Passover is holiday which symbolizes renewal and change. These two special qualities define Lieutenant Tobi Cohen, who came all the way from Nigeria to serve in the IDF.
Tobi grew up on the stories of her father, an Israeli who served in the IDF as a soldier in the Armored Corps. “At age 16, I decided that it was my time to make a change. I joind a program which send young people to Israel, and eventually helps them make Aliya,” Tobi says. “After one year I joined a ‘Mechina’ (a pre-military program), and it was there that I started to feel more connected to the army.”
Tobi Cohen had everything that she could ever want: a home, family, friends, school. But for many years she had a feeling that she was missing something. “I always wanted to come to Israel, ever since I was a small child,” says Tobi, who spent her childhood in Nigeria. “I wanted a deeper connection, to understand what ‘Israel’ is, and not just through stories.”
Tobi’s journey was not easy. The language barrier was a major difficulty for her. “New immigrants are often embarrassed and ashamed to speak, because they may say something wrong, and I was one of them,” Tobi says. “But at some point I realized that I couldn’t go on like this. I made a lot of mistakes along the way, and it was hard, but it was worth it.”
A Far Away Dream
“Here in Israel, everyone sees the army as something very ordinary – they simply grow into this reality,” Tobi says. “For me, it was a far away dream that I wanted to fulfill.” That’s probably why Tobi was so enthusiastic to become an IDF officer. “After a a few months in the army, I already wanted to become an officer. I know it might sounds strange, but I fell in love with the army.”
Lt. Tobi struggled her way to Officers Course, slowly overcoming her difficulties with the language along the way. Her family supported her all the way from Nigeria, she says. “They flew to Israel and surprised me at the end of the course.”
Lt. Tobi Cohen is in charge of all the tutorials of the Home Front Command. She serve as a Deputy Training Officer in Haifa region. These include guidance on how to act during natural disasters such as earthquakes, fires and floods, as well as emergencies such as rocket attacks or the threat of a biological/chemical weapon. She works both with soldiers and civilians, making sure everyone is prepared for the worst.
A Glance To The Future
In three months, Lieutenant Tobi Cohen will complete her military service. “I’m so happy that I went through this experience,” Tobi says. “It was not easy, I must admit, but I don’t regret doing it for a split second.”
“I think that joining the army is amazing, and gives you a different perspective on your life. No matter how long a soldier serves, even if it is for a short period of time, it is an experience that changes your life.”