Wendy Kalman
There are many ways to see and understand

A night with minorities in the IDF

Tonight, I attended a presentation sponsored by AJC Access Atlanta, the young professionals program of the regional branch of AJC, Global Jewish Advocacy. Reservists on Duty, founded in 2015, “is an Israeli non-governmental and non-profit organization [and its] goal is to bring the complexity of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict to the public’s attention, both in Israel and abroad.” The way they did it tonight was by having AJC Access Atlanta bring the Reservists on Duty’s “Israeli Minorities Tour 2018” to Atlanta.

Tonight’s event, Diverse Voices from Israel, brought an interesting mix of minorities serving in the Israeli Defense Forces together to speak. With an introduction by Christopher Perlera, an American Jewish Committee Project Interchange alumni, the panel of speakers was hosted by Jonathan Elkhoury, a Lebanese Christian, and each guest spoke about his or her experience as a citizen of Israel and serving in the IDF or in National Service.

Jonathan’s family came to Israel when he was 9, after Israel pulled out of South Lebanon. His father had served with the former SLA. The other speakers were native-born. Nizar Graisi, also Christian, served in the tanks division and now helps integrate Christians into Israeli society and the IDF. Mohammad Kabiya, a Muslim Israeli-Bedouin and a former IDF soldier, now works as a strategic consultant for the IDF, specializing in Bedouin and foreign affairs. There were also two women. Lorena Khateeb, an Israeli Druze woman who was in National Service in the Druze youth movement. And Nasrin Khalifa, an Israeli Arab Muslim who did hers in the Unit for Directing Discharged Soldiers. Her father was a colonel in the IDF.

For Jonathan and Mohammed, this was their second minority voices tour speaking about what it is like to serve in the IDF and serve Israel. Jonathan conveyed some about the history and purpose of this initiative.

My fiancé and I attended this with Muslim acquaintances and I tried to see it through their eyes. Given the purpose of the tour, a certain amount of cynicism makes sense.

I understand the need for loyal citizens to want to speak out so others can see through ugly rhetoric that take up so much space in the public narrative. But I can also understand hesitancy to take it all at face value. An inaccurate number was cited; does that mean one must doubt other facts and figures?

No, but it means that the more we listen, the more we hear. And that with research we can substantiate or correct the information we are unsure about. And while it is extremely important to be able to distinguish among sources to determine credibility, it also is not a reason not to listen. Each person’s story is his own. Each person’s experience is what happened to him. Just as feelings cannot be classified as right are wrong, neither can one’s experiences.

The more stories we hear, the fuller the picture that we can paint and understand. I always have a hard time with generalizations. But I also know that singular anecdotes are not representative of all people’s experiences. And that’s why it is important to recognize that each person’s anecdotal contribution to the conversation offers another view and should be heard.

Tonight’s were interesting to hear.

About the Author
Born in Brooklyn and raised on Long Island, Wendy lived in Jerusalem for over a decade submerged in Israeli culture. Since returning to the U.S. in 2003; she has been soaked in Southern life in metro Atlanta. An Ashkenazi mom to Mizrahi sons born in Israel and the US, MIL to a French Mizrahi DIL and an Israeli DIL whose parents are also an interesting mix, and a step mom to sons born in the South, she celebrates trying to see from multiple perspectives and hope this comes out in her blogs. Wendy recently wrapped up work as a researcher for an Israel education nonprofit and completed two master's degrees in public administration and integrated global communication, and is looking for her next opportunity. Her interest in resolving conflict had her also taking a grad school class on conflict management and completing certification as a human rights consultant, Wendy's interests also have her digging deep into genealogy and bringing distant family together. All of this is to say, Wendy's life has brought her to the widened framework she uses for her blogs: there are many ways to see and understand.
Related Topics
Related Posts