by Hope Beitchman, Marketing and Communications Intern
On Thursday February 18th, Hillel and Aggie Students Supporting Israel had the pleasure of hosting two Israeli soldiers as a part of Stand With Us and the Israel Soldiers Tour to tell their stories about their life and the reality of their time in the Israel Defense Force.
Sagie, age 27, was born and raised in the city of Kfar Saba, Israel. He served for five years in the IDF; during his service he was an artillery officer and served as a platoon commander in the Israeli Artillery Corps, a commander in the Officers Artillery Course and today is a Deputy-Commander of an artillery battery. Sagie is now in his fourth year of law and business school at the Interdisciplinary Center in Herzliya and is part of the TCL program at the EBS Law School in Wiesbaden, Germany.
However, this story isn’t the one that caught most people’s attention on Thursday night. As a child, Sagie dreamed of playing in the NBA. He played professional basketball and coached young kids in parallel until he was 18 years old. His idol, Omri Casspi, was the first Israeli to play in the NBA. Casspi and Sagie spent their first day in the IDF together, but today pursue different career paths.
Another story Sagie told that resonated with the audience was the story of his friend Gaston. Gaston was only 15 years old and his only dream was to come to Israel. Gaston was born and raised in Argentina, and after a bit of convincing with his parents, he made aliyah and moved to Israel. Sagie was on his way to the gym for basketball practice. It was November 4, 2002, a day Sagie will never forget. Practice normally started at 6:30 for Gaston and Sagie, but Sagie had decided to go a little early this day. Sagie hadn’t been in the gym for more than ten minutes when they heard the explosion. It was 6:10 when they heard the explosion, and Gaston still wasn’t at practice yet. Gaston had risked his life along with another man to stop a suicide bomber from going into a mall full of civilians. They were successful in stopping the man from entering the mall, however the terrorist detonated outside and they both lost their lives. He had only lived in Israel for four months at the time.
Idan, 29 years of age, was born and raised in Northern Israel; however, he now lives in Jerusalem with his wife, Neetzan. Idan served 8 years in the IDF as a tank commander in the armored corps. He served during the Second Lebanon War and in two operations against Hamas, a terrorist organization in Gaza. Upon his release, Idan was a Company Commander and is currently a Deputy Battalion Commander in reserve duty. During his service, he also traveled abroad to represent the IDF in an international company commander’s course in Fort Bennington, Georgia, alongside officers from many other countries. Idan is currently a third-year student studying Islam and Middle Eastern Studies, as well as International Relations at Hebrew University of Jerusalem.
When asked how the United States army is different than the Israeli Defense Forces, Idan responded, “In the U.S. you have the privilege to fight very far away from home, you don’t have to think about your family being the target of that bomb”. Another difference between the two forces is the IDF always has the “Spirit of the IDF” on them. It is essentially the Code of Conduct and contains the values and responsibilities that every soldier should follow. To be an officer you must know it by heart. Sagie said to him the most important values are “everything we do is to protect, human dignity, and purity of arms”.
Both Sagie and Idan believe that to stop the wars and terrorism, education is the key. Sagie ended their presentation the same way I will end this article, “The best way to defeat terrorists, fighting not only Arab and ISIS, but also social media, we need everyone’s help. If you don’t fight the terror, the terror will come to your house”.