Two soldiers from the Israeli Defense Forces visited Cal State Long Beach yesterday to share their battleground experiences with students as part of the sixth annual “Israel Soldier Stories” tour.
The Jewish student organization, Beach Hillel, and StandWithUs, a nonprofit organization that aims to educate students on Israel, sponsored the presentation in the Interfaith Center in Brotman Hall.
The two guest speakers were Tamir, 26, who was born in New York and raised in Israel from age seven, and Matan, 27, who was born and raised in Israel. The soldiers didn’t disclose their last names for security reasons, according to a press release.
“We had to enter a building, an elementary school, and missiles were fired from that school to Israeli cities,” Tamir said. “The other forces were using innocent children as human shields … Us Israelis, we really want to end this.”
Israel and Palestine are engaged in an ongoing conflict stemming from a division of land in 1948 that was controlled by Britain, according to the BBC. Jewish and Arab armies that both claimed ownership of areas in and around modern-day Israel began fighting when Britain withdrew forces, leading to the establishment of the current border and fighting that continues to this day.
Many Palestinians argue that the land Israel claims as its own was stolen from them and that they are being treated inhumanely by Israeli military forces.
Tamir and Matan said their experiences have encouraged them to strive for peace between Israel and Palestine.
“We are here to try and educate about Israel, [and] we want people here in the United States to know the truth and what’s really going on, from people who have been there, from soldiers who have fought and who live there,” Tamir said.
Matan said that the push for both sides to agree requires three components: education, security and recognition of what is happening in Israel.
Although only seven students attended the event, those who did, such as junior engineering major Dani Protas, showed appreciation for the presentation.
“I think it’s important for them to come here because it’s a different perspective from someone who has a different experience [in Israel] and have their life there,” said Protas, who moved to the U.S. from Israel in 2002.
Ariel Tafel, a freshman film production major and member of Beach Hillel, said he agreed with many of the ideas the soldiers presented. Tafel said the media portrays Israel as a violent country
When asked, Tamir and Matan said they prefer living in Israel despite the ongoing conflict.
“That is where I believe I belong,” Matan said. “It has a special atmosphere, and I believe its energy is a little bit more fun.”