Israeli Soldiers’ Stories tour to visit Tidewater for teens

by | Feb 14, 2014 | What’s Happening

Thursday, Feb. 20, 6:30 pm
Bite Restaurant, 440 Monticello Ave., Norfolk

While most 18-year-old Americans excitedly plan to experience four years of college, Israeli teens don’t have that option. Instead of going straight to college after high school, Israelis go into the army. Being in the army at such a young age brings serious responsibilities and various opportunities. Not surprisingly, these soldiers are remarkable people with amazing stories.

Two Israeli soldiers, Shay and Hen, will speak in Tidewater as part of the StandWithUs Israeli Soldiers’ Stories tour. These two young soldiers have very different and engaging stories.

Born in Haifa, Shay is the younger of two sons. He excelled in school and was chosen by the Israeli Ministry of Education as one of the top 50 students in Israel. As a teenager, he played basketball for the Hapoel Haifa Team. In 2003, he entered the IDF and served in the Artillery Corps, first as an enlisted combat soldier, and was later selected for the Officers Training Course. Shay served as a Platoon Commander and as Deputy Commander of Battery. After four years, he was released from duty, and began his service as a Battery Commander with the rank of Captain. After the army, Shay completed his degrees in Industrial Engineering and Economics at the Technion, and participated in the most recent year of the StandWithUs Israel Fellowship. Now, he is a product manger and systems engineer for Elbit Systems, working all over the world.

Hen is an Israeli of Tunisian and Iraqi descent. He served as a soldier in the IDF for almost five years. As a lieutenant in a unit called COGAT (Coordination of Government Activities in the Territories), he worked as an intermediary between the Israeli Defense Forces (the IDF) and the Palestinian Authority (the PA), the UN, and the many non-governmental organizations (NGOs) that work in the West Bank. Besides being able to talk about growing up in Israel and about its culture, Hen has an excellent first-hand understanding of the nuances of the Israeli- Palestinian conflict and the peace process.

The Israeli Soldiers’ Stories Tour features a diverse group of reserve duty Israeli college students. Their mission is to educate, inform, and delve into conversation about the Israeli-Arab conflict by putting a human face to the IDF uniform.

Specifically for teens, this event takes place at Bite Restaurant. A dinner of kosher pizza and more is planned.

This program is presented by StandWithUs, the Community Relations Council of the United Jewish Federation of Tidewater, BBYO, Jewish Teen Leadership of the Simon Family JCC, NFTY, and USY.

For more information and to RSVP to this free and open to the teen community event, visit or email

by Elli Friedman, Stand With Us Fellow