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An Eskimo in the IDF - OH THE IRONY!!!


TRIBE Member
An Eskimo in the IDF

(this is not my selection for a title by the way)
By David Ratner


Tomorrow morning, Meir and Dafna Ben Sira,
residents of the village of Nir Etzion south of
Haifa, will take their oldest daughter Eva to an
induction center and, like all the other proud
parents, will watch her get on the bus to commence
two years of army service.

Eva is headed for a squad
commanders' course, somewhere
in the south. The Ben Siras
realize that, during her
service, Eva is in for some
astonished questioning; after
all, the smiling, quiet young
woman with the long black
hair and dark, almond-shaped
eyes looks a little different
from the average Israeli female conscript.

Eva was born in Alaska to a Yupik Eskimo mother
and a Cherokee Native American father. A check
of the archives of the army's Bamahane
magazine, which for years has tried to track
soldiers who come to Israel from remote places,
indicates that she is evidently the Israel
Defense Forces' first Eskimo soldier.

"A few weeks ago, I was at an IDF base, at a
preliminary meeting of candidates for the squad
commanders' course," relates Eva. "We sat in a
group and everyone had to introduce himself. I
decided to forestall the curious questions, so
I said, `My name is Eva, and I'm not

Eva says that at the induction center she was
asked to retell the story of her life and that
of her twin brother Jimmy several times (Jimmy
will be inducted next year after he finishes
his studies), to make sure they had the details

Meir Ben Sira was born in Nir Etzion, a
religious cooperative farming village
affiliated with the National Religious Party.
His father was one of only four men to survive
the hard fighting in Gush Etzion in 1948. Dafna
Ben Sira was born at the Ein Hod artists'
village, the daughter of artists Margot and
Norman Lewis, a Swiss Catholic and an American
Jew. The geographic proximity between Nir
Etzion and Ein Hod overcame the differences in
their respective worldviews, and Meir and Dafna
were married.

In 1989, when Dafna's mother relocated to
Alaska, she settled in the capital city of
Anchorage and worked at her career as a
painter. The newlyweds traveled there to visit
her. Eva's and Jimmy's mother lived next door;
she was a young Inuit woman named Minnie who,
like many families in the Yupik tribe, had been
harmed by the encounter between traditional
Western Alaska hunting culture and American
progress. The twins' father, a Cherokee
wanderer, disappeared immediately after the
birth, and the young mother, alone and without
funds, was forced to give up the twins, who
were then two years old. The Alaskan social
welfare authorities sent the children to live
with their grandmother in a distant city.
Because the grandmother was having a hard time
caring for them, Meir and Dafna decided to
adopt the twins, who were already five years

"Among the Intuit people, giving children to
whites for adoption is absolutely forbidden,"
says Dafna. "Only after one of the tribe
checked us out and decided that the extended
Jewish family inculcates values similar to
those of the Inuit, did they agree to it, and
the tribe gave its consent." The local Chabad
rabbi in Alaska also gave his blessing. The
American judge wept when she signed the papers
finalizing the adoption.

When the twins were nine, the Ben Sira family
returned to Israel. The twins were converted,
and the couple had another three daughters. The
first photograph of the twins in Israel was
taken at the Western Wall. Eva and Jimmy found
a place for themselves in the local state
religious school. At first, they were put back
to second grade, and afterward rejoined the
other children their age. They also integrated
into local religious life, including regular
synagogue attendance, bar and bat mitzvah
ceremonies, membership in the Bnei Akiva youth
movement, and study at a religious high school.

"It's too bad the twins lost their wonderful
English," says their Aunt Yasmin, and Eva says
that she regrets having forgotten the little
bit of Yupik she spoke until age five.

Eva is set on doing her army service and
pursuing an ordinary existence at Nir Etzion.
"I have a good life in Israel and I don't feel
the need to dig into the past and know where I
came from," she explains. Jimmy is the one who
dreams of a journey to his roots in Alaska and
the Cherokees, to learn more about the genetic
heritage he bears.

He spends long hours on the Internet collecting
material on Eskimos and Indians, and his room
is decorated with Indian motifs. "I'll travel
around, I'll learn where I came from," he says,
"and then I'll decide where I want to settle
Alex D. from TRIBE on Utility Room