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July 28, 2017

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PAGE 16A HERITAGE FLORIDA JEWISH NEWS, JULY 28, 2017 During Israel's 2014 war in Gaza, Israeli army Capt. Libby Weiss was the first to bring foreign reporters into the Hamas tunnels discovered linking Gaza to Israel. By Renee Ghert-Zand reporters into the claustro- phobic space. TEL AVIV--Capt. Libby Her inaugural tour went Weiss spent most of the to Jodi Rudoren of The New summer of 2014 in a Hamas York Times and CNN anchor tunnel, andshewouldn't have Wolf Blitzer. wanted to be anywhere else. "It was really chilling to Israel's military captured be inside there," Weiss said. the tunnel, which extended "Therewereemptypotatochip from Gaza into Israel near bags andwaterbottlesstrewn Kibbutz Ein Hashlosha, dur- about on the ground. It made ing Operation Protective Edge you realize just how close the against Hamas in Gaza. As a enemy was." spokesperson for the Israel Forthepastsixyears, Weiss Defense Forces, Weiss was has been on call 24/7 for tasked with showing the journalists from all over the tunnel to journalists, and she world. Reporters turn to her was the first to bring foreign whentheywanttofilmIsraeli soldiers in action or need a quick comment from the IDF on breaking news. On Aug. 17, Weiss finally will be turning off her army- issued phone. At 29, she is stepping down from her post and retiring from the military. Weiss is not your typical Israeli soldier. Born in the United States and raised in Portland, Oregon, she moved to Israel in her early 20s and enlisted in the army soon afterward. She didn't have to join up--at the ripe old age of 23, Weiss could have skipped military service--but the thought of foregoing army service didn't even ocCur to her. "Therewas neverany doubt in my mind that I wanted to serve,,' Weiss said "I saw it as the basic responsibility of anyone who is a citizen, and it was also a way from me to adopt my Israeli identity." She has worked in the IDF Spokesperson's Unit for practically her whole military career. Since March, Weiss has headed the international so- cial media department, over- seeing a team of 14 enlisted soldiers and one junior officer who produces viral content in English, Spanish and French. Their mission: tell the story of Israel's army, and promote a positive image of an army that is often condemned by critics overseas. Working in a nondescript building in central Tel Aviv, Issue... Publication Date: Advertising Deadli August 4, 2017 ne: July 28, 2017 Satellite image of the area from nels extended. Gaza to Kibbutz Ein Hashlosha, where the Hamas tun- the soldiers sit hunched over challenging and demanding, process I had experienced in a bank of computers editing Suddenly, Weiss found her- Israel," Weiss recalled. video footage shot in the self dealing with hundreds Nevertheless, Weiss feels field and uploading posts to of journalists a day rather she missed out on the power- the IDF blog and the army's than with dozens. She did fulemotionalexperience that Facebook, Twitter, Instagram on-camera interviews 10, most North American immi- and Snapchat accounts. Most 20, sometimes 30 times a grants get by taking an aliyah of thesotdiers inthe division day. Often they were inter- flight organized by Nefesh are immigrants -- fromNorth rupted by air-raid sirens that B'Nefesh alongside dozens of America, South America and sent Weiss and the reporters other new immigrants with France jumping into ditches to take a one-way ticket to the Jew- Weiss got her start in the cover from incoming rockets, ish state. unit's foreign press branch, Weiss said the war tested "I think I would have doing media tracking and her ability to separate the per- enjoyed the significance of crisis management. Though sonai from the professional, deplaning and having the sheinitiallysignedonforonly "When you are an Israeli community that welcomes ayearandahalfofservice, she citizen and there is awar, you you the minute you touch was soon hooked, feel involved. It's here in your Israeli soil," she said. "That "I was fascinated by the backyard. Then add to that underscores and reinforces work and understood its im- being in a military uniform," what a big decision it is, that portancefromDayl,"shesaid, she said. you are now joining~or "I didn't have to think twice "You are exposed and you rejoining--the Israeli people" about staying on and taking knowabouttroopmovementsNefesh B'Nefesh honored leadership roles." and military plans before they Weiss last month with its 2017 Soon she was named headare carried out, and you find Bonei ZionYoung Leadership of the North American media out details that are life chang- Award. She also received nu- department, where she spent ing for people, like when a merous other awards during fouryears.Shequicklyworked soldier is killed. It warrants her military career, including her way up to the rank of an emotional response on all the prestigious Presidential captain, levels, but as a professional Award of Excellence in 2014. With her phone constantly you can't have that." Weiss' parents and older ringing, no day was ever Growing up as the young- siblings all still live in the routine. Weiss always kept est daughter of Israeli-born United States. They say they her field uniform and safety parents in Oregon, Weiss are proud of Weiss. equipment at the ready in never imagined she'd become "Once Libby moved to Is- her car. an IDF officer. And she didn't rael, it didn't really surprise Sometimes her work tookknow she would live in Israel. us that much that she joined her overseas. After the 2013 "I don't know if I ever saw themilitary,'saidherbrother, Philippines typhoon and the myself, at least back as a teen- Gil, aChicago physician."She 2015Nepalearthquake, Weiss ager, immigrating to Israel," had a strong sense ofwanting depioyedwith the IDF disaster Weiss said. "But we definitely to do what was required of her relief delegations to those felt connectedto Israel. It was peers and to carry out that countries, partofouridentity.Iattended responsibility." "Everytimedisasterstruck a Jewish day school and my Now that she's leaving acrosstheworld, Libbywasmy parentsspoketousinHebrew the military, Weiss plans to clear choice for deployment at home. We saw ourselves take some time off and then because I could count on her as Israeli Americans, and we go into business. She corn- completely," said former IDF were certainly Zionists." pleted the Kellogg-Recanati spokesman Lt. Col. Peter After graduating from International ExecutiveMBA Lerner, Weiss' boss and men- Northwestern University in programatTelAvivUniversity tor for much of her time in 2010withadegreeinpolitical while in the military. the army. science, Weiss spent a year As she begins this next life On assignment abroad, participating in the Israel chapter, Weiss says she has Weisswitnessedsomehorrific Government Fellows, a se- no regrets--either about her sights -- and some miracles, lective MASA Israel program time in the army or her deci- In Nepal, she saw a teenage run by the Menachem Begin sion to move to Israel. boy trapped for many days HeritageCenterinJerusalem. "IseemyselfasbothAmeri- under rubble pulled out alive Midway through the year, can and Israeli, and I am ap- and brought for treatment at Weiss decided to make Israel preciative of both countries," the IDF field hospital,her permanent home, andshe said. "He survived on abottle of officially made aliyah once This article was spon- ghee, or clarified butter, that the program ended. Because soredbyandproducedinpart- happened to be in an air pocket she was an Israeli citizen from nership with Nefesh B'Nefesh, with him," Weiss recalled, birth due to her parents, all which in cooperation with In the Philippines, Weiss sheneededtodotoimmigrate Israel's Ministry of Aliyah, waspresentforthebirthofthe was go to the Interior Minis- The Jewish Agency, KKL and firstbabybornintheIDFfield try, showherIsraelipassport J1VF-USA is minimizing the hospital there. His parents and receive an Israeli identity professional, logistical and named him Israel. card. social obstacles of aliyah, "I became quite friendly "Here I was making the and has brought over 50,000 with the family, and we are biggest decision I had made olim from North America still in touch," she said. thus far, and maybe the big- and the United Kingdom over Of all her army experi-gest I will ever make, and it the last 15years. This article ences, Israel's war with tookme 15 minutes and was was produced by JTA 's native Hamas in 2014 was the most theleastpainfuibureaucratic content team.