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Bridge to Understanding

Two hundred students heard Israeli soldiers Adam and Kinneret talking about their experiences at Yorba Linda High School on March 1.  The newly formed “Israel Club” and the “Bible Club” sponsored the event.  Students from the high school’s history classes were given extra credit for attending the presentation, part of a whirlwind two-week tour that took the two soldiers through Colorado, Nevada and southern California.
The talk was arranged by Blair Becker, the StandWithUs MZ Teen at YLHS, who founded the Israel Club.  In its first year, the SWU MZ Teen Internship program selects and trains 48 teens from schools throughout the US in Israel advocacy.  They are encouraged to form Israel Clubs and bring speakers and events to their schools.  The MZ Foundation funds the program and StandWithUs’s “Israeli Soldiers Stories.” (ISS).
ISS is an innovative program featuring a diverse group of reserve duty Israeli college students whose mission is to educate, inform and delve into conversation about the Israeli-Arab conflict.  They speak about their backgrounds, life in Israel and personal stories that highlight the moral code of the Israel Defense Forces (IDF).
Adam has a BA in Political Science and International Relations from Tel Aviv Academic College.  He was drafted in 2000 and has pursued an Army career.  Adam was an officer in COGAT (an IDF coordination and liaison unit responsible for Palestinian civilian affairs and humanitarian needs).  Fluent in Arabic, he serves as a liaison officer between Israelis, Palestinians and international representatives, minimizing damage and casualties.  He believes that the Palestinians appreciate the assistance.  “If there is a Palestinian state in the future, we need to have cooperation on the ground,” he said.
Adam spoke of a Palestinian baby in Gaza born with a hole in its heart.  Gaza hospitals were not equipped to save the child.  The IDF values all human life, and his unit was willing to put IDF lives in jeopardy to bring the child to a Tel Aviv hospital.  The soldiers approached the terminal on the border, which was under a rocket attack of the terror organization, Hamas, which controls the Gaza strip, in an armored ambulance (some are specifically built this way for protection.)  The soldiers found the home and saved the child’s life in Israel.
Kinneret, 26, was born in a kibbutz in the Golan Heights, founded by her Culver City-born father, who envisioned it when he was a student at UC San Diego.  Her mother is a tenth generation Israeli.  After she finishes her degree, Kinneret wants to go back and “strengthen the Golan,” which she described as “very peaceful and very beautiful.”
Kinneret’s compulsory IDF service was in 2006 during the Second Lebanon War against the terror organization, Hezbollah.  She was dispatched to a northern Israeli city, which was under siege with rockets constantly falling and people hiding in bomb shelters, afraid to leave.  Some of the shelters had not been used in 15 or 20 years and were in disrepair.  The army improvised a crisis center.  IDF soliders drove around from the center, handing out food, diapers and other necessities to people living in the area.
Kinneret told the students about “Sarah,” a hungry widow with children in a bomb shelter that she promised she would take care of.  Her dedication saved Kinneret, because as she carried supplies to their shelter, a Katyusha rocket hit where she had stood just a few seconds earlier.  Kinneret is finishing her B.A. in political communications in Tel Aviv.
Students asked Kinneret what happened to Sarah.  She responded that unfortunately, once her tour was over, she lost contact with the woman and her children, but they are probably fine.  The students asked about the role women play in the military.  Kinneret responded that men and women are treated equally; they receive the same training, even in Krav Maga, and are assigned the same duties.
Kinneret has also been part of an educational corps in Jerusalem.  She brought underprivileged Jewish, Christian and Arab teens together for horseback riding, soccer and educational enrichment.
Blair wondered why Adam and Kinneret joined the IDF.  The soldiers explained that military service is compulsory in Israel.  It is a different culture than America, because everyone goes into the army; it’s not voluntary as it is in America.  In Israel, they explained, you grow up with soldiers guarding malls and beaches and restaurants, and you become accustomed to the fact that this is what you must do to defend your country.

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