• Sydney Ryan of Garin Tzabar is honored by President Rivlin with the IDF's Presidential Award.

  • “The irony in that is that my job is all about communicating and being in charge of the radio – but now I speak fluent Hebrew.”

  • Syndey says the 18 Garin Tzabar participants with her on Kibbutz Lavi are her best friends.

  • Receiving her unit beret - a special moment for IDF soldiers.

  • Running back and forth is part of the gig of being the commanding officers communications aid.

  • The Garin on Kibbutz Lavi prepares for a restful Shabbat.

Aliyah

Lone Soldier Participarting in Garin Tzabar Honored With IDF Presidential Award

“I’ve given everything to my service, everything I can; my goal is to be a dugma ishit – to lead by example - and so far, so good.”

Sydney Ryan isn’t your typical 22-year-old from Rochester, NY. Her day to day job is working as a combat soldier in a search and rescue unit in the Israel Defense Forces – a job she does so well that Israeli President Reuven Rivlin presented Sydney with an award, along with 119 other IDF soldiers, this past Israeli Independence Day at the president’s residence in Jerusalem.

“I was pretty much in shock when I got the award,” Sydney said. “It’s such a huge honor that I never expected something like that.”

Sydney is one of 18 lone soldiers – soldiers serving in the Israeli army without any immediate relatives living in the country – living on Kibbutz Lavi in northern Israel as a participant in Garin Tzabar.

Garin Tzabar is a program, sponsored in part by The Jewish Agency for Israel, which brings together a group of Diaspora Jews who have chosen to move to Israel and serve in the IDF. Starting several months before their Aliyah, each group participates in intensive preparation seminars and then move in together to a host kibbutz where they learn Hebrew and prepare for their army service.

“The 18 people I live with are literally my best friends, and the kibbutz has been more than incredible,” Sydney enthused about the program. “It’s actually been the most incredible experience; that’s what Garin Tzabar has given me – a home away from home.”

Sydney made Aliyah in June 2013, before joining her fellow Garin participants that August. Shortly afterwards she drafted into the army, when she went through a special basic training program for new immigrants before being placed in her current search and rescue unit, which is part of the Home Front Command. In order to join the elite combat unit, Sydney had to sign on for an additional half year of service, so she will be released from the army at the end of this December instead of her original release date – June 17th.

Excelling in her unit and displaying overall distinction, Sydney’s officers nominated her as the search and rescue’s representative to receive the illustrious Presidential Award, which is one of the IDF’s highest honors and is only handed out to 120 soldiers from across the entire army annually.

Even more than receiving the award itself, it was the fact that her superior officers, including one she has served under since joining the unit in March 2014, chose her as the representative that made her feel honored. The feat is made all the more impressive considering that Sydney fought a not-so-minor impediment during her service.

“I didn’t know any Hebrew at all when I drafted,” Sydney related with a laugh, noting that her specific job within her unit for which she was commended is to serve as the communications aide for her commanding officer. “The irony in that is that my job is all about communicating and being in charge of the radio – but now I speak fluent Hebrew.”

She also added that her family flew out from the United States to be with her at the ceremony.

As for why she was picked for the honor, Sydney said she isn't exactly sure but "I can tell you the kind of soldier I am,” she explained. “I’ve given everything to my service, everything I can; my goal is to be a dugma ishit – to lead by example - and so far, so good.”

To learn more about Garin Tzabar, click here.

14 Jun 2016 / 8 Sivan 5776 0
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