Japanese Jew joins IDF in grandparents' footsteps

From Iwata to the IDF, follow Daniel Tomohiro's voyage from the far east to defend Israel as his Holocaust survivor grandparents did.

Ari Yashar,

Daniel Tomohiro
Daniel Tomohiro
IDF Spokesperson Unit

Daniel Tomohiro on Wednesday had his swearing-in ceremony to the Nahal Brigade's 50th Battalion at the Kotel (Western Wall) Plaza in Jerusalem - but as may be obvious by his last name, Tomohiro is not your average IDF soldier.

The new recruit who recently finished his basic training was raised in Iwata, Japan.

His Hungarian Jewish grandparents were Holocaust survivors who made aliyah and fought in the 1948 War of Independence, before moving to Australia where Tomohiro's mother married a Japanese man and moved to the land of the rising sun, reports JNS on Thursday.

“My 88-year-old grandfather Ivan lives in Sydney, Australia,” Tomohiro told the news site. “He told me that he fought in an artillery (unit) during the War of Independence, in the Palmach (paramilitary organization), and was an instructor in an officer training course. My grandmother died when I was a child and I still don’t know what she did in the Palmach.”

Explaining how he wound up in Japan, he noted his parents met during a business trip his father took to Australia.

“My parents married and moved to Japan, but at home they kept talking about Israel. My family is very pro-Israel and loves the state, and I believe the Israel Defense Forces is the most moral military in the world.”

“I felt very connected to the state, but I arrived here for the first time only when I was 18, with my parents and younger brother,” he said. “My older brother had already made aliyah and was in the IDF Spokesperson’s Unit. After I graduated high school in Japan, I returned to Israel, and four months ago I joined an IDF Hebrew course and later started basic training.”

Tomohiro emphasized that serving in the army of the Jewish state "means a lot to me and my family."

“My grandmother was in Auschwitz. She survived only because a German nurse covered her with a blanket when Dr. Josef Mengele came to visit. He thought she was dead and this saved her life, because he didn’t perform experiments on her," he said.

"I realized, after hearing such stories, that the Holocaust happened because there was no state of Israel. I am happy to contribute to the security of the state, to make the IDF and Israel strong, and to prevent another Holocaust."