Israel's Volunteer Soldiers | Al Jazeera World

Published on Feb 26, 2021
In November 2013, Elena Zakusilo, a Ukrainian Jewish woman, appeared on the Ukrainian TV show "Lie Detector", revealing that she worked for the Israeli army and continued to do so.

"The first time I killed was difficult for me. I threw the weapon and said I wasn't going anywhere. But I went," she said and admitted to having killed civilians, including children.

Countries across the globe, including France and Britain, sometimes employ foreign nationals in their armies. Britain recruits citizens of the Commonwealth nations, and France has the Foreign Legion. At the other end of the spectrum, South Africa has strict anti-mercenary laws, according to which any kind of mercenary activity is illegal for South Africans.

As thousands of foreign 'lone soldiers' are serving in the Israeli military, Al Jazeera went to find out how and why Israel encourages volunteers from the Jewish diaspora and beyond to work in its army, both as paid soldiers on the front line and volunteers in non-combat roles.

What drives foreigners to join an army which is sometimes heavily criticised for its human rights violations? Are they comparable to volunteers joining opposition groups in Syria? And is the phenomenon of foreign nationals volunteering for the Israeli army a problem, and if so, why?

"Israel's Volunteer Soldiers" is the culmination of a two-year investigation into how and why people from abroad join the Israeli army, both as paid soldiers and unpaid volunteers.

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