By Rabbi Albert Gabbai
More than 450 leaders from the Philadelphia community, including U.S. Senators Pat Toomey and Bob Casey Jr., will gather at Philadelphia’s historic Congregation Mikveh Israel on Thursday, May 12 to celebrate “Yom Ha’atzmaut,” Israel’s Independence Day.
The celebration’s program will include uniformed American and Israeli soldiers, who will be honored during a ceremony, which will be followed by a festive Yom Ha’atzmaut celebration featuring live Israeli music, and authentic Israeli-style food and wine.
Also attending will be current and former Lone Soldiers – young men and women who decide to leave their countries, homes, and families in order to go to Israel and serve in the IDF – who will be honored for their service. Speaking at the ceremony will be the mother of an active-duty Lone Soldier from Philadelphia; Senator Bob Casey Jr., D-Pa.; and Senator Pat Toomey, R-Pa.
Distinguished guests will include Montgomery County Commissioner Josh Shapiro; Israeli Navy Liaison to Philadelphia Lt. Cmdr. Eli Frenkin; First African Baptist Church Rev. Terrence D. Griffith; Friends of Israel of Argentina Vice President and FIDF Pennsylvania and Southern New Jersey Executive Director Emeritus William Sutter; FIDF National Board Member Israel Roizman; and Dr. Zeff Lazinger, an active FIDF supporter.
— by Ferne Hassan
StandWithUs‘s Israeli Soldiers Tour features reserve duty Israeli soldier-students who travel the United States putting a human face to the IDF uniform. Thanks to our local chapter, two young soldiers — Lital and Elad — were able to share in-front-of-the-lines and behind-the-headlines stories have never been heard before at five venues in our community. Lital and Elad (last names withheld for security purposes) exposed the dilemmas of the conflict, including facing an enemy that hides behind its civilians.
Five Meetings in the Philadelphia Area
Elad and Lital first met with a group of eager-to-learn older students at Society Hill Synagogue. Then Lital spoke to the entire congregation. The students asked pertinent questions about the recent elections, whether or not the 2-state solution is possible, and about the threat to Israel from ISIS.
Congregation Mikveh Israel attendees were concerned about the American Jews’ continued support of Israel, the average Israeli’s feeling about Iran, and if peace can be achieved when leaders in the Palestinian Authority want terrorists released before they will negotiate.
Temple University students had a chance to meet Lital and Elad thanks to the Temple Israel Political Affairs Committee and Temple Hillel. Lital and Elad also met with local groups at Beth Am Synagogue and Lower Merion High School.
These meetings created a connection between the Israeli soldiers and their Jewish American audience. They hark back to the founding of Israel, when prime minister David Ben Gurion told the American Jewish Community that the creation of the State of Israel was a partnership between the new Israelis and Jews around the world.
Lital is a journalist and anchor for a news site in Israel. She was born in Ashkelon, and has a BA is Social Sciences from the Open University. Proud of her service in the IDF, which she believes is falsely portrayed around the world, this is Lital’s fifth participation in SWU’s Israeli Soldiers tour. She considers it an honor to contribute whatever she can to her country, which led her to choose service in the border police unit. She served in checkpoints, stations aimed at thwarting terrorist attacks, a position usually held by men.
Elad studies economics and management at Ben Gurion University of the Negev. He served as an officer in a little-known unit called COGAT (Coordination of Government Activities in the Territories). It was established to minimize the effects of the conflict on the civilian population in the West Bank and Gaza. It mediates between the Palestinian Authority, international organizations, and Israel. It handles matters pertaining to security, commerce, health, infrastructure, entry permits to Israeli hospitals, and export and import of goods, among others.
Ferne Hassan is the associate director of StandWithUs Philadelphia.