Dina Wecker, originally from Boston, Massachusetts is 26 years old.
"I did what so many of my American Jewish peers did. I finished high school and then did a gap year in Israel called, "Emuna ve Omanut." I fell in love with the country. I fell in love with everything about Israel: the culture, the people, and its existence, all of it. The hardest things to figure out during that year in Israel was the currency and the 24 hour, army clock. Still, two months into the program, I knew I wanted to live here."
Following that year in Israel, Dina returned to the USA and studied at Stern. She was an Art major with an associate's degree in Jewish Studies and double minor in psychology and political science. "I already knew I would come back to Israel afterward. So I finished my degree in 3 years and worked for a year."
"During Operation Pillar of Defense my sister was in Israel. I just felt helpless in America. That feeling turned into the question, 'What can I do to help?' Well, what I could do to help is join the army.
I realized I'm almost 23 years old and if I want to join the army it has to be now. I was a little nervous at first about my age. I ended up making the final decision within a few months that I was joining the army and making Aliyah. My family thought I was crazy. They are very Zionistic and I went to a Jewish day school but I don’t know that they thought any of their kids would really make Aliyah. I just knew that if I don't go now I am going to get stuck here. They of course accepted my decision in the end although it was really hard for my mom with me being in the army as a combat soldier.
I served as a combat soldier, commander in artillery. As a result of my age I was only required to serve for two years. Still, when I was asked to sign on for another half year I did. Throughout my army service I lived on Kibbutz Alumim near the Gaza border.
During basic training I was the same age as our head officer. The commanders treated me like everyone else and I was happy about that. This is what I came for. Truthfully, I felt my difference in age more when I was with the soldiers than with the commanders. It was tough serving with soldiers for whom it was their first time away from home. We come with this view of tough Israeli soldiers. I didn’t expect that at the start it was really hard for them. You know, they missed home. My peers would say things like, "my mom forgot to pack me my towel or whatever it is." Meanwhile I'm cooking for myself and doing my own laundry. It’s a different mentality.
I made a lot of really good friends during my service. I met my boyfriend in the army as well. My boyfriend was one of the commanders in the brigade. We only started dating after we finished the training period of course.
I was released from the army at the end of March and will be doing reserve duty every year.
I first became a part of Wings for Lone Immigrant Soldiers at the 5 day workshop. As a part of the workshop I met my advisor for an initial meeting and have met with her a few more times since then. I received free occupational testing through Wings and I also met with the Wings financial advisor. Through Wings I was also adopted by a Knesset member. I was matched with Aliza Levi whose beliefs are rooted in women empowerment. As a former female combat soldier with a degree we made a great match. I have had Friday night dinner with her and her family now several times.
The Wings program was the single most useful program to me as I neared the end of my service. It summarized all of our benefits and available opportunities as we neared the end of our service as lone soldiers. However, Wings went above and beyond just that. Through Wings I have access to information and connections I didn't think possible. Wings even gave me the opportunity to speak in front of the Knesset about helping future lone soldiers. I can honestly say that without Wings my transition from soldier to citizen would have been infinitely harder.
I am still living on Kibbutz Alumim until I start studying. Most of my garin stayed on the kibbutz. In October I will go to Tel Aviv University for Law. The program is in Hebrew and is a 3.5 year program though I could finish in 3 years since I have a degree already. I look forward to starting in October."