Two Israeli reservists came to UNC on Monday to speak about growing up in Israel, serving in the Israeli Defense Forces and their lives after being in the service.
Between the Lines: Hear Israeli Soldiers Speak About Their Life Experiences was hosted by StandWithUs, Chabad of Durham/Chapel Hill and North Carolina Hillel.
StandWithUs is an international Israel education organization. It aims to support Israel around the world through education in the hope of fighting anti-Semitism.
Chapel Hill/Durham Chabad is a branch of Chabad on Campus International, a home-away-from-home for Jewish college students. UNC Hillel is a community of Jewish students that puts on events and provides a place for students to study and spend time.
“It was an opportunity to hear from people who have lived in an area of the world that we hear so much about, but the majority of us do not know a lot about,” said event organizer Zeke Parsons. “I also think that it can help destigmatize Israeli soldiers and show that they are people just like us who have so much more to them than what they appear to be like in the media. This event shows them as young people who are not so different than us.”
The two visiting Israeli soldiers are reservists, meaning they have completed their military service and are now part of the IDF’s military reserve force in case of emergencies. Aside from some exceptions, such as women with children or minority groups, Israel requires all its citizens to serve in the IDF.
“Everyone has to serve. Girls serve two years, and guys serve three years. It’s changed, it’s more like two years and eight months,” said Hillel Israel Fellow Yarden Levy. “I served two, and the soldiers that are coming today did different positions within the IDF.”
The two visiting soldiers, Barak and Lyra, served in the Navy and Artillery Corps and as a Behavioral Science Diagnostician, respectively. For security reasons, only first names are shared. Event coordinators also had two UNC Police officers present to ensure the speakers were kept safe.
Barak was born and raised in Ra’anana, Israel, just north of Tel Aviv. He began his service in the Navy, but later joined the elite Meitar special operations unit in the Artillery Corp. He was chosen to attend a selective officers training school and climbed the IDF ranks, eventually becoming deputy battalion commander.
He has also been active in Israel’s humanitarian work along the Syrian border.
Lyra was born in Brazil and moved to Israel when she was five years old. During her time in the IDF, she served as a behavioral science diagnostician in several locations in the West Bank. She said during her time as a student at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem, she has encouraged young people to pursue higher education.
StandWithUs is divided into regions, and Barak and Lyra are visiting the Southeast Region during their tour, which lasts from Oct. 14 to 28. Six different teams of reservists are visiting separate regions during the tour.
“So earlier today, they were at N.C. State, they were at Meredith yesterday, they’re going down to College of Charleston tomorrow,” said Parsons. “So, they’ll be going to different campuses across the region.”