Shabbat and Stories from the Frontlines

On Friday, November 4, 2011, FIDF teamed up with Kehillath Shalom of Cold Spring Harbor for a beautiful Shabbat dinner at the synagogue. We were privileged to hear from two visiting guest speakers, Captain Nati and Captain Ofri from the IDF, who shared their backgrounds and experiences serving in defense of the Jewish Homeland.

After joining the community for services and dinner, Ofri and Nati presented an informal but forthright and informative account of life in the IDF.  The community was a great audience, following up with a wide variety of questions.

Both officers enlisted in the IDF in 2005 to fulfill compulsory service. Ofri, whose father is from India and mother from Syria, grew up in the Northern Galilee and dreamed of becoming a ballerina. Nati, a Jersusalemite whose grandfather and father had been officers in the IDF, thought he might become a pianist.

Ofri entered the film unit of the Armored Corps as an editor and photographer. Shortly thereafter, the Second Lebanon War erupted, and she found herself taking photos at the front. Besides the nightmare of witnessing combat, almost every soldier she photographed was killed, leaving her deeply shaken and superstitious. In time, Ofri became increasingly aware of the importance of public relations. She saw how negatively Israel and the IDF are portrayed in the global media. In her words, “They think we are Goliath but we are David.” Ofri’s talents and intelligence were recognized and the army provided her with additional training and promoted her to Captain. Her current position is IDF Spokesperson in Gaza. This means that Ofri, who is actually in the war room, decides what information will be dispersed to the national and international media.

Nati joined the Armored Corps and was also singled out for leadership training. Like Ofri, he too was sent north and plunged into battle as a tank commander in the Second Lebanon War. He saw two of his company’s tanks take enemy fire resulting in the death and wounding of his friends.  After the war, Nati was again chosen for additional training. He served as a company commander and eventually advanced to Captain. At present, he is volunteering for various positions in his battalion until his discharge in a few weeks when he plans to study political science.

Kehillath Shalom Synagogue is committed to working with Ethiopian Israeli children in Jerusalem, so the congregants were curious about the Ethiopian Israeli experience in the army.   They learned about FIDF’s Amir Course, which provides educational support, enrichment and counseling to allow entering Ethiopian Israeli soldiers to maximize their potential while serving their country. Graduates of the course go on to higher level professional military courses and successful integration into the system.

The evening concluded with the entire community joining with Nati and Ofri to sing Hatikvah.
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