An Israeli-Canadian woman who joined Kurdish forces fighting the Islamic State returned to Israel Sunday after more than six months in Syria and Iraq.
Gill Rosenberg, 31, told the Ynet news website that she left Syria for Iraq in January, then flew to Paris just over a week ago before flying to Ben Gurion Airport.
“I’m happy to be home,” she said from Tel Aviv University. “Everything was good, but still, it’s a country at war, so it’s difficult.”
Rosenberg, an Israel Defense Forces vet, became a media darling in November when she announced via Facebook that she had joined Kurdish fighters.
The Canadian-born immigrant to Israel set out from her home in Tel Aviv on November 2, stopping in Amman before flying to Erbil, the capital of the autonomous Kurdistan Region of Iraq.
She posted pictures on social media of herself with Kurdish forces, and rejected reports that she had been captured by Islamic State forces in the area.
Rosenberg told Israel Radio at the time that she wanted to do her part for the Kurdish national struggle, and that she was hopeful her experience in the IDF would be useful to the Kurds.
Speaking in the interview published Sunday, Rosenberg said it was hard for her to be back in Tel Aviv, enjoying the beach, while her friends from Syria were still fighting against the Islamic State terror group.
“Kurdistan, besides just the front lines, they have three million refugees from that whole region that are displaced and it’s mostly women and children. The humanitarian situation there is in a huge crisis,” she told the website.
Rosenberg said the advance of IS and the increasing role of Iran prompted her to leave and fly back to Israel.
“This is my home,” she told Israel’s Channel 2 in an interview later Sunday.
She also said she was driven to join the fighting by the idea of “never again,” letting an atrocity like the Holocaust occur.
Now that she’s back, she said, she plans to stay put and help raise awareness about the situation in Kurdistan and push for the rights of Kurds and other minorities in Iraq.
Rosenberg was questioned by the Shin Bet security services upon her return to Israel and then released.
Some criticized her decision to fight IS and become a potential kidnap target that could force Israel into negotiations for her release.
Rosenberg was arrested in 2009 following a joint FBI and Israel Police operation and consequently spent three years in a US prison for posing as a lottery official and convincing unsuspecting seniors to pay for fictive services, according to the Walla news site.
Channel 10 News reported that Rosenberg had originally been sentenced to a four-year prison term, but her sentence was eventually shortened and she was deported to Israel.
AFP contributed to this report.