JERUSALEM (JTA) – Staff. Sgt. Joana Chris Arpon isn’t Israeli, or even Jewish. Her service in the Israel Defense Forces is personal.
Arpon, 20, is the daughter of Filipino parents who came to the Israel to find work. She said she enlisted as a combat soldier because an Israeli army team rescued her grandmother in the aftermath of the 2013 typhoon that devastated the Philippines.
“It was amazing to see the soldiers show up and help people. They saved my grandmother when her house was destroyed,” Arpon said. “I was like, “Whoa, that’s what I want to do.’”
On Tuesday, Israel’s 69th Independence Day, Arpon will be one of 120 soldiers recognized by Israel’s president for distinguished service.
Arpon’s mother immigrated to Israel in 1988 to work as a nanny, and stayed to raise her children even after her husband left. The vast majority of the some 31,000 Filipinos who live in Israel are female caregivers.
After the army, Arpon wants to study architecture — and design houses that will stand in any weather.
“I’m really glad I chose this type of service, where I was able to help the country that helped me,” Arpon said. “I see my future in Israel.”