In a wide-ranging discussion on military service for their respective countries, U.S. veterans and Israeli Defense Forces (IDF) officers found common ground at a panel discussion on May 4 co-sponsored by Salem State University’s Center for Holocaust and Genocide Studies and Combined Jewish Philanthropies (CJP). This is the third year that the two organizations have come together to learn from one another.
Six IDF officers joined four Salem State students who have served in the U.S. military on the panel. The active-duty Israeli officers are participants in the seventh annual Boston-Haifa Connection’s Hatikvah Officers’ Mission, a CJP program that brings Israeli officers to the Boston area to discuss what it means to be an Israeli soldier. On their weeklong visit to the Boston area, the IDF officers – a diverse group representing all branches of the Israeli military – spoke to a variety of organizations, groups and schools.
The Salem State panel discussion was attended by students and faculty, including University President Patricia Maguire Meservey. Panelists shared their views on topics including: volunteer versus mandatory military service; the sacrifices of being away from family; dealing with the chronic threat of violence; the integration of women in the service; and the treatment of those after their service.
Marsha Cohen of Boston, chair of CJP’s Living Bridges committee which oversees the Hatikvah mission, sees the connections made by conversations with the IDF officers as a way to improve understanding. “They are talking to people from middle school age through adults about Israel, the IDF, and their lives, and this allows people to understand and see the people behind the uniforms. They are people like we are, they care and they are committed.”