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Israeli soldiers are the subject of "Breaking the Silence," an exhibition of photographs and testimony about the experiences of Israeli soldiers occupying Hebron.

An exhibition of photos and testimonies about the Israeli-occupied area of Hebron made its first stop in the United States, opening on Saturday night at the Rotunda to a hotbed of discussion.

The exhibit is organized by an Israeli-based foundation known as "Breaking the Silence." The Rotunda, which is owned by the University and is located near 40th and Walnut streets, welcomed a crowd of about 50 people, who took guided tours from two former Israeli soldiers. The soldiers explained various pictures that often showcased tied up or executed Palestinians.

Started in 2004, "Breaking the Silence" is the collaborative effort of about 60 soldiers who had served during the second intifada, or uprising, that led to violent escalations between Israelis and Palestinians.

Hebron, which is home to more than 150,000 Palestinians and about 700 Jewish settlers, became the point of emphasis for soldiers because of the moral qualms the soldiers faced there during their service.

"Before I came to the military, I had a clear idea of what was right and wrong. And the second I entered service all those ideas were thrown in a blender and a minute later, there was nothing left," said Yehuda Shaul, a 25-year-old former infantry soldier who now leads tours into Hebron for Israeli citizens.

"Israel needs to confront itself in the mirror to realize the moral price tag of the occupation and the things done in its name," he added.

However, that's not to say the soldiers advocate ending the occupation.

"Breaking the Silence" does not endorse a particular political philosophy and many of its members disagree about what policies Israel should pursue. The exhibit is a commentary on the abuse of power in the occupied territories.

Some of the pictures depict soldiers smiling near tied-up violators of curfews. Others show soldiers watching the World Cup while a Palestinian family is sequestered in another room.

Though the exhibition caused a splash when it first opened in Tel Aviv in 2004, it has since become mainstream and has traveled through Europe.

Some students who were at the grand opening had mixed reactions to the location the organization chose.

Engineering junior Tal Raviv, said he would have been happier if the exhibition had been held in Hillel at Steinhardt Hall.

"If someone wanders in to see this for the first time, they'll get the wrong impression because the [soldiers] don't explicitly go through the history or mention terrorism," Raviv said.

Degani said he doesn't regret bringing the exhibit to the United States.

"At the end of the day people who are anti-Israeli don't need us," he said.

The Rotunda became a site for the exhibition after Facilities and Real Estate Services spokesman Andrew Zitcer took a tour of Hebron with "Breaking the Silence."

"It's really important to me that it's here because it's not a traditional exhibition," said Gina Renzi, director of the Rotunda.

The exhibition will be displayed for two more weeks. The soldiers will participate in a question and answer session hosted by the Penn-Israel coaliton on February 19.

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