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I U,, ! ~i .... ll~,~ill, .Jl PAGE 18A HERITAGE FLORIDA JEWISH NEWS, MARCH 27, 2009 IDF From page 1A 2nd lieutenant in the Go- lani Brigade, is the younger brother of IDF soldier Nach- shon Wachsman, whose 1994 kidnapping by Hamas riveted all of Israel. Nachshon ac- cepted a ride to Jerusalem from terrorists disguised as a carload of religious Jews, complete with prayerbooks and blaring Chassidic music. He was killed as the army at- tempted rescue by storming the Hamas hide-out, located only minutes from his family's home in Ramot. "We were seven boys, now six," said Uriel Wachsman. When he approached military age. Wachsman had to get his parents to sign the special document the state requires before permitting children or siblings of fallen soldiers to serve in combat units. ".it was a very hard experience for my morn," he said. "We discussed it together and I explained to her that it was important for me... If we don't do that, our country will be destroyed." David Ben-Gurion started the Committee for the Wel- fare of Soldiers in 1942. Its first order of business was to get donations of blankets for the.fledgling Jewish Bri- gade. Now the Association for the Wellbeing of Israel's Soldiers (AWIS) the largest philanthropic organization in Israel is partnered in the U.S. by the Friends of the IDF. The FIDF is not an arm of the military. It's "the gentle hand" that cares for the soldiers beyond the basics provided by the government. FIDF has built and operates almost two dozen modern recreational and therapeutic facilities in Israel, and has chapters in m j0ru3 citi t And 14,000 soldiers have been classified as being in financial distress. Unit corn- manders and fellow soldiers often use their own small salaries to help out their comrades, who typically earn about $75 a month, said Irith . Shade Shemesh. who handles donor relations for the FIDF's chapter in Boca Raton. One in five Israeli soldiers has prob- lems at home: poverty or other emotional, social or financial situations, Shemesh said, but "no one talks about it." "It's R&R," said Michael Ha- dar, executive director of the FIDF in Boca, of the Disney trip. "It's not a vacation, but a mission to take them out from the stress to a fake place and enjoy the fakeness." None of the soldiers carries a cell phone. "The m~ssion is to enjoy," without distractions of the real world. Netanel Flesh, a 23-year-old ist lieutenant from Petakh Tik- vah, handles air traffic control for the IDF. When he was five, his father died from cancer while serving as a major in a mechanical support unit. Flesh wanted to be a combat soldier from the time he was 10, and every week there was a"blow-up" at Shabbat dinner in his religious home when his mother refused to sign the re- quired permission. He's proud of his work, though there was wistfulness in his voice when he said, "Every soldier counts, but if you can do more..." "Ninety percent of [Israelis] will choose the most difficult units" for military service, said Michael Hadar, "and com- pete like Americans" trying to get into the best college. Fanta Alema's dark skin seems to make him stand out, but he sees no differ- ence between himself and his fellow soldiers nor do they. The Ethiopian-born Israeli, now 23 and a staff sergeant, was airlifted-with hie family to I vaol in 1001 part of Operation Moses. "I think about my parents," said Alema. In Ethiopia, "all they taught me was 'Jerusalem, Jerusalem, Jerusalem.'" "They came to Israel and they didn't know the language and they were disappointed that things weren't made of gold." His soldier brother died in a fall when Alema was 14. and he "suddenly had to be the oldest in one day," with six brothers and sisters. He serves in a spe- cial unit combining combat and volunteering, and spent a year in Beersheva leading a scout group. The second generation of Ethiopian-Israelis now fills the combat units and are among the best soldiers, said Michael Hadar. "The[,e is no issue of color in Israel." 'The IDF is the people's army," said Sigal Schwartz, a lieutenant colonel helping to coordinate the Florida visit. Though she's known this group only two months, "they are so special." She lost her brother when he was a major and she a captain. "I really know what they feel." Chen Gitmul is a 20 -year-old 2nd lieutenant from Moshav Ben Shemen near Jerusalem. Her brother died in a car accident af- ter having been diagnosed with cancer and electing to continue IDF serwce anyway. "He's one of the reasons I decided to go to the air force" and to his former base, she said."Everything I did was something he taught me." "My job is to take care of the education of the soldiers." she said. She coordinates "Jewish heritage" trips and holiday and cultural programs for the soldiers on her base. and earlier this year was assigned to accompany a group of U.S. students visiting Israel through the Birthright pro- gram. Like her companions. she was glad to relax at Disney and enjoy "two weeks that give you the opportunity to think "All of them say, 'I feel like I'm in a movie.'" said Michael Hadar of the soldiers he brings Lyn Payne Elyasaf Peretz (1), Uriet Wachsman and Netanel Flesh were among the soldiers on the Disney trip. to Disney. Some had spent little or no time in the U.S. and mentioned their "cul- ture shock" at the carefree lifestyles of their age-mates here. All said they felt more mature than American young people, yet all expressed pride rather than resentment at the differences. "I'm not sure we wouldn't do the same things" if they were Americans, said Yehuda Goodman: He was born in Jerusalem after his parents (who had met in New York at the popular Lincoln Square Synagogue) made aliyah in 1986 with his older brothers. Goodman went into the same combat unit as his brother, who had been killed in a parachute accident. "It's not easy being in the State," said 21-year-old Ido Baroz of Rehovot. "We have lots of haters around us.'" He's n o oant in n mo hnni nl unit and is "responsible for the security of my base." He serves in the same unit as his father, who died from a rare virus when Baroz was 10. !'Really suddenly, my life changed." In his first days at his father's old base. "'people would recognize me. I look like him and .act like him. It was hard at the beginning" and he had second thoughts about where he'd chosen to go. But he treasures the fact that "I learned to know him through my job... People tell stories of him. Someone told me how he'd saved the life of another soldier" who had been contemplating suicide. "Now I'm really happy that I did it." Eyal Solomon is 20. a sergeant from Afula who is a medic in a military hos- pital near Haifa. His father, an engineer, died during complications from surgery while in service. "I really wish I were a fighter." said Eyal. hut his mother wouldn't th0 eam at w iva ,, ha became a medic. He's heard "hard" stories from veterans of the 2006 war in Lebanon. "Through helping them." he said of injured soldiers. "I'm actually protecting the coun- try." "They have the touch, and they have the heart." Michael Hadar said of the medics. "We don't want a war with anyone," said Sgt. Elyasaf Peretz. "If you live in Sderot or Ashkelon you are very an- gry," he said of the residents of southern towns besieged by Hamas rockets from Gaza. "Every five to 10 minutes you hear the alarm. You can't have a normal life. Bus stations look like bunkers, and you live like you're in the ground." "The IDF is the main core of Israel." Michael Hadar said. A soldier "puts his sweat and his blood" into protecting the country. Though these sol- diers have had a brief respite in Orlando. they're headed back to a nation where the army is "'part of your life." Friends of the IDF, visit www.israelsoldiers.org or call 1-888-318-3433. Lieberman From page 1A is his political philosophy and how did one who holds such seemingly radical views-- some have called them rac- istbecome so powerful? Lieberman came to Israel in 1978 from Moldova, in the former Soviet Union, at the age of 20. After a brief stint in Meir Kahane's overtly racist Kach movement, Lieberman joined the Likud Party, hitch- ing himself to Netanyahu's rising star in the late 1980s. In 1993 he served as the architect of Netanyahu's successful campaign for the Likud leadership, for which Lieberman was rewarded with the post of party CEO. When Netanyahu became prime minister in 1996. Lieberman was named di- rector general of the Prime Minister's Office. About two years later, under pressure from party veterans who dis- paragingly called him "KGB" and "Rasputin," Lieberman was forced to resign. In 1999. he left Likud to found Yisrael Beiteinu, then a hawkish immigrants' rights patty. In 2000 he linked up with the far-right Moledet and Tekumah parties to form a radi- cal right-wing Knesset bloc. The turning point in Li- eberman's political career came in 2004. when he broke away from Moledet and Te- kuma and, to the surprise of many, declared his support for the two-state solution Israel and a Palestinian state living side by side. Lieberman. however, took the idea of population separa- tion a step further, calling for Israel's borders to be redrawn to exclude Israeli Arab towns near the West Bank. Those towns would become part of Palestine, while Jewish settle- ment blocs in the Nest Bank would become part of Israel. Further refining his notion of the Jewish state, Lieberman later called for a mandatory loyalty oath for all citizens. The measure is aimed at stripping of their citizenship rights Israeli Arabs who refuse to express fealty to the Jewish state. In Lieberman's vision, those who refuse to take the loyalty oath would be allowed to maintain their permanent residency in Israel but would lose national voting rights. Many Israeli Arabs and Jews have denounced Lieberman's two key proposals as racist. Lieberman says his measures would ensure a Jewish major- ity in Israel and counter the threat posed by what many in Israel view as a potential fifth column: increasingly radical Israeli Arabs who identify with Israel's worst enemies. Lieberman also calls for strengthening executive pow- er in Israel through govern- ment reform. He advocates a system that in an emergency allows the president to over- ride Knesset legislation. Some critics see the idea as the thin end of awedge that could lead to dictatorship in Israel. Lieberman's rise has been meteoric. In 1999, the newly established Yisrael Beiteinu won f ur Knesset seats, with 86,153 voteL By March 2006, with Likud severely weak- ened following Ariel Sharon's breakaway to form Kadima, the party won 11 Knesset seats, with 281,880 votes, making Lieberman a serious player on the national stage. Later that year, Prime Minister Ehud Olmert helped legitimize Lieberman by mak- ing him minister in charge of strategic threats. One Labor minister, Ophir Pines-Paz, resigned in protest, declaring that Lieberman himself posed a strategic threat. In February of this year. Lieberman increased his party's Knesset share to 15 seats, winning 394.577 votes and beating out Labor to make Yisrael Beiteinu Israel's third- largest political party. Lieberman's popularity is based on ultivati0n 9f his image as a strongman who tells it like it is irrespec- tive of political correctness. This goes down well not only with the no-nonsense, mainly hard-line Russian immigrant community that is Yisrael Beiteinu's base. but also with increasing numbers of long- time Israelis. Lieberman is especially popular among students and first-time voters. With Israel facing threats from a nuclear Iran, a well-armed Hezbollah in the North and Hamas in Gaza, he has been able to capitalize on deep-seated Israeli fears and insecurities. His tough stance on loyalty struck a chord with voters as Israeli Jewish resentment ran high at Israeli Arab support for Hezbollah and Hamas in the 2006 and 2009 wars. And with his combination of pragmatism and toughness, Lieberman seems to offer clear-cut solutions to Israel's most fundamental strategic problems. Lieberman, with his ac- ceptance of the tw0-state solution, more than any other Israeli politician seems to be setting a post-occupation, right-wing agenda: more pow- erful government, a weaker Supreme Court, loyalty tests for the Arab _minority in short, less democracy. The immediate problems Lieberman poses for Israel are Halberstam From page 1A "Broken Glass; Broken Lives: Reflections of the 70th An- niversary of Kristallnacht." Last year over 900 students from the tri-county area participated in the contest. The commemorative event also includes lighting of me- morial candles. The national in the realms ofpublic opinion and international relations He seems to play into the hands of those who seek to make Israel an international pariah. Aside from his proposals on Israeli Arabs, Lieberman has raised hackles for suggesting that Israel bomb Tehran and Egypt's Aswan Dam, telling Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak to "go to hell" and volunteering to drown Hamas prisoners in the Dead Sea. In the weeks since Israel's election, the feedback from ambassadors and foreign diplomats in Israel has been strongly negative toward Lieberman. Complicating matters fur- ther, Lieberman is under in- vestigation for fraud, breach of trust and money laundering, mainly by way of a company run by his daughter Michal. Given all of Lieberman's baggage, Netanyahu would much prefer to have Livni as foreign minister, and he's still angling for a broad- . based national unity coalition with Livni's centrist Kadima Party as a linchpin. But with Netanyahu unwilling to sup- port negotiations with the Palestinians on a two-state solution, Livni has turned him down flat. So Netanyahu has turned to the controversial Lieberman. However, Netanyahu's agreement specifically makes provision for changes in his ministerial appointments if Livni changes her mind and Kadima joins the coalition. Furthermore, Lieberman failed to have loyalty oaths or his presidential proposal included ih the new govern- ment guidelines. But with Lieberman as foreign minister, he will be in his most prominent role yet. In 2006. Lieberman de- clared that he aimed "to become the ruling party within two elections" that means the next time round. Given Lieberman's trajectory, it doesn't appear impossible. anthems will be sung by Val- erie Kahn. The Holocaust Center's programs and events are made possible through grants and sponsorships by the Jewish Federation of Greater Orlando and Darden Restau- rants Foundation. Programs are also funded in part by the United Arts of Central Florida. Inc, State of Florida. Department of State-Division of Cultural Affairs. and the Center's generous Corporate and individual supporters The Holocaust Memorial Center is open from 9 a.m.-4 p.m. Monday-Thursday, 9 a.m.-1 p.m. Friday and 1-4 p.m. Sunday. For information: 407-628-0555.