The Student News Site of Texas A&M University - College Station

The Battalion

The Student News Site of Texas A&M University - College Station

The Battalion

The Student News Site of Texas A&M University - College Station

The Battalion

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Israeli soldiers share testimonies

Cody Franklin — THE BATTALION
Cody Franklin — THE BATTALION

Imagine being home on a Friday night, watching TV, when out of nowhere missiles strike a friend’s house just two minutes away. Although this is not a common situation in America, this is a reality for the people of Israel.
Tuesday evening, Texas A&M’s Hillel organization hosted two Israeli soldiers who recounted their stories of serving in the Israeli Defense Forces. The two IDF soldiers, Tamir and Alad, whose last names weren’t released for security reasons, are currently touring with “StandWithUs,” an international Israel education organization that is co-sponsored by Hillel at Texas A&M.
Vida, a program coordinator for StandWithUs, whose last name was also not released for security reasons, left her job as a broker in Manhattan to support Israel, whom she said she cares about deeply.
“I started studying the issue and I realized that not only is the world better with Israel in it — when you study the facts and you’re a person of good will it’s not only better for the Jewish people, but for everybody,” Vida said.
Tamir, a 27-year-old paratrooper who has spent most of his time fighting in the Gaza Strip, recounted memories of a school that had been taken over by the Palestinian Islamic terrorist group Hamas.
“I entered a regular classroom and I went up to the board, and I looked at the left side of the board and I saw a photos,” Tamir said. “In Israel we have photos in classrooms of prime ministers just like the pictures you have here of your presidents. Those photos were pictures of Shahids — suicide bombers exploding Israel and Israelis, praised like they were Hollywood stars.”
Ashley Passmore, an international affairs professor at A&M who attended the event, said that despite IDF’s small size, it has gained a reputation for being one of the most sophisticated fighting forces in the world.
“The IDF is both a compulsory and a professional army,” Passmore said. “It is the only country in the world that maintains obligatory military service for women as well as men and 80 percent of those who receive a summons serve.”
At one point in his military service, Tamir said he and his fellow soldiers let everyone, including Hamas, know when and where they were planning on fighting in order to protect the lives of innocent people.
“I hope peace will come, but I am skeptical,” Tamir said.
Alad, a 30-year-old sergeant serving in Judea and Samaria, said he also hopes for peace.
Despite the physically, mentally and emotionally taxing experiences that IDF soldiers endure, Alad said they find ways to convince themselves to carry on in their fight to protect the state of Israel.
“My commanders gathered everyone together and they gave us a speech,” Alad said. “In that speech they said first of all, be human beings. Then be soldiers, be commanders, be officers. That made me feel really proud and made me feel like I am in the right place.”
Vida said she hopes the outcome of this fight is a stronger and more secure Israel.
“We need to make sure that Israel is always in the world,” Vida said. “There are people out there who wake up and say, ‘What can I do to help destroy Israel today,’ and I’ve met some of them.”
Serving IDF is an incredibly dangerous task. Both Tamir and Alad said they have lost friends and family to the cause they’re fighting for. Alad said he has even been shot before in battle himself.
“It was the first night that I was actually engaged in a fire scene and my dear friend standing next to me actually got shot and unfortunately he died,” Alad said. “By the time I realized what happened I got shot myself. I got shot and pieces of bullets penetrated my skull, and I also got shot in the tail.”
Mariah Bastin, an international affairs graduate student, said after listening to Tamir and Alad’s testimony, she most appreciated their positive outlook despite the hardships that Israel has faced.
“We are not here to advocate against anybody,” Bastin said. “We’re here to tell our stories, to spread awareness about the fact that there are real, true struggles going on here and to protect and serve, which is exactly what they said their mission was, the innocent citizens that are affected by the struggle between Israel and Palestine.”
Although their fight has not been easy, Vida said the two IDF soldiers stood as a beautiful example of what can happen when people trade hatred and anger for the protection of people and a pursuit of peace.
“Even someone like me, who’s not Jewish, has an Israel story and we must use our stories to connect with other people, to engage them, and to help them find their own Israel story,” Vida said.

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