UD student Carley Becker (second from the right) stands with
(from right to left) IDF soldiers Elad and Lital, and StandWithUs
representative Ben Brownstein, when they visited Hillel on the
StandWithUs Israeli Soldiers Tour.
They don’t look like soldiers, and they don’t dress like soldiers. Instead of a military uniform, Elad was wearing a black button down and khakis, and Lital was dressed in a bright pink top and black pants. They were smiling, friendly, approachable, and former Israel Defense Forces soldiers. Elad, who worked in the IDF COGAT unit to help bring aid to Palestinian’s, and Lital, who served as a combat solider, are part of the StandWithUs “Israeli Soldiers Tour” in which former IDF soldiers visit schools to help educate and interact with the student body. On April 17, the tour came to the University of Delaware Hillel’s Shabbat dinner, showing everyone in attendance that there is more than meets the eye.
Dinner started out like usual, with blessings over the bread and wine and different tables vying to be the first to get food. This Friday, though, we had our IDF guests. I was lucky enough to sit with Elad and Lital as we ate, so I can honestly tell you that the conversation was flowing. We talked about food in Israel and Jewish museums in Philadelphia, and we always remembered to pass the challah. But, near the end of dinner, Elad and Lital moved from our table to the front of the room and shared their IDF experience.
How do you make a roomful of eighty college students come to a standstill? You let Elad and Lital speak about fighting in Israel. The room went silent as everyone stopped eating and talking to listen as Elad told us about the time he tried to help a child with cancer cross the border from Gaza into Israel in time for his doctor’s appointment, all the while having rockets blasted at him. Lital, too, brought up the humanitarian issue, describing the day she found explosives when she stopped and searched an ambulance at the border, despite the paramedics and the very pregnant woman inside insisting that they had to get through. All around the room, students were silent, trying to imagine these friendly, upbeat twenty-somethings fighting for their lives and those of others.
I, like many of those around me, could barely picture it. When someone asked our guests about the transition between high school and the military, someone walking outside Hillel would have thought nobody was in attendance. We all listened intently, needing to hear the answer. How could these people go fight, especially as kids?
But the next question was what can we, as American college students, do here? The stories that Elad and Lital shared were not to scare us or impassion us against a Palestinian state. “The Palestinian civilians are not our enemies,” Lital says. “We’re fighting terror and we want our neighbors to have good lives, the same that we want for our children.” Instead, the stories were meant to open our eyes to what is going on in our Promised Land and to make sure we know the difference between what is seen in the media and what is really happening abroad.
Their talk did the trick, and their advice to use social media to our advantage, to spread the truth about Israel and educate those around us, is easily followed. We all want to help our fellow Israelis because, whether we were born there or not, whether we have been there or not, we are all brothers and sisters, fighting for the right to be Jewish, for the right to have a home, and for the right to live safely and in peace.