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A Nigerian woman Tobi Cohen has become the first and only women to serve in the Israel Defense Force (IDF).
The young woman grew up with stories about her father who served in the IDF as a soldier. She is now a Lieutenant in the army.
In an effort to join the army, Cohen joined a program which sends people to Israel when she was just 16.
She said: “At age 16, I decided that it was my time to make a change. I joined a program which sends young people to Israel. After one year I joined a ‘Mechina’ (a pre-military program) and it was there that I started to feel more connected to the army.”
Meet the first and only Nigerian woman to serve in Israel’s army Photo Source: Israel Defense Force
The 21-year-old was born in Nigeria to a Nigerian mother and an Israeli father. Cohen was living with her parents and sister in Kano, before she migrated to Israel.
Cohen said: “I always wanted to come to Israel, ever since I was a small child, I wanted a deeper connection, to understand what ‘Israel’ is, and not just through stories.”
Despite the fact that moving to Israel was dream come true for the woman, it was still hard to adjust to the life in another country.
She said: “New immigrants are often embarrassed and ashamed to speak, because they may say something wrong and I was one of them but at some point I realised that I couldn’t go on like this. I made a lot of mistakes along the way, and it was hard, but it was worth it.”
The young lady learnt Hebrew and her friends helped her to adjust into the Israeli society. According to Cohen, her father was happy about her decision to become an officer in the Israeli army.
The soldier’s father was also an officer in the Israeli army Photo Source: Israel Hayom
She said: “He was just as emotional as I was. For him it was a dream come true, and his being there really helped me.”
“My mother and my entire family attended the officers’ graduation ceremony. It is very touching to be the first woman officer from Nigeria in the IDF. Obviously I have fallen in love with Israel. This is my home and I see myself continuing my life here.”
Cohen served as an operations sergeant in the Homefront Command and was later accepted into the officers’ training course.
Her duty as a Deputy Training Officer in Haifa region is to guide people on how to act during natural disasters such as earthquakes, fires and floods, as well as emergencies such as rocket attacks or the threat of a biological/chemical weapon.