Oliver is part of a delegation of British pre-campus students who intend to be active in leading pro-Israel activity when they get to university. In Israel with StandWithUs UK, they are engaging in an intensive week-long summit prior to beginning their studies when they return home.
You can read the blog for Day 1, by Jake Berger, here.
People often generalise the Israel Defence Forces (IDF) as a whole group sharing the same views and acting in the same way. Having heard from four different IDF and ex-IDF personnel today I have learnt that this couldn’t be further from the truth.
People make a series of assumptions (mostly negative) about how Israeli Arabs relate to their country, so to meet the highest ranking Arab in the IDF I wasn’t sure what to expect.
Our group meets Major Ala Wahib
Major Ala Wahib opened my eyes to the difficulties surrounding Arabs within Israel who share the same pro-Israel views as local Israelis. He stood out as an example of someone who clearly believed in Israel as having a bright future and wanting to fight for this.
But on the other hand listening to his story highlighted in my mind the problems still facing Israel today. Despite more and more Arabs joining the IDF, Major Ala Wahib told us how his decision to join the IDF split his family due to their strong views on Israel and this shows just how tense the situation can be between members of the same community.
Being able to experience this firsthand account is exactly what I wanted to get out the trip, allowing me to hear someone who has been there personally and can talk from what he has seen and not just sharing his views that have been learnt from the media or a book. Hearing Major Ala Wahib also strengthens my knowledge as now I can pass on his account and talk to others on campus of the facts and stories he has passed on to me.
Our hosts wanted us to hear different perspectives and so we had a presentation from the organisation “Breaking the Silence”, which was followed by a speech from two other IDF soldiers, who are part of the StandWithUs Israeli Soldiers Stories programme. It began to hit home just how important this trip will be for when I defend Israel on campus. Hearing firsthand accounts, one much more critical, and one that I found was more representative of most soldiers – I already felt much more informed and knowledgeable on Israel’s military presence within the West Bank.
Hearing personal accounts from soliders from their time in the IDF was fascinating as rarely do you get a chance to hear what goes on on a daily basis. It meant that I got to hear detailed, facts as to what happens within different units.
The StandWithUs UK group, pictured at the Peres Centre for Peace
Seeing and hearing this means when I go back to campus I will be able to turn to somebody and take what I have heard and use it to help explain to people about the morality of the IDF.
I have loved being able to just sit down and listen to what these soldiers have to say, as they have stood there and defended their country. Once I’m on campus, by me listening and taking on board what they have said, I hope to be an asset in defending Israel in debates and discussions. Without hearing these personal stories, I would be unable to defend the Jewish Homeland in university debates as without knowledge, an argument has no weight.
For the second day running my knowledge and understanding of Israel’s affairs broadened on a large scale and I can only see this continuing as the trip progresses.
(Oh, and we had fun too while learning.. below are photos from our tour of Street Art in Tel Aviv with world-renowned Israeli artist, Rami Meiri!)