“That was a real wow for me,” said Lt.-Col. Tzachi Revivo, deputy commander of the Meitav recruitment unit of the Israel Defense Forces, who recently visited North America and acknowledged being moved by encounters he had with Jewish youths who expressed interests in serving the Israeli military.

The senior IDF enlistment officer completed a tour of New York and Toronto in late October, where he spoke to young men and women who showed an interest in joining various branches of the IDF. During the visit, Revivo provided the necessary information and answered any questions.

At the Israeli Consulate in New York City, Revivo met with people of all ages and visited the Tzofim (“Israeli Scouts”) youth movement centers in the area.

According to IDF figures, some 300 soldiers currently serve in the military through the Tzofim’s enlistment program, while a total of some 780 lone soldiers from abroad are currently in the IDF.

Revivo recalled a number of extraordinary meetings, including one with “an engineer, a 27-year-old American Jewish woman working at Boeing. She expressed interest in serving.”

“We explained the process involved to her,” Revivo told JNS. “There were 18- and 19-year-olds who expressed a first-time interest through Nefesh B’Nefesh or the Garin Tzabar [the Tzofim enlistment platform].

“The most moving part is when we reached youths in the Tzofim, meeting their groups in places like New Jersey. I was highly moved to meet Jews abroad who had an interest in moving to Israel or joining the IDF,” stated Revivo. “It was a fascinating event. We reached New Jersey on a Sunday, and filled an entire center with 50 parents and their children. This was about creating a bridge and beginning a long-term process.”

Many of those Revivo met continued to be in touch with him after his return to Israel, he said. The Meitav Unit is primarily focused on the massive task of recruitment, reception and sorting of Israeli IDF cadets, he said, and “does not always look at it from the perspective of leaving a family behind [in another country] and delaying college because one wants to join the IDF.”

‘A need to contribute to the Jewish people’

In Toronto, Revivo met with Israeli counselors conducting a year of national service by assisting the Canadian Jewish community before beginning their military service back in Israel. “Some will go on to the air force, others to intelligence,” he said. “We also need to care for those who we send abroad for their national service.”

“This was a highly significant, packed, yet also satisfying visit,” said Revivo. “It’s incredible to see this—people who come to Israel and contribute. I met people who have one year left to complete their degrees and are choosing to delay it—people who excel in their academic fields and received scholarships.”

Asked what he believed prompted such actions, Revivo said that some of the motivation came down to how the parents educated their children, while in other cases “where parents are less enthusiastic,” the youths themselves adopted Zionist values and felt a need to contribute to the Jewish people. “That’s not something you hear every day, even in Israel.”

Israel’s uniqueness as a Jewish state also acts as a magnet, he said, causing such youths to decide they want to search for “a new experience in a very warm country. They want to try this out and experience it. And it very much influences real aliyah [emigration to Israel] later on.”

The Meitav unit is the “the largest human-resources organization in the Middle East,” said Revivo. “We are a human-resources center, connecting the individual to the IDF. This is not an easy job. We have to accompany the individual, sort them correctly and meet their personal requirements. The IDF has a very young personnel, with large numbers of cadets entering [units] and soldiers completing their service.”

With nonstop security challenges facing Israel, the IDF’s ability to greet new cadets well is crucial, noted Revivo. “We are advancing all of the time because youths are changing all of the time. We have to work with Facebook, Instagram and produce 60-second videos. We are introducing a lot of technological changes, including a phone app that acts as a sorting station … because the cadets have to receive a good first impression of the IDF.”