Dozens of UCSB students filled Santa Barbara Hillel last night to hear the firsthand accounts of two soldiers serving in the Israel Defense Forces.
Soldiers Orit and Jonathan, who chose not to disclose their last names, discussed the controversy surrounding the Israeli army’s conduct towards Palestinians. The event was meant to raise awareness about the complexity of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, which has seen considerable distortion by media reporting on both sides of the issue.
Orit — one of the few females assigned to the West Bank — served as a medic for the IDF for two years to fulfill a mandatory military tour required of Israeli citizens.
According to Orit, she once had to treat a Hamas terrorist — charged with killing 21 innocent Israeli citizens in a suicide bombing — who had been wounded and dehydrated while fleeing from the IDF.
“He told me his name and I immediately froze,” Orit said. “The pictures of the 21 people he killed that I had seen all over the news flashed through my mind. There was a lot of innocent blood on his hands.”
Jonathan, on the other hand, is an American citizen who enlisted in the Israeli armed forces after living in the Middle East for a year. He served as an infantry officer for five years, acting as a platoon commander in Lebanon and Gaza.
Although he didn’t share any combat stories, Jonathan shed light on the IDF’s moral code of conduct.
“I spotted a vehicle with a rocket launcher near a mosque and called it in to get permission to fire, but was repeatedly told no,” Jonathan said. “The Israeli army is not willing to take any risks if civilian lives are at stake.”
After offering their narratives, Orit and Jonathan, who are both current students and reserve soldiers for the IDF, answered questions from the audience and stressed the need for harmony in the Middle East.
“I truly hope that the negotiations will lead to peace,” Orit said. “I’ve been waiting for this my whole life.”
Charlotte Korchak the west coast campus coordinator for StandWithUs, said she hopes the event encouraged attendees to conduct their own research on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
“A lot of misinformation has been spread and it’s up to the individual to find out the truth,” Korchak said. “Events like this help spark the interest of students and people to find out the truth.”
The duo — as part of an Israel fellowship of diplomacy with StandWithUs — will tour over 20 college campuses in the next two weeks to provide students information that isn’t normally broadcast to the general public.
UCSB’s Olive Tree Initiative will also host an event tomorrow at 6 p.m. at the Student Resource Building to further discuss the issue.