January 15, 2007 / 25 Tevet 5767
"Although I had a job lined up for the summer to earn enough money to pay for my college tuition and rent, when the hostilities broke out I dropped everything. I went back to my unit even before I was called up for reserve duty. The Jewish Agency scholarship was instrumental in my returning to college this fall."
Ido Tkacz, 26, is a modern-day Israeli hero. Born in San Francisco while his father was finishing his doctorate in aeronautics at Stanford University, Ido returned to Israel as an infant. The family settled in Haifa.
Intelligent and motivated, Ido was an officer in an elite combat unit during his compulsory army service. He had just completed his second year of studies in electrical engineering at Emek HaYarden College when hostilities broke out in the North. "Even before the fighting elevated to a full-fledged war, I returned to service to lead my men. Two days later, we received our emergency call-up letter (Tsav 8)."
Ido and his men were charged with guarding the Syrian border. For over a month they were on high alert.
However, Ido is no stranger to risk or volunteering to help others. As an avid scuba diver, he is part of a team that searches for people who have drowned in the Sea of Galilee. At any hour of the day or night, in all kinds of weather, the rescue team is ready.
Two years ago Ido joined the newly established Israeli Flying Aid (IFA) organization. This incredible volunteer organization provides humanitarian aid and relief to disaster stricken countries throughout the world. Ido was part of the team sent to New Orleans in Hurricane Katrina's devastating aftermath.
"We were the only foreign delegation allowed inside the stricken area. We worked alongside the local firefighters, going from house to house to find survivors. We arrived with full snorkeling gear, but the water was so contaminated we were unable to dive. We had to take tremendous cautionary measures to protect our lives."
A month before serving in the Lebanon war, Ido was in Indonesia on another rescue mission. "It is not easy to balance school, army duty (Ido has just been called up again for reserve duty) and my activities with IFA. But I feel like I am doing important things and making a difference in this world."
The Jewish Agency scholarship for students called-up for emergency reserve duty has been a tremendous gift for Ido, who has given so selflessly to others. It allowed him to return to his college studies without constant worry about his finances.