Editor’s note: The last names of the two Israeli soldiers in this article have been omitted based on guidelines from the MSU ROTC.
“I want peace more than anything in the world,” said Lital S., former Israeli combat soldier in the border police unit of Israel Defense Forces, or IDF.
“But I will not apologize for defending my country or my right to live.”
Army and Air Force ROTC cadets attended a lecture Thursday at Demonstration Hall where Lital and Ari S., both of whom have had their last names omitted from this story, shared experiences from being a combat soldier. Ari S. said he wanted people to understand what it’s like to live in Israel, where there always is conflict.
Between personal stories about what they have seen in combat and how they work with the Israeli government, Lt. Col. Jeff McDonald, the chairperson for Department of Military Science for the MSU Army ROTC, said hearing the soldiers’ stories will help cadets learn how the army is different in other parts of the world.
“These types of dialogues challenge the cadets on their understanding (to) inspire them to go out and research the issues,” McDonald said. “It is hard to have both perspectives in one place, so this is a way where we can have discussions and learn.”
One of the main issues discussed during the lecture was about how the Pentagon announced Jan. 24 that women will be placed in combat roles.
Lital was a woman placed in a combat role in the IDF, and she shed light during the lecture on how the U.S. can begin the process of incorporating women and help women understand why it is so important.
“When I got into my specific unit, some guys would say comments like, ‘This girl can’t do what I do,’ but by going in these roles, it gives women more independence,” she said. “Women are not capable to do all the physical things, so the U.S. should find specific units where women can fit in.”
Abigail Ostwald, executive officer in Spartan Battalion, said hearing the two talk about their experiences was an interesting way to change other people’s opinions.
“There is something in the importance of learning about differences as well as similarities with other countries,” Ostwald said. “It can bridge the gap of previous ignorance or indifference.”
Lital said the lecture not only helps U.S. students hear about the workings of the Israeli army, but also helps show them why serving in the Israel army is an honor for most Israelis.
“When I joined the army, I wanted to guard my friends and family,” Shemesh said. “It’s not a choice, but a duty.”