Moshe Aaron Yeshiva High School students learned firsthand about the lives of Israel Defense Forces members.
Two IDF members spoke to students at the South River school Feb. 3, on a visit arranged by the American Friends of the IDF.
The two soldiers — Maj. Elad Edri and a lieutenant who for security reasons could only be referred to by his first name, David — spoke about Israel’s multicultural fighting force, its relative safety, and other aspects of military culture.
“I never before put faces to names,” said Zahava Picado, a senior from Freehold, after their talk. “It was very interesting to learn about their lives and get to know the people.”
For senior Rachel Teicher of Highland Park, who is planning to study in Israel next year, hearing about the military’s role in safeguarding the country made her feel her security would not be an issue.
“I know they will be protecting me,” she said. “I have family in Israel and a lot served [in the IDF] so I appreciate what they do.”
For those who had not yet been to Israel, David suggested that “walking around the streets of Israel is very much like walking around the streets of Manhattan.”
“You do not have to be afraid,” said David, a deputy battalion commander whose family made aliya from the United States when he was a small child.
Edri said because of Israel’s small size, most IDF members do not live on military bases but often return to their homes at night or on weekends.
In answer to a question, David said his wife, who made aliya from Houston, was not in the military, although there are instances in which both spouses serve.
Asked why he has stayed in the IDF long after his required three-year stint ended, Edri quipped, “There is no one else to do it,” although about 15 percent of Israelis choose to make a career of the military.
He also explained there were alternate community service programs for those unable or unwilling to complete traditional military service. Women are required to serve two years after high school and men three.
In response to a student’s question about whether an IDF member has to be Jewish, David said both Druze and Bedouins serve the country “very loyally.”
He added that because of the compulsory service and its visibility, the IDF “was not just a military force.”
“It really has become part of the culture,” he said. The military provides even struggling students the tools needed “to stand on their own two feet” after leaving the service, he said. “One of our favorite things to do is bring in soldiers to schools and synagogues,” said Margo Katz, director of New Jersey Friends of IDF, who accompanied the soldiers. “It’s an opportunity to see what goes on behind the scenes and to form bonds. It’s so good for people of all ages to meet them.”
She said that any synagogue, school, or agency that would like to host IDF members should contact her at 212-244-3118, ext. 14, or firstname.lastname@example.org.