Every year, a growing number of American Jews choose to leave the United States in pursuit of a military career in the Israel Defense Forces (IDF). I made that same decision a few years ago, as did all of us who are now Cohen Security so I would like to provide some insight as to how our business came into being. As a child, I quickly learned that the majority of families in the neighborhood were not practicing Jews. During Jewish holidays, it was not uncommon for me to be praying at our synagogue with my family instead of sitting in a classroom with my friends. This unique experience of being one of only a select few to be absent from school due to commitment to my faith created a special bond with Judaism and the local Jewish community. In addition, I came to cherish supplemental classroom instruction on Judaism and its history through the local synagogue on a weekly basis. Commonly known as “Sunday School,” the curriculum extends from grades 1-12 and typically covers such topics as biblical studies, Jewish faith and culture, Hebrew, and the establishment of the State of Israel.
Established in 1948, only a few years after the end of the Holocaust and World War II, Israel has a unique relationship to Jews worldwide. The first leaders of the newly recognized Jewish state saw Israel’s establishment as a “safe-haven” for any persecuted individual of Jewish faith around the world. It is from this mindset that Israel enacted the “Law of Return” in 1950. The “Law of Return” allows for any individual of Jewish faith to claim Israeli citizenship obtained upon immigrating to Israel, regardless of his/her country of origin. Since the establishment of Israel, more than three million new immigrants have claimed Israeli citizenship during this process commonly referred to as “Aliyah.” In 1949, Israel passed a law, since revised, that requires three-years of obligatory military service for men and two years for women, once they reach the age of eighteen thus many immigrants start their military service only a few months after first landing in Israel. In Israel, citizenship and military service are intertwined. I now know that my life experiences in effect have become a symbol of American Jews discovering a unique connection with Israel, a bond made more profound through obligatory military service.
It is a sad fact that anti-Jewish bigotry exists, and I am neither the first nor the last Jewish American to have been victimized by this ugly prejudice while growing up. This discrimination affects each Jew in different ways, but I sensed that my experiences paled in comparison to the more violent acts of anti-Semitism throughout the world. But despite the distance between us, whenever I hear accounts of assaults on Jews, I see a brother in distress facing the choice of staying or leaving for the universal safe-haven, Israel. I felt an obligation to protect and defend Jewish victims of persecution, and the best way for me to do so was to become an Israeli and serve in the IDF.
Fortunately, the “Law of Return” offered me such an opportunity, and even though conscription is a condition for obtaining Israeli citizenship, it is not the reason I served. In a near reverse of logic, I obtained Israeli citizenship so that I could serve in the IDF. I spent three years in the Israeli infantry to protect the sole country that provides shelter to persecuted Jews. My decision to serve in the Israeli military stems from my identification with Israel and the Jewish religion, not from a disregard for the United States Armed Services or the United States itself.
I grew up in San Diego, California, a near perfect place to spend a childhood. As long as I can remember, I have had an abiding love for the United States. Even while serving in the IDF, my feelings for this nation never wavered. My first opportunity to repay the United States for all it has given me came a year after my release from the IDF when I was recruited to join the security detail at the United States Embassy in Tel Aviv, under the employment of the United States Department of State. The training process was unique in its dual obligations of honoring both American and Israeli standards. This combination of governing authorities meant that our training incorporated materials used by the United States Secret Service and the Israel National Police Force to create an armed civilian security guard trained to handle any threat to the safety of the embassy. After finishing the certification course, I understood that the combination of my military background and knowledge of the civilian security market would allow me to train other people to the same rigorous standards. This became the genesis of our new company.
Americans with previous military experience in the IDF are an untapped resource in the civilian security market and Cohen Security prides itself in being able to employ them to provide security support services that specialize in responding to “active shooter” situations. It is our goal to guard American lives with the highest quality of protection services thus the training we provide merges time-tested Israeli techniques with an American approach to accomplish this very goal. Our company draws on the deeply patriotic feelings of American Jews who have served in Israel to ensure the safety and wellbeing of American citizens across the United States.