When it comes to inspirational and courageous women, soldier Tobi Cohen is truly the epitome.
Cohen has become the first and only woman to serve in the Israel Defense Force (IDF). The Nigerian woman was inspired to become a soldier by her father who also served in the IDF.
She is now a Lieutenant in the army.
Cohen joined a program which sends candidates to Israel when she was just 16. She said: “At age 16, I decided that it was my time to make a change. I joined a program which sends young people to Israel.”
“After one year I joined a ‘Mechina’ (a pre-military program) and it was there that I started to feel more connected to the army.”
The now 21-year-old was born to a Nigerian mother and an Israeli father. Cohen was living with her parents and sister in Kano, before she migrated to Israel.
Cohen went on to say: “I always wanted to come to Israel, ever since I was a small child, I wanted a deeper connection, to understand what ‘Israel’ is, and not just through stories.”
Cohen admits it was hard to adjust to the life in another country.
She said: “New immigrants are often embarrassed and ashamed to speak, because they may say something wrong.”
“I was one of them but at some point I realised that I couldn’t go on like this. I made a lot of mistakes along the way, and it was hard, but it was worth it.”
Cohen learnt Hebrew and her friends helped her to adjust into the Israeli society.
Most importantly Cohen’s father supported he decision to become an officer in the Israeli army.
She said: “He was just as emotional as I was. For him it was a dream come true, and his being there really helped me.”
“My mother and my entire family attended the officers’ graduation ceremony. It is very touching to be the first woman officer from Nigeria in the IDF. “
“Obviously I have fallen in love with Israel. This is my home and I see myself continuing my life here.”
Cohen served as an operations sergeant in the Homefront Command. Her hard work saw her accepted into the officers’ training course.
Her duty as a Deputy Training Officer in Haifa region is to guide people on how to act during natural disasters such as earthquakes, fires and floods. Her role also sees her guide people on how they respond to emergencies such as rocket attacks or the threat of a biological/chemical weapon.