At the age of 23, Los Angeles-born Maya Liss was told that she was too old to be an Israeli soldier when she immigrated. But Liss would not take no for an answer, and in late April, her fight to fight for her new country brought the Israel Defense Forces (IDF) corporal special recognition for her outstanding service to Israel.
Liss, now 24, was presented the Award of Excellence by the head of the IDF Personnel Directorate, Maj. Gen. Orna Barbivai, at a ceremony on a military base on the outskirts of Tel Aviv. The award was for her service in the Meitav unit of the IDF, where she was coordinator for new immigrants.
“I had decided to dedicate my life to advocating for Israel and the Jewish people,” Liss said. “I felt that, to be the best advocate, I had to be an Israeli, and what better way to start my life as an Israeli than to serve in the IDF.”
Liss made aliyah through Nefesh B’Nefesh, and has high praise for the organization — and the army — for easing her into her new life.
“Nefesh B’Nefesh and the IDF’s aliyah absorption offices assisted me with my placement in the army, and I am grateful that I have been able to give back by helping other olim [immigrants to Israel] who want to serve their country,” she said.
Her achievement was certainly a boost for her parents, still living in Los Angeles.
“My parents are really, really proud of me. My father’s Israeli, so it took a little bit less explaining to him, but he was obviously very proud,” Liss told The Journal. “And my mom, it took some time to explain to her what it means, but she’s also very proud.”
Liss completed her military service two days after the award ceremony, and the diploma has become a prized memento of her time in the army.
“All the things I have left are my dog tags and my beret, and now my certificate,” she said. “I’ve gotten so much support from all my friends and all my family. Overwhelming and exciting are the two adjectives I can come up with.”