By Cindy Mindell ~
WESTPORT — Two Israeli soldiers visiting Connecticut this month will recount their personal experiences and share insights of serving in the Israeli Defense Forces (IDF). The soldiers share experiences that are rarely heard in the media or other public venues.
Sponsored by StandWithUs (SWU), Adam and Lital (their last names are withheld for security purposes) are part of “Israeli Soldiers’ Stories,” a program that brings reserve-duty Israeli college students to communities to give a human face to the IDF uniform. The two are graduates of the StandWithUs Israeli Fellowship, a unique public diplomacy program that selects and trains 150 student leaders each year from six Israeli universities.
Founded in 2002 and based in Los Angeles, StandWithUs (SWU) is an international, non-profit Israel education organization that supports Israel-advocacy efforts on campuses and in communities throughout the world, through speakers, programs, and conferences, as well as website resources and printed materials.
Adam and Lital will discuss their backgrounds and life in Israel, and will address questions about the Israeli-Arab conflict. Many of the reservists are part of a group that provides video testimony at www.soldiersspeakout.com, where they highlight their personal experiences. This is an independent initiative that is not coordinated with either the IDF or the Israeli government.
“The impact of the Israeli Soldiers tour is more significant than we had hoped,” says Roz Rothstein, co-founder and CEO of StandWithUs. “Five teams of two soldiers each have spoken to hundreds of students at high schools and colleges in dozens of cities across the country. Most students ask thoughtful questions and even want to stay in touch with the Israeli reservists. Our program invites dialogue about a situation that can often be confusing.”
Adam is an alumnus of the StandWithUs Fellowship of 2012 at Tel Aviv University. He was drafted into the IDF in 2002 and has developed a professional career in the army, today serving as the Head of International Organizations and Diplomatic Missions Department. In the past, he has served as an officer in CoGat (Coordination of Government Activities in the Palestinian Territories) and in the civil administration. Currently he is pursuing a BA in political science and international relations at The Tel-Aviv Academic College.
Lital served as a combat soldier in the border police unit of the IDF. Lital is an alumnus of the StandWithUs Fellowship of 2010 at Tel Aviv University. She has a BA in social sciences from the Open University and today is a journalist for various Israeli media outlets. “I feel strongly about the way the IDF is perceived in the media, and that there is no need to be apologetic,” she says. “I was very eager to contribute as much as possible to my country, which is why I chose to enlist in the IDF border police unit, serving at checkpoints, something unique for a women to do in the IDF.”
Indeed, the IDF’s negative portrayal in world media is one of the challenges addressed by SWU in its educational initiatives. “The IDF has more than 700,000 citizen soldiers and reservists who work to live up to its high ethical standards in even the most difficult situations on the front lines,” says Rothstein. “If there are violations of the Code of Conduct, the IDF judges all violations, and punishes offenders.”
The public is invited to two community-wide presentations in Connecticut: Monday, Mar. 14, 7:30 p.m. at the JCC of Greater New Haven, 360 Amity Road, Woodbridge |
Info: (203) 387-2424; and Chabad of Westport, call for details: (203) 226-8584