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Filipina IDF Soldier Fights for Country That Saved Her Grandmother

Joana Chris Arpon, Filipina IDF soldier (Photo: IDF Spokesperson)

While many of our weekly Advocates and Allies are heroes who saved Jews during the Holocaust, we also like to feature friends of Israel from today. This week, we'll meet Joana Chris Arpon, who The Times of Israel's Andrew Tobin writes about - an IDF soldier of Filipino descent who was recently honored for her selfless service on Israel's Independence Day:

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 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 was one of 120 soldiers recognized by President Reuven Rivlin for distinguished service. Later this year, Arpon and her mother will be granted Israeli citizenship thanks partly to her time in the army.

Born in Israel, Arpon always felt like part of the Jewish state. While many Filipinos live clustered in Israel’s big cities, her mother raised her and her older brother in the small town of Mishmar Hashiva, in central Israel. At their high school in nearby Rishon Lezion, they were the only Filipino students.

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.

As a rule, Filipinos are only allowed to live in Israel as temporary workers. But Arpon and her brother are among the hundreds of Filipino children the government has granted permanent residency, along with their immediate family members. After the children serve in the army, their families qualify for citizenship.

Arpon long knew she would follow in the footsteps of her brother, who served as a paramedic and is now a citizen. But it was only recently that she decided she wanted to be a combat soldier...

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