Israel Defense Forces

Lone soldiers in the Holy Land

While many around the world are shocked to witness increasing numbers of radicalized young people running off to join the brutal would-be caliphate of Islamic State, little attention is paid to their more pacific and principled counterparts who leave behind family and friends to pursue ennobled causes elsewhere.

Among the latter are a group of volunteers in the Israel Defense Forces who have no ties to the Holy Land other than a strong feeling of affinity for its fundamental values. Some of them are native Israelis — orphans with disadvantaged backgrounds — but most are immigrants recently arrived from around the world, the majority from Russia and the United...