During a Shabbat service a few weeks ago at Temple Solel, I had the honor of hearing Israeli Defense Forces Capt. Ron Starinsky speak about his love of and service to Israel. At the close of the Shabbat service, the congregation sang “Hatikvah” and watched while Starinsky, in uniform, saluted the Israeli flag. It was a poignant moment that reminded us how important the IDF is to Israel and to all Jews. 

Starinsky was in the Valley after spending eight months at Fort Sill, Okla., as part of a joint training program between the IDF and the United States Army and Marine Corps. “The IDF sends one (person) from each corps, each year to broaden our horizons, get new ideas, to learn and see what’s different,” Starinsky says.

While he was in the Valley courtesy of the Friends of the Israeli Defense Forces, Starinsky’s agenda included visiting Temple Solel, attending a Temple Kol Ami parlor meeting, and speaking at Congregation Beth Tefillah and Scottsdale Bible Church about his experiences as an IDF soldier.

Starinsky says the people at the church asked smart questions including, “Do you fight for Judaism or for your country?” His answer: “Judaism is obviously very strong in Israel because the majority of Israel is Jewish, but we have a lot of soldiers who are not Jewish — we have Muslims, Christians and others. Leading your soldiers and telling them, ‘We’re doing this for the Jewish people would not be fair,’ ” he says. “I do it for my family. I have my immediate family and I have my big family, which is Israel. Everybody.”

But his favorite question is when he’s asked if Israel is a safe place. “I love this question,” he says. “I feel safer in Israel than in any other place in the world. Seventy percent of people on the street have served in the Army, so there are soldiers everywhere. If something happened, everybody has medical training of some sort.” 

In Israel everyone helps each other, Starinsky says, no matter what the circumstance. “If something were to happen on the road, God forbid, like an accident, everybody stops. They smother you with help and love. That’s the Israeli way.” 

When Starinsky returns to Israel, he will prepare to become a company commander for field artillery officer training. On the way home, he’ll stop and visit his sister, Shani, who is in New York studying fashion design at the Pratt Institute. In 2006, Shani was an exchange student at Jess Schwartz Jewish Community High School through Phoenix’s Sister City alliance with Ramat-Gan.

This trip to the United States wasn’t the first time Starinsky traveled outside of Israel. Several years ago, he journeyed to Poland with a Holocaust survivor for the IDF Witnesses in Uniform program. It was an emotional experience for Starinsky, whose family on both sides hails from Poland. “When I went to Auschwitz, there are no words to say... You cry, but you feel like you won. It felt like victory, me standing there in uniform. We used to be a big, big, family, but now I’m the last Starinsky male that can carry on the last name.” 

To that end, Starinsky says he will need to get married someday and have children, but there’s no girlfriend on the horizon. 

As for his future career, Starinsky is weighing the options. Whether he stays in the Army or not, he wants to go to school and study computer science and physics. “I want to know how everything works. I’ve already been accepted and I’m looking forward to it,” he says. 

For more details about FIDF, a nonprofit organization that provides and supports educational, social, cultural and recreational programs and facilities for the men and women of the IDF, contact Jerami Shecter, Arizona FIDF executive director, at jerami.shecter@fidf.org.

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