Earlier this week, Israel’s Ministry of Defense published its annual census of incoming recruits, revealing a first: Marissa Avram, 18, has just become the first Thai soldier to serve in the IDF.
Born and raised in Bangkok, Avram’s father is Israeli, and her Thai mother converted to Judaism. “I think the army makes you a more independent person,” she told the Israeli news site NRG. “I’ve always appreciated it that men and women serve together, and I respect the way they serve their country.” And as a half-Israeli, she added, it may one day become her country as well: “I want to live in Israel, and this is an incredible opportunity to start my life here.”
Avram is not alone in her enthusiasm. This summer alone, 153 volunteers from 12 nations have enlisted in the army. Of those, 45 percent come from North America, and 38 are French Jews.
“We are making significant efforts to encourage Diaspora Jews to enlist,” said Udi Dror, who heads the ministry’s division responsible for volunteers. “And we’re happy to see a five percent increase each year in foreign-born volunteers to the IDF.”