February 24, 2009 / 30 Shevat 5769
Katie Freeman (21) comes from a military family. Her father's currently serving as an officer in the US army in Afghanistan and her brother is also enlisted to join the US army shortly. But in 2005, Katie moved to Israel to finish high school. It was a transitional move designed to 'not freak her parents out' because what she really wanted to do was move to Israel and serve in the IDF. After studying for a year she processed her aliyah request and began her application to the Israeli army.
"Growing up, I had this fascination with Israel," Katie recalls. "I went to Conservative Jewish day school and high school in Los Angeles and we always talked about Israel as our homeland and as the Jewish State." Katie first came to Israel on a three-week Israel exchange program through her high school – and it was a life-altering experience.
"I can't explain it really but on that trip I just fell in love with Israel. We lived with exchange families, traveled around and really got to know the country through its people and sites." Shortly thereafter, Katie decided that she was going to come back to Israel, and she was going to serve in the IDF.
Katie worked hard to be accepted into a prestigious Special Forces combat unit in the IDF. "I knew I wanted to be a combat soldier. I wanted to do the most I could do for my country, especially as a female soldier." It was a rigorous screening and application process and, in the end, Katie was one of twenty female applicants to be accepted.
Now, after two and a half years of service, Katie looks forward to beginning her civilian life in Israel. She recently participated in a Jewish Agency Preparatory Seminar for Lone Immigrant Soldiers who have completed their army service. The week-long program is designed to introduce new immigrant lone soldiers to their rights as civilians. As Katie explains, "The course was incredibly helpful. It helps you make sense of things you didn't even know about before – what your rights are as new immigrants, as lone soldiers, and as regular soldiers who have completed army service. It teaches you what you're eligible for and how to get it, from school grants to rental subsidies. It pretty much got us ready to be civilians."
Katie plans on pursuing a BA degree in government at the prestigious Interdisciplinary Center in Herziliya, this October.