Ben Sira, Eva

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1984? -

Iniut-Cherokee-Israeli soldier

Eva Ben Sira became the first Inuit member of the Israeli Defence Force in December 2003 when she joined up.

The remarkable story of her and her twin brother, Jimmy began in Alaska, where they were born to a Yup'ik mother and Cherokee father. A few days after they were born their father abandoned the family. Their mother was unable to cope financially and the babies went to live with their grandmother in a distant town, who also had a difficult time coping with them.

Meanwhile, in 1989, Margot Lewis, a Swiss Catholic woman who had married an American Jew and went to live in Israel, emigrated from there to Anchorage, to pursue her career as a painter, and moved next door to the twins’ mother. Lewis’ daughter, Dafna, born and raised in Israel, was married to Meir Ben Sira, an Orthodox Israeli Jew, and Meir and Dafna went to visit Margot soon after their marriage. They learned of the children’s story and that they needed a new permanent family, and decided to adopt them.

The vast cultural differences between the families caused difficulties with tribal and rabbinical authorities which took five years to overcome, during which time the Ben Siras remained in Alaska. After the adoption the family moved back to Israel, where the children formally converted to Judaism and were raised in the orthodox community of Nir Etzion.
[Last updated: 21 JUN 2004]

References

Ratner, David. “An Eskimo in the IDF.” 3 December 2003. Available at: http://www.haaretz.com/hasen/spages/367691.html [unavailable 21 June 2004]
Berg, Raffi. “Israel’s First Eskimo Soldier.” [Includes portrait]. Available at: http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/world/middle_east/3288515.stm [Last visited: 21 June 2004]
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