newsIsrael at War

‘I wanted a change’: From Manchester Chabad family to IDF

Chani Walker embarks on a journey of self-discovery by joining the Israeli army.

Chani Walker. Credit: IDF Spokesperson's Unit.
Chani Walker. Credit: IDF Spokesperson's Unit.

At 21, Chani Walker’s life took a turn that diverged sharply from the expected path set by her Chabad Chassidic family in Manchester, England.

Raised in a community where young marriages are common, Walker made a bold decision to carve out a different future for herself. Rejecting the traditional route, she refused to be the next in line for marriage. Instead, she set her sights on Israel, a decision that would change her life’s trajectory.

Walker’s arrival in the Jewish state last July marked the beginning of a new chapter. Joining the ranks of lone soldiers, those in the Israel Defense Forces without immediate family in the country who can help them, she found a sense of purpose.

Her service is supported by the Lone Soldier Center—In Memory of Michael Levin, named after an American-born IDF soldier who was killed in action.

Determined to contribute in a meaningful way, Walker underwent basic training at the Michve Allon Base in the Galilee, a training facility of the IDF Education and Youth Corps, aiming to specialize as a parachuting instructor—a dream that speaks volumes about her aspirations for change and challenge.

“I wanted to make a change in my life; I felt I was not in the right place,” Walker shared, reflecting on her life before enlistment.

The completion of her basic training on March 19 was a milestone that her parents, unable to attend due to the ongoing war against Hamas, missed. Despite this, Walker feels a deep connection to her family, including her grandmother and a brother studying in a yeshivah in northern Israel.

Walker’s journey to the IDF was not just about seeking adventure or escaping tradition. It was a quest for personal clarity and purpose.

“I always wanted to enlist in the army, but coming from a Chabad family, it was forbidden [for women],” she explained. Her decision to enlist was met with joy from her parents, who were happy to see her find her path after a period of job-hopping and confusion.

Although she was initially interested in becoming a combat soldier, Walker’s aspirations evolved. She now hopes to be accepted as a parachuting instructor or in combat engineering, a field where she has recently been placed.

Walker is determined to make Israel her permanent home. She speaks of a love for the country and its people.

Walker’s story is a testament to the power of individual choice and the search for a sense of belonging and purpose. Her journey from Manchester to the IDF highlights the diverse backgrounds and motivations of those who choose to serve in the IDF, particularly lone soldiers who leave their countries and families behind to support Israel.

Originally published by Israel Hayom.

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