Melbourne gym recruits members for Israeli army
The Melbourne gym that offered to teach its members to use firearms like elite Israeli army snipers in April is now offering to help Australians join the Israel Defence Forces.
IDF Training, a private gym in Caulfield, is best known for its courses in Krav Maga, a form of combat training used by the IDF and popular abroad as a form of self-defence.
It received national attention after The Age revealed in April it had emailed its members, including minors, to spruik a new shooting course called “Intro to Israeli Tactical Shooting” at Oakleigh Pistol Club.
IDF training is co-owned by former Israel Defence Forces (IDF) soldier Avi Yemini, who spent almost three years on the border of Gaza serving as a Golani Brigade sharpshooter.
Mr Yemini said after the recent spate of “lone wolf” attacks in Israel, there had been “a big response” to the gym’s offer to help recruit Australian fighters to Israel.
“I think that people who see it – both Australian and Jewish – what’s going on in Israel, all the knife attacks at the moment, people stop to think ‘what can I do?’,” he said.
It is legal for Australians to serve in legitimate armies for internationally-recognised countries.
But few Australians serve with the IDF.
Last year, only 100 Australians were believed to be enlisted with the IDF, of about 2500 foreign citizens from more than 60 countries serving with the IDF.
It is illegal for Australians to travel to declared areas in Syria and Iraq, or to provide any assistance to armed groups in Syria.
“People will compare what we’re doing to Islamic State, but people need to remember there’s a big difference,” Mr Yemini said.
“What we’re doing is promoting joining the forces of an ally to Australia. We have the same mentality and the same philosophy … there’s no comparison between the two.”
In the email to gym members, Mr Yemini wrote: “I want to spread the word as you might not be aware that we help people interested in joining the IDF, by supporting them through the process of applying from Australia and ensuring their training is top notch so that they are physically prepared”.
This, he said, would include supporting people through the process of applying to join the IDF and undertaking physical training to give participants the capacity to serve in a range of units.
This could include the 15-month voluntary Machal program, which allows Jewish foreigners to join the army without becoming citizens, or more specialised units for dual citizens.
Dean Sherr, the chairperson for the the Australasian Union of Jewish Students, said the union was not aware of any trend of Australians to enlist in the IDF.