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Thursday, May 13, 2021

Western club brings Israeli soldiers to campus

// Photo by Kesia Lee
Kokit talks about her time in the air force on Monday, April 13, in Communications Facility 120. She served in the Israel Defense Force for seven years and is now studying law and government. // Photo by Kesia Lee

Two Israel Defense Force (IDF) soldiers told stories at Western about their journey and insight into Israeli politics.

B’yachad: Students and Friends for Israeli Education, a student club at Western advocating for the country of Israel, presented Kokit and Tslil Monday, April 13. Their last names were not shared as part of the confidentiality policy of the Israel advocacy group StandWithUs, senior Adrienne Palay said. The group coordinated with Palay, a member of B’yachad, to bring Kokit and Tslil’s message to Western, Palay said.

“We came here from Israel because we want to share our experience as an Israeli citizen, as an IDF soldier,” Kokit said. “We want people to know the real Israel and to see Israel through our eyes.”

The two soldiers told their tales of juggling the military and college life. Kokit joked she was writing papers for class even on the way to Western.

But her story started in Ethiopia, and continued with her trek to Israel to pursue becoming an officer in Israel, losing loved ones along the way. She served with the IDF for seven years as a lead officer for the Department of Basic Training and is currently studying law at the Interdisciplinary Center Herzliya, a private, non-profit college in Israel.

In Israel, it is required for all citizens to be in the IDF, Tslil said. Citizens join when they are 18. Men must serve three years in the IDF while women must serve two. The process of joining the IDF begins a couple years before graduating high school, Tslil said.

“Sixteen-year-old kids will think of the unit they want to go to and they’ll try to reach the best unit they can get into,” Tslil said.

Tslil presented after Kokit and focused on the Israeli conflict with Hamas, the armed wing of a Palestinian Islamic political party of the same name, in the Gaza Strip.

At the age of 28, Tslil has served in the special forces for six major IDF operations since 2005.

// Photo by Kesia Lee
Tsil discusses his time in the Israel Defense Force on Monday, April 13, in Communications Facility 120. He has served in the IDF since 2005. // Photo by Kesia Lee

Both Kokit and Tslil got involved with the StandWithUs fellowship, an educational program in Israel offered at a college level. Kokit is still a part of the program and Tslil graduated from it in 2012.

For a final project, Tslil brought 10 of the most popular Instagram users to Israel, five from the United States and five from Europe as an attempt to show a different view of Israel.

Tslil served four years with the IDF and currently lives in Tel Aviv, the second most populated city in Israel. He is a graduate of the Koteret School of Journalism and earned a B.A. in political science and communications while at Tel Aviv University.

Tslil elaborated on the actions of Hamas and the difference in military action between Israel and the organization.

“We are building missiles to protect our citizens,” Tslil said in the presentation. “They are using civilians to protect missiles.”

Palay feels as though many events on campus portray Israel in a negative light. The presentation was an attempt to bring a more balanced view, Palay said.

“Our goal is to advocate for Israel on our campus,” Palay said.

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