Click and bang — the sound of an IMI Uzi gun. Stillness — the feeling of sitting for 12 hours on a hilltop, guarding a Jewish community in Judea and Samaria. Tangy — the taste of canned grape leaves stuffed with rice. Strong, confident, connected — the attributes applied to Israel Defense Force (IDF) soldiers.
Sylvia Azoulay, 22, from Merrick, was among a group of 75 future IDF soldiers who made aliyah through Nefesh B’Nefesh on Aug. 17, as reported in last week’s Jewish Star.
She is the third Azoulay sibling and the fourth member of the Azoulay family to serve in the IDF. Her oldest brother, Tal, made aliyah 15 years ago and served in the Golani Brigade. Middle brother Ittai was in a tank unit (though he has since returned to the U.S.), and father Marc served in the army several decades ago as an 18-year-old French immigrant.
Azoulay said she grew up on inspirational stories of her father’s service. At 12, her grandparents brought her to Israel for her bat mitzvah and she fell in love with the Jewish state.
“I did my bat mitzvah on top of Masada,” Azoulay recalled. “My brother was still in the reserves and it was the Second Lebanon War. The first night I arrived, he got called up to serve and I ended up not seeing him the entire trip. I decided at that point how important it was [to serve in the army], and that I felt the need to do the same.”
Azoulay hung on to her IDF dream through middle- and high-school, and even college at New York University. Now, she is hoping she’ll have the opportunity to be an infantry instructor.
Her father Marc said he and his wife are “very happy” for their daughter’s decision, but also sad knowing she won’t be home for Shabbat dinners on Friday night or to help in Tavlin Market, their Middle Eastern grocery in Bellmore.
“She has her life to live and we are behind her 100 percent,” he said. “Israel is not an easy place to start a life. But working toward a common goal of keeping the state of Israel alive and vibrant and moving forward — that is what we have done throughout history. I am proud that someone else in my family is participating in that dream.”