Scandinavian Jews in the IDF: An Analysis of the Motivations of 15 Scandinavian Jews Who Have Volunteered for the Israeli Military
Abstract: This study aims at explaining the motivations behind 15 Scandinavian Jews’ decision to volunteer for the Israel Defense Forces (IDF). The study explores why they had a desire to volunteer for the IDF, and analyzes their motivations in a contextual relation to Israel and the Scandinavian Jewish diaspora. The study identifies three central motivations among the informants to volunteer for the IDF. These are Zionist motivations, motivations connected with the Jewish faith and motivations connected with a desire to be integrated into Israeli society. The informants express a strong conviction in the Zionist credo. The desire to support the state through military service is related to their identification with the Jewish people. By volunteering for the IDF, the informants express that they contribute to the preservation of Jewish existence and Jewish self-determination. Motivations connected with the Jewish faith are also present among the informants. However, these motivations vary according to the individual informants’ observance of Jewish law. The study suggests that the observant informants regard service in the IDF as a secular, but necessary undertaking in order to reach the religious goal of building an exemplary Jewish society that can fulfill the covenant with God. The non-observant informants express that their service in the IDF allowed them to give up traditional Jewish lifestyles brought from Scandinavia, because the IDF provided them with a more modern and secular Jewish universe of meaning. The study identifies a desire to be integrated into Israeli society as a central motivation for why the informants have volunteered for the IDF. The IDF has gained the position as an important arena for integration of Jewish immigrants, as well as being a central provider of national values to its conscripts. The informants express that IDF service has contributed to the shaping of an Israeli identity. Integration to Israel through IDF service thus contains aspects of transformations from Scandinavian diaspora Jews to Israeli Jews.