Thursday, Feb. 20, 6:30 pm at Bite Restaurant, Norfolk
One of the more striking sights in Israel: teenagers, the blush of youth evident in their unlined faces and in their energetic gait, dressed not in jeans and t-shirts but in head-to-toe standard issue Israel Defense Forces uniforms, bearing lethal weapons slung on a strap across their bodies.
Not yet old enough to order a drink in an American bar, these young men and women patrol the streets of Israeli cities, guard the country’s borders and protect all of its citizens and visitors—defending the Jewish homeland until, at least, their mandatory two or three years of service have ended.
Impending service in the military— along with the potential for conflict, injury, or, perhaps, worse—is a matter of fact for most Israeli high school students, unlike their American counterparts.
In a unique program initiated by StandWithUs, an international Israeli education organization, local high school students will have the opportunity to meet and speak with two young Israeli veterans. While their American teenage counterparts were preparing for college football games and fraternity parties, when they were 18, these youths were engaged in military missions and combat duty.
Traveling to Tidewater as part of the StandWithUs Israeli Soldiers Speak program, Shay and Hen, who are now IDF reservists and student leaders at major Israeli universities, will speak with area teens at Bite Restaurant, 440 Monticello Ave. in Downtown Norfolk.
Presented by the Community Relations Council of the United Jewish Federation of Tidewater, BBYO, NFTY, USY, and the Jewish Teen Leadership program of the Simon Family JCC, the evening event is free, includes kosher pizza for dinner, and is open to all community teens.
The program will feature Shay and Hen sharing their combat experiences and delving into deeper conversations, such as the Israeli-Arab conflict in their country. There will be substantial time for questions and discussion, from the diverse, yet youthful, perspectives of those who attend.
by Laine Mednick Rutherford