A former Londoner has become the oldest recruit to join the Israel Defence Forces’ elite paratroopers unit, at the tender age of 29.
Isaac Allen, who received his red beret last month, has been trumpeted as the IDF’s latest poster-boy in a campaign to close the army generation gap.
Most of Private Allen’s comrades in the unit are at least a decade younger than he is, but he insists that the age difference does not bother him.
“They other soldiers don’t treat me differently. I learn from them, and they learn from me,” he said.
“I knew that they would all be young when I joined the army — I’m happy living my dream. Israel has always been in my heart. This is my place, my homeland.
“We’re all fighting for the same thing. “We’re fighting for a Jewish homeland.”
The former Menorah and Hasmonean Boys student made aliyah in 2012 after he had become disillusioned with life in the UK.
“I was brought up in a religious home and would wear my kippah in the street. I was screamed at and would get into fights,” he recalled.
“That’s why we need Israel — Israel makes Jews around the world feel protected.”
The French-born soldier, who lived in Edgware and worked for the Community Security Trust before emigrating, decided to join the paratroopers brigade — the unit famous for recapturing the Western Wall in Jerusalem during the 1967 Six Day War — “because it’s combat-based”.
He added: “We’re posted at the borders. It’s got real.”
Private Allen is one of more than 100 British citizens currently serving in the IDF as lone soldiers — personnel with no family in Israel. But he said that his young comrades were an ideal substitute.
“My team is my family; they’re the people I’m with every single day,” he said.