Under the heat of the Negev sun, officer cadets stand at attention with their weapons in hand. The soldiers have completed their officers’ training course after four months of intense training in leadership, management, and professionalism. One of these recruits, Rotem Chiprut, stands amongst the rest, but her story is unique. She has overcome numerous barriers in order to proudly call herself an officer in the IDF.
Originally born in New York, Rotem Chiprut moved to Israel at the age of just a few months. After spending 12 years growing up in Israel, her family moved back to the United States where she finished high school in New Jersey.
Upon completing high school, Rotem planned to follow the same path as her friends: attend a college and study for a bachelor’s degree. She began the process of registering for university when her family took a trip to Israel. “I saw the soldiers on the street and realized that people my age were all a part of something bigger,” she remembers. “I also wanted to protect my country and be a real part of my country.”
After a long discussion with her parents, Rotem immigrated to Israel with the goal of joining the IDF. “I was so excited to enlist,” Rotem recalls. “When I first put on my uniform I was so proud of myself. I said to myself ‘I came here to do something, and I’m here. I did it.’”
Rotem serves in the IDF as a lone soldier – one whose parents live outside of the country. “I am technically far from my family and home, but I am always at home here in Israel,” Rotem proudly states.
A Day She Will Never Forget
In the middle of her service, Rotem decided she wanted to become an officer. During her processing for officers’ training school, Rotem went for a physical and blood test when she got news that changed her life forever.
“They sat me down in the doctor’s office and told me that they found out I had cancer in my thyroid gland,” she recounts stoically, “and that I needed to leave the army to have surgery.”
“When I found out I couldn’t continue the officers’ course I cried a lot because [the Officer Training School] is the place I wanted to be and it was really important to me.” Shortly after, Rotem underwent surgery on her thyroid gland, was discharged from the army, and sent home to rest for two months.
“Every day I felt I wanted to go back to my base. I didn’t want to be at home for two months; I really wanted to be in the army.”
Recovery and Re-enlistment
“Little by little I understood that I wouldn’t be able to join the army with the same status I had before,” Rotem discloses. “They told me I could join the army as a volunteer but not with the same job.”
After writing multiple letters and appealing to various army offices, Rotem got word that she would be able to re-enlist with the same position in the army. But not only did she get to re-enlist, she would be allowed to attend the officers’ training course even though she had missed the deadline.
“The moment they told me I had cancer, I didn’t think about my health at all. It sounds crazy, but I cried not because I had to undergo surgery, but because I had to leave the army,” Rotem added. “I knew I would be ok and that everything would pass, but I didn’t know if I could rejoin the army, and that was the reason I came to Israel and the reason I left everything behind [in the United States].”
The Family Way
“It is really exciting to see [Rotem] here today; she passed a very difficult period but she was really determined to continue and here you have it, today she has finished her course,” said Rotem’s father, Nisin Chiprut, after the ceremony marking the end of Rotem’s studies to become an officer.
After receiving her new rank, Rotem was greeted by her father and brother who traveled from the United States to show their pride. “There was no chance I would miss this day,” stated Nisin.
Tomer Chiprut, Rotem’s brother, is also joining the IDF and was set to draft to the Golani Brigade just a few days after Rotem’s ceremony. “If you ask my brother why he decided to join the army he would say, ‘Because of my sister,’” Rotem surmises. “He listened to my experience and saw how I spoke about the army – how much I love it – and he looked at himself and said, ‘I also want to do what she’s doing.’”
A Commander of Commanders
After four months of training at Bahad Echad – the IDF Officer Training School – Rotem can officially call herself an officer in the IDF. But she is not a regular officer. Rotem’s job is to be a commander of the army’s basic training commanders.
“I love my position and I think it is the most important job for girls in the army,” Rotem happily states. “When new soldiers come to the army, the first thing they see is you. You represent the army for them. You are their teacher 24/7, their mother, their father, their psychologist.”
“I am looking forward to starting my new position as platoon commander,” Rotem summarizes. When asked about the future she responds, “I just want to live in the moment and do the best I can in the army. My life has taught me that in a second everything can be turned on its head and you never know what can happen. So I learned to simply be the best I can in this moment.”
Rotem will serve as a platoon commander, responsible for 60 soldiers and will be the head of six basic training commanders. “I can use my job not only to motivate the soldiers, but also to motivate the commanders of those soldiers,” she explains.