The Next Chapter: Telling Israel’s Story in the 21st Century

Inbound for Ben Gurion airport by train, running the final lap of my Winter voyage to Israel, I remembered I forgot to distribute the Tzedakah money my mother gave me to ensure a safe trip and a safe return. I scanned the packed train for someone I would somehow trust with the ten American dollars coupled the will to perform Tzedakah.

Looking for dignity, I saw an IDF Combat soldier; a bulky soldier double, almost triple, my size with perfectly-broken Israeli English heading home after weeks of patrolling one of Israel’s many volatile borders. Why was it so natural for me to place such trust in a random individual? I don’t even know his name. Why did I place within his hands my mother’s trust and my personal luck for safe travels home? Or further, given how IDF soldiers are portrayed on college campus and throughout the world, would it be so natural or for other college student to do the same?

After speaking to the soldier, I thanked him for defending our nation. He gave me a look when I said “our.” “You are American,” he said, eargerly wanting me to elaborate why I looked to him with such honor and trust.

I told him my story; first traveling to Israel in 2008 and every year since as if a magnetic force field pulled me to the East, to Eretz Yisrael, to a land so foreign yet so familiar. I showed him a short clip from Jerusalem U’s latest film depicting the reality Israel faces on college campuses. Crossing the Line 2 features myself, along with the foremost voices, defending Israel’s name on college campuses and on the borderless world of the technology defined 21st century. I told the soldier on the train about the army of advocates defending him, his Golani Brigade, his army, his navy, his air force, and not his people, but our people and our state.

The soldier began to cry, staring at the ground in shock. There is a story begging to be told and Crossing the Line 2 tells the story of the “storytellers,” the next generation of Israel’s most fervent defenders. Perhaps more importantly, Crossing the Line 2 empowers others students, professors, and their communities to tell the the story of our nation and our People fighting for survival today through public opinion and the media. And in telling that story, we are living that story. Though not paratroopers liberating our Old City, though not Mt. Bental’s historic fighters on Yom Kippur and though not the near thousands of brave young men and women, my peers and heroes, who fought in Gaza this past summer, in 2012 and 2008/2009 ; we play an important part of the story.

We must equip our children, our students, our community members and our future with the training to ensure that our soldiers remain defended; not only in the halls of the United Nations by Israel’s stellar Amb. Ron Prosor, but also on our campuses where our fight has only begun. This is our obligation. We cannot afford to fail in our generations greatest calling.

We must face reality as it is becoming painfully clear that BDS threats loom over every campus. Our generation’s task is to grapple with the historically irregular reality of Jewish sovereignty, not barely surviving, but thriving. We cannot, should not, and will not, apologize for the Jewish State’s strength.

Jerusalem U has been instrumental in telling Israel’s story; identifying the deception and misconceptions growing in our world and fighting them with the truth. With this past Fall’s Beneath the Helmet, Jerusalem U introduced the world to six of our brave IDF soldiers, projecting their truth in a world of deception.

And now, this Wednesday at the 92nd Street Y in New York City, Jerusalem U will take another leap forward by premiering Crossing the Line 2 in our efforts to showcase the minds and thoughts of Israel’s foremost emerging defenders in this global world.

I may never meet that soldier again. I will never meet every soldier serving in the IDF. But, we owe it to these men and women and the soldiers who came before them and the Pioneers, the Founders and the Sustainers, to tell the story because all epic stories beg to be told and Israel’s story should be no different.

Do you dare to tell the story?

Justin Hayet is one of many leading voices featured in Jerusalem U’s newest documentary, Crossing the Line 2. Find out more at

About the Author
Justin Hayet is the recipient of CAMERA's 2015 David Bar Ilan Award for Outstanding Campus Activism and is featured in Jerusalem U's newest film "Crossing the Line 2."
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