An Israeli soldier named Chen visited UConn at Storrs one recent evening to recount for students his personal experiences serving in the Israel Defense Forces (IDF), and the insights he gained. Speaking to a crowd of close to 100 students, Chen discussed his background as a descendant of Jewish refugees from Tunisia and Iraq who immigrated to Israel in the 1950s; his life in Israel, witnessing a suicide bomber attack in his hometown of Petah-Takivah; coming out of the closet and his acceptance as an openly gay soldier.
Despite repeated efforts by the anti-Israel group Students for Justice in Palestine (SJP) to upend the event and derail the speaker – including a remark by SJP student president Adam Antar that “The Jewish people are not indigenous to the land of Israel” — Chen maintained a professional attitude and responded to even the most belligerent of questions and remarks with grace and precision. “The pro-Israel community at UConn made a clear statement that Israel will never walk alone,” said Mathew Birtwell, President of Huskies for Israel.
Chen’s talk was part of StandWithUs “Israeli Soldiers Stories,” an innovative program that attempts to “put a human face to the IDF uniform” by featuring a diverse group of reserve duty Israeli college students who educate, inform, and delve into conversation about the Israeli-Arab conflict. The event was co-sponsored by StandWithUs, UConn Huskies for Israel and UConn Hillel.