World

Who is Gill Rosenberg?

Gill Rosenberg made headlines last month as the first woman to join the Kurds battling the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria.

Canadian fighting ISIS with Kurds has seen both Israeli military service and U.S. prison

Gill Rosenberg poses for a photo in Jerusalem in 2007, when she was in the Israeli Defence Forces. Two years later she was arrested for her role in an international phone scam. (Facebook)

Gill Rosenberg made headlines last month as the first woman to join the Kurds battling the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria. 

The 31-year-old Canadian-Israeli who is originally from White Rock, B.C., attended King David High School in Vancouver. She studied aviation at the British Columbia Institute of Technology, according to her Facebook page, before going on to work as a civil aviation pilot and emigrating to Israel. 

In 2006, she joined the search-and-rescue unit of the Israeli army but was arrested three years later and extradited to the U.S for her role in an international phone scam. 

She was one of 11 people arrested in what an FBI document on the case described as "a phoney 'lottery prize' scheme that targeted victims, mostly elderly."

Israel's NRG news site reported at the time that Rosenberg turned to crime after running short on money, that she was estranged from her parents and had tried in vain to join the Mossad spy service.

Rosenberg consented to extradition and served around four years in a U.S. prison under a  plea bargain, according to court documents.

She is an Orthodox Jew and fond of musicians including K'naan, Macklemore and Tiesto, according to her postings online. Her taste in movies ranges from military-action films like Top Gun to comedies including Pretty Woman. 

'New beginning'

Her Facebook account, which saw little activity during those four years, came back to life in January 2014. Through the late winter and spring, Rosenberg referred to a "new beginning" and often posted inspirational quotes from the likes of Gandhi and Deepak Chopra. 

Rosenberg returned to Israel in August, touring historical sites and describing the rocket attacks that struck Tel Aviv. (Facebook)
​By summer, as she prepared to return to Tel Aviv, she started to post political material — touching on the Israeli Defence Forces' fight with Hamas and the IDF's increased use of female reservists. 

She also discussed the downing of Malaysia Airlines MH17 over Ukraine, remarking she would be flying with the Israeli airline El Al because "at least they are equipped with [anti-missile] flares." 

Upon returning to Israel on Aug. 7,she posted photos from places such as Jerusalem and the Judean desert, and describes — sometimes in coarse language — coming under the rocket attacks launched by militants in Gaza. 

Her posts became less frequent into the fall. 

During an anonymous interview with Israel Radio, a woman later identified as Rosenberg by Reuters said she joined YPG, the Kurds' dominant fighting force in northern Syria, after contacting them on the internet.

"They [the Kurds] are our brothers. They are good people. They love life, a lot like us, really," the woman said, in Hebrew. 

Shortly after her birthday last month, Rosenberg said she would be absent from the internet until at least early December. 

"Doing good — don't have time to reply to everyone individually," she wrote on Facebook. "Someone will manage the page for me. Remember, life is good." 

A source in the Kurdistan region with knowledge of the issue told Reuters that Rosenberg was the first foreign woman to join YPG and that she had crossed into Syria.

She is one of about 10 Westerners recruited by YPG, the source said.

With files from Reuters