me tremendously. The best part of my experience is the group of soldiers I’m with. They’re great guys. I’ve gained so many new friends.”
Jonny’s journey in the IDF started in the Armored Corps, where he served for two weeks until being drafted into the 7th Reconnaissance Company. “I went through the difficult tryouts and passed them, and then I was accepted into the company. I fell in love with it immediately, because it’s real infantry – we are extremely fit. The experience has also helped me learn a lot of Hebrew.”
Captain Shahaf Yarden, Jonny’s squad commander, spoke to us about the new recruit’s unique service in the IDF. “During my first conversation with him, I could already see that he was older than me,” he said. “He’s an incredibly mature person. He has some difficulty with the language, but when he participates in conversations, the other soldiers become quiet and listen attentively to his opinions.”
“The soldiers came with incredible motivation and really connected with one another,” Cpt. Yarden says. “For three weeks, they couldn’t use cell phones or watches, which helped them bond with one another.”
“These soldiers may not know it yet, but they’re entering into a family that will accompany them for life,” adds Lt. Col. Imri Yuran, who commands the entire reconnaissance company. “Everything begins here. These are the people who they’ll share barbecues and other family events with. Twenty years from now, their children will play together in the park. They will be united with one another in the future, because today they sweat together and work together as a family.”