(AURORA, Colo) - When Americans think of members of the Israeli Defense Forces (IDF) we likely envision cerebral agents such as Ziva David, a fictional character from the TV show NCIS or Mossad officer Avner in the critically acclaimed movie Munich. But the reality is that not all IDF soldiers are assassins, lifelong military or elite fighting machines. Most are like Noah Nevo – young and energetic.
Graduating today from the Skaggs School of Pharmacy and Pharmaceutical Sciences, Nevo is an Israeli citizen whose parents moved to Fort Collins when he was two years old. He has lived most of his life in the U.S. His parents and older sister also have all served in the IDF, so the thought of returning to Israel to serve was a natural chapter in his life; some could even say a right of passage.
A confirmed Zionist in high school, Nevo was dedicated to returning to Israel to “do his duty.” Even though by law he was not required to do so.
Founded in 1948 after the State of Israel was established, the IDF is recognized as one of the most battle-trained and effective military forces in the world. It differs from most armed forces in that it conscripts all citizens, including women. The rules are simple. By one’s eighteenth birthday all citizens, regardless of gender or socioeconomic background, are drafted and serve a minimum of two years in the military.
Serving as a combat solider in the Infantry Corps, Nevo worked alongside people from all social, economic and political backgrounds. “It is the ultimate social leveler; a true melting pot. We all had guard duty; we all had to wash dishes and clean toilets.”
For Nevo active duty was a time of self-discovery. “Being thrown together with people I wouldn’t have met in civilian life taught me a lot about assumptions, religion, and my core beliefs.”
Like many teenagers he started questioning those beliefs, as well as the politics of his homeland, during his senior year in high school and continued his journey while serving in Israel. “It was a very meaningful experience. I was able to question a lot of things -- including the Palestinian-Israeli conflict -- and think about what I wanted to do in the future.”
As Nevo recalls, “Life in a militarized zone is draining. As socially progressive as the IDF might be, there’s nothing pleasant about serving in the Occupied Territories.”
Trained to assume that everyone is a terrorist until proven otherwise, Nevo witnessed untold suffering, which helped direct him to pursue a career in health care. “You see the good, the bad … the ugly. But you also discover a better understanding of the world and how you fit in it. There’s never been a moment where I took for granted how privileged I am – privileged to live in this country, privileged to go to school, privileged to have experienced the world.”
After graduation, Nevo will be focusing on ambulatory care and is headed to a residency at the University of California San Diego.