Following Hamas's October 7 attack on Israel and the subsequent war, antisemitism abroad has become far more extreme than it was before, but this doesn't surprise soldier Madeleine Bollag, who grew up in Los Angeles and whose parents grew up in Switzerland and Iran experiencing antisemitism.
"On my dad's side, my grandparents survived the Holocaust," she told The Jerusalem Post. "One of them was in a concentration camp. My mother grew up in Iran, and her father was arrested with 12 other Jews. She escaped to Israel when she was 18 with her father."
Bollag made aliyah three years ago with her family and enlisted in the IDF three months ago. She is currently in Michve Alon, which is where new olim and lone soldiers acquire the Hebrew they will need for their service. Bollag hasn't been assigned a job yet for when she finishes her basic training, but she hopes to be assigned to a job in international relations or the IDF Spokesperson's Unit.
"Growing up outside of Israel, I always felt that there was a lot of misinformation," she explained. "I always felt that I had to explain to people what is going on and open their eyes to the truth."
She added that it's not always possible to change people's minds because some are too set in their beliefs, but that some people are essentially following a trend and can be convinced otherwise.
She always knew she was destined for the IDF
Even though her family only made aliyah three years ago, Bollag always knew that one day she would live in Israel and join the IDF.
"When I was growing up, we always talked about moving to Israel because my mom's family was there, but it was always really hard," she said. "Then three years ago, my mom passed away, and since the whole family lives in Israel, my dad realized it was time to go."
Bollag's mother grew up in Iran, she said, and at the time Jews were okay and had a strong community, but then suddenly, 13 Jewish men, including Bollag's grandfather, were arrested and accused of spying for Israel and the United States.
He was soon released, but a police officer advised them that Bollag's grandfather would be killed if he stayed in Iran, so he escaped with her mother when she was 17.
"Her other siblings couldn't go with so they had to leave the whole family behind," recounted Bollag. "She couldn't tell anyone she was leaving."
Her mother made it to Israel from Iran during the Second Intifada, and was in three separate terrorist attacks.
She then began working for the Jewish Agency, travelling around Europe telling her story to Jewish communities. During this time, she met Bollag's father in Switzerland, and they got married and had Bollag before moving to LA.
Bollag said that she didn't experience much antisemitism growing up in a Jewish community in LA, but all the same, she always knew Israel was her home.
"Throughout my life, we visited Israel every summer," she said. "Because both my parents escaped antisemitism in their countries, I understood that this is our only home. That's why it's so important to come to Israel and protect our land."
At Michve Alon, Bollag is surrounded by lone soldiers and other olim, some of whom came from Ukraine.
"It's very scary, traumatic, and hard, but I'm so happy that I'm in the army at this time," she said. "There's no better time to serve. It's so meaningful to be with people who aren't Israeli. Everyone here came to Israel to defend the country."