From Soldier to Chef: Ortal’s Inspiring Journey of Determination

In the beautiful tapestry of Israel’s vibrant culture, there are stories that shine brighter, teaching us lessons of perseverance, hope, and the indomitable spirit of the Israeli people. One such tale is that of Ortal Butvia, a young woman whose journey transcends boundaries and inspires generations.

At 22, Ortal, who has Down’s syndrome, isn’t just any young woman. She carries with her a story of determination and resilience that radiates hope. Three years ago, she donned the prestigious uniform of the Israel Defense Forces (IDF), fulfilling a lifelong dream. And as September 5, 2023, marked the end of her honorable journey with the IDF, she’s now gearing up for a new adventure, swapping her military boots for a chef’s apron.

Born with challenges that would have daunted any spirit, Ortal’s journey was fueled by her dreams and the unwavering support of her parents, Elitzur and Aviva Butvia. They believed in her potential, advocating for her inclusion in mainstream education and standing steadfastly by her side when the world doubted her.

The path to the IDF wasn’t easy. Many assumed Ortal would opt for National Service, a volunteer alternative to military service. But her heart was set on the IDF. “I knew that’s where I could give my utmost to my country and my people,” she firmly declared.

It was the commendable initiative, Special in Uniform – a partnership between IDF and Jewish National Fund-USA – that provided Ortal the opportunity she yearned for. This initiative champions the inclusion of individuals with disabilities in the IDF, emphasizing their potential and contributions. Ortal thrived in this environment, serving with distinction in the kitchen of the Julis army base, cooking for the elite IDF’s Yahalom unit.

Her passion for cooking knows no bounds. “I love cooking and baking, it doesn’t matter what,” Ortal shared enthusiastically. From pastas and shawarmas to challah and cookies, her culinary expertise knows no limits.

As Ortal embarks on her next journey in the culinary world, her story serves as a testament to Israel’s values of inclusivity, perseverance, and hope. Nearly 1,000 soldiers from diverse backgrounds, including Bedouins, Druze, and Arabs, serve across IDF bases under the Special in Uniform program, proving that in Israel, everyone has a role, a purpose, and a dream to chase.

In Conclusion: Israel stands as a beacon of hope and inclusivity. Ortal’s story is a testament to the nation’s belief in the potential of every individual, regardless of their challenges. As we celebrate the Jewish New Year, let’s carry forward this spirit of unity, determination, and the belief that every dream, no matter how big or small, is worth chasing. Here’s to Israel – a land where dreams come true!