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Leukemia Survivor Becomes IDF Officer

Jan 17, 2024

The inspiring story of Second Lieutenant Neta.

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The IDF recently shared the saga of Neta one of its rising star officers, a real overcomer. It started a decade earlier when she was a 10 year old girl.

"I was a gymnast and I thought that I was suffering from growing pains. When I was officially diagnosed with Leukemia, my whole life turned upside down. I became the ‘Cancer Girl’ who was always in the hospital. I felt as though I was losing my identity. My body was swelling up because of the steroids and I lost my hair. I would cover every mirror I saw because I couldn't recognize myself anymore. Whenever I walked into the hospital, I would hide behind the curtain because I was not the girl who everyone else saw me as."

Neta added:

"I was sick from the age of 10 until around the age of 12. My Bat Mitzvah was also my ‘thanksgiving’ party[for going into remission] It started with very, very strong back pain. They didn't know what it was… After almost a year, I went to another doctor, and he sent me urgently to a hospital for a series of many tests. They discovered leukemia in the bone marrow in the bones of my back."

At such a young age Neta did not fully understand what was happening to her during this two year life-or-death struggle, and today is grateful her parents required her to keep up on her school studies even in the midst of the ordeal.

At the tender age of 10, Neta lost several friends in the cancer ward:

"When others in the ward passed away… it became something normal to me."

Neta fully recovered and returned to her normal schooling routine. Her hair started growing again after falling out due to treatments. As high school neared its end, the question of military service loomed large.

Due to her having had cancer, the IDF was initially resistant to her volunteering to become a soldier. However, she was very motivated to serve and eventually got accepted.

Growing up in an Orthodox family also gave her an automatic option to not be drafted. However, she was insistent she wanted to serve. Neta described her approach to her orthodox Jewish identity and how it relates to the IDF:

"As an Orthodox girl, I didn't have compulsory enlistment. But as far as I was concerned, there was no chance I wouldn't… There is no reason why I wouldn't do regular military service if it doesn't interfere with my orthodoxy. And it doesn't interfere… Sometimes on the contrary, it strengthens my orthodox practice. It makes me understand more, it makes me more connected to my tradition and my Land."

After volunteering as an enlisted soldier, Neta soon started pursuing a further dream – becoming an IDF officer in the IDF's International Cooperation Unit:

"I saw firsthand how my officers were helping to change the world. They were making operational decisions and having influence over diplomatic issues with other militaries. It was inspiring to see someone as young as 19 or 20 having so much influence on how Israel is perceived, and I wanted to be a part of that."

Not only did Neta complete her officer training course, she received the award for being the most outstanding soldier in the course!

G_d Bless you Neta, you are such a beautiful example to all, truly eshet chayil !!!! I know you are a Hero, an over comer, a treasure. with uttermost respect I salute you, thank you for your example and service!!!

Shalom Aleichem 🙂

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