Israeli Defense Forces soldiers tell their stories
Two reserve soldiers told students about their experience in battle
February 27, 2013, 12:20 am·
Aaron Campbell | DP
Last night, two reserve soldiers in the Israel Defense Forces shared their experiences in battle — a subject that drew charged and conflicting responses.
The event, titled “Israeli Soldiers’ Stories,” was organized by Penn Friends of Israel, the African American Resource Center and StandWithUs, an organization that engages college students to educate its communities on issues regarding Israel.
College freshman and Penn Friends of Israel board member Alexis Ziebelman explained what she hoped students would gain from the soldiers’ stories.
“We want to give students a firsthand account of what goes on in the Israeli army and maybe show a different side than is presented in the news,” she said.
With these objectives, two panelists, Yishai and Sharon, — both reserves in the IDF — gave students personal accounts of their life in the army.
Yishai described an operation where he and his unit located a terrorist but found him surrounded by women and children.
“I communicated with my commander, but he told us, ‘No, don’t do anything because there might be collateral damage,”’ he said.
Yishai added that he struggled to understand his commander’s decision because the target was a dangerous man. However, he gradually understood that it had been the right call.
“Life for us is holy,” he said, “and if there is a chance of hurting people, we won’t proceed.”
After Yishai, Sharon spoke about her task of operating sirens that warned Israeli civilians of approaching missiles.
On an unexpected occasion, Sharon observed enemy missiles heading toward her hometown of Haifa, Israel. Locking in on the missile’s predicted target, she was shocked to see the area where her family lived and promptly sounded the sirens.
“I called my father after that, and he said, ‘Everyone is safe, thank you,’” Sharon said. “You feel good and relieved that you were able to save someone’s life.”
The audience consisted of students with differing perspectives on the Israel-Palestine conflict.
Halfway through Yishai’s presentation, three students stood up in silent protest. Black tape covered their mouths and they held up placards bearing messages such as “End Occupation Now!” They then walked out of the room.
At the end of the event, Yishai offered his thoughts on people’s conflicting opinions of Israel.
At similar presentations that Yishai has given in the past, “Five percent of people who come are pro-Israel. Another five percent are against Israel. But there are 90 percent who normally don’t really know the facts about the situation.”
He added that this undecided majority “is the most important group to us. We want to leave them with a positive and factual perspective of Israel.”