Miri Levy can recall the helpless feeling she had as a teenager in Jerusalem witnessing a terrorist attack and its bloody aftermath.
“I sat on the floor and started to cry,” she said. She remembers gathering herself together and telling a soldier. “‘Let me do something; I want to help.’”
Entering her required military service in the Israel Defense Forces, Levy got that opportunity. She became one of the first three women to go undercover as part of the Yamas Unit of the Israeli border police, a secret agent infiltrating Arab communities to gain intelligence information.
Levy relayed some of her exploits at a Sept. 26 program at Temple B’nai Shalom in East Brunswick. Her appearance was part of a tri-state tour on behalf of the Friends of the Israel Defense Forces.
She will also spend time in Cleveland, where a local woman is sponsoring her college education through the organization’s Impact Scholarship for Israeli veterans.
Levy, whose parents are no longer living, said without her sponsor she would not be able to pursue studies in special education at The Hebrew University, where she is about to enter a master’s degree program.
With her long blond hair and fair skin, the 26-year-old hardly looked the part of a spy who could pass as a Palestinian.
However, Levy passed around photos from the IDF of herself dressed in traditional clothing for Muslim women, including a hijab, or head scarf, and burqua, disguising her light features.
She was often accompanied on her missions by a Druze or Bedouin male colleague, whose appearance would not be questioned, as they worked to build cases against terrorists in West Bank cities like Ramallah. They would even spend the night in Arab communities.
Levy, who understands but does not speak Arabic, never spoke because her accent might have given her away. However, her presence also protected her colleague.
“In these Arabic villages, everybody knows everybody,” explained Levy. “If someone is not from the family and comes into the village, it is a big problem. So when you have a woman with you who is pregnant, the village knows he doesn’t belong, but it is not a problem…. A woman is more innocent.”
Among her fellow soldiers, however, being a woman was hardly an advantage.
“It was the first time this unit took girls so it was very difficult for us,” said Levy. “All these tough guys were used to being the best of the best. Now they had females.”
Nevertheless, Levy said, the men in her unit “are like my brothers and we are best friends for life.”
Levy has never regretted her choice of military career, but now has turned into a “Jewish mother” as her younger sister is weeks away from beginning her stint in the IDF.
“Every day was a new reality,” said Levy, wearing the uniform of the IDF unit in which she served from 2002 to 2005. “It was fascinating, interesting. People ask me how I was not afraid. I think in the beginning I was a little bit afraid. I come from a Zionist family. I think I am proud to do this for my country and I am proud to be the first girl.
“We just wanted to help.”
For more information on the Friends of the IDF, call 888-318-3433 or visit www.fidf.org.