Five questions for former IDF Sgt. Talia Wolkowitz

Israel Defense Forces Sgt. Talia Wolkowitz and Hunter, the Belgian shepherd she worked with during her IDF service.

BY SAM MOSHER, STAFF WRITER

Talia Wolkowitz is a native St. Louisan who served in the Israel Defense Forces for two years. After joining in December 2015, she rose to the rank of sergeant, working as an operational track and attack canine handler. In this position, she was paired with a Belgian shepherd named Hunter and was tasked with helping protect the army’s large air force bases.

Wolkowitz, 21, joined the IDF after graduating from Parkway Central High School. The daughter of Jenny and Rich Wolkowitz, Talia grew up attending Congregation B’nai Amoona and Solomon Schechter Day School through seventh grade. In the fall, she will attend George Washington University,  where she plans on studying international relations and Arabic. 

Wolkowitz is speaking about her service at a Shaving Israel event Sunday, July 29 at at Nusach Hari B’nai Zion in Olivette. 

What will you take from your time serving in the IDF?

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I think the main thing I learned was that I served with Israelis but also people from all over the world. Working with people from South America, Australia, Europe, the former USSR, the United States and Israel, and being able to come together and act as a family is such a big thing. Because growing up in St. Louis, you’re mostly with Americans your whole life. You never really experience what it’s like to be in a global environment. In Israel, everyone comes from all these cultures and backgrounds. … But at the end of the day, we’re all in the same uniform and working together to protect Israel, which I think is very special.

How did being in Israel affect your relationship with Judaism?

It made me come to appreciate my background and religion. … I realized how many people have died and suffered for Judaism to stay alive. There are so many times it should have become extinct, but because of heroes every single time, we keep being the eternal people, and that made me feel really lucky. I had all these people fight for me and who I am today, so I thought I should appreciate it and I should incorporate Judaism into my everyday life and not ignore it and be ashamed of it. 

Why did you choose to attend college in the United States instead of Israel?

Long term, I know that I want to live in America because I’m such a family person. I can’t live that far from my family. I was considering going to school in Israel, but I thought it would be good to get a degree from America if I’m going to work here. But I do want to do at least one year abroad in Israel because I can’t stay away for that long.

Do you plan on advocating for Israel while in college?

Definitely. The BDS movement is really big on the George Washington campus. Recently, they had BDS legislation pass through the student body. I plan on doing work on the campus to spread the truth about Israel and IDF because there are so many misconceptions out there and so many people that read into ignorant lies. Obviously, nothing is black and white, but college campuses are often extremely biased against Israel. I’m not sure what I’m going to do yet, but I plan on taking a big part in being an advocate toward Israel.

What is something most people don’t know about you?

I have a fear of ketchup. That’s the first thing that pops into my head because everyone thinks it’s so weird. I can’t look at it. I can’t touch it. I’m afraid to death of a plate that has it on it. There wasn’t any traumatic incident with ketchup, but it’s something I’ve always had.

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