WEB EXTRA: Israeli soldiers discuss experiences at Hillel

About 40 students, faculty and Hillel staff members attended a discussion about soldiers’ experiences fighting in a war of biblical proportions Friday night at Hillel.

Two Israeli Defense Force soldiers spoke of their experiences in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict at a memorial event for the 10-year anniversary of the assassination of Israeli Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin.

“To honor Rabin and have an opportunity to allow the GW Jewish community to hear from two Israeli soldiers in person is great,” said freshman Zach Cutler, one of the event’s organizers.

First Sgts. Hadar Avital and Jonathon “Yoni” Levin of the IDF spent the evening describing the challenges of fighting in a war that has been ongoing in one way or another for thousands of years.

“Because of the bombings, the economic situation isn’t very good and our budgets are very low,” Jonathon said.

When asked about the death of Rabin, Hadar described the mood in Israel in 1995. “The city streets were empty and it was a sad day for everybody,” Hadar said.

Rabin was killed by Jewish law student Yigal Amir on Nov. 4, 1995. After confessing, Amir told the judge that he wanted the assassination to stop the Middle East peace process.

“I can tell you back in those days, the Israeli people, most of us generally had great anger and repulsion to the religious radicalism that opposed Rabin’s ideology,” Hadar said.

The mood back then compares drastically to today’s Israeli sentiment, in which moderate politicians such as Rabin are no longer accepted, Hadar said.

“The modest people are hated because they brought us here,” said Hadar.

Rabin was most fondly remembered by Hadar for his peace talks.

“When he was elected in 1992, he immediately began the peace process,” Hadar said. “He had talks with Jordan, talks with Syria, and beginning talks with Palestine.”

“He was a soldier, he conquered places, but as a prime minister he worked for peace,” Hadar added.

Rabin attended the Oslo Peace Accords in 1993 where he signed a treaty with Yasser Arafat, the chairman of the Palestinian Liberation Organization. Both leaders were awarded the 1994 Nobel Peace Prize.

Friday’s event was attended mostly by Jewish members of Hillel, and traditional Jewish food and prayer were incorporated into the evening’s events. Questions at the event focused on the soldiers’ experience in D.C.

When asked of their thoughts on the GW campus, Jonathon said, “We are in envy of your facilities but are happy with our own.”

Hadar said, “What Jonathon means is he hasn’t seen so many pretty girls in a long time,” said.

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