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Israeli soldiers share stories with Ohio State community

Ayan Sheikh / Lantern photographer

Fears of being beaten up by a homophobe and being shot at by a child are not the only things Israeli soldiers have to battle.

Israeli soldiers, Jossi Hertzog and Itzik Yushuvaev joined campus organizations Buckeyes for Israel and Stand With Us at Ohio State for a dinner and dialogue.

The men, who are of Jewish descent, are part of Israeli Soldiers Speak Out, a program through Stand With Us Israel that allows reserve Israeli college students to share their stories. At Hillel at 5:30 p.m. Wednesday, Hertzog and Yushuvaev shared with an audience of about 45 students what it was like to serve in the Israeli Defense Forces.

Hertzog, a native of Tel Aviv, Israel, served as a member in the territories unit for two years. He began his service in 2007.

Hertzog also served in the IDF as an openly gay man. He said he was afraid he would be “beaten up by a homophobe,” if he chose to come out. But he was pleasantly surprised with the reactions from his fellow peers.

“A few days in and when you realize that you don’t really have anyone there as your friend, you get real close to people very quickly because you’re being screamed at by the same drill sergeant,” Hertzog said. “So I told a few friends I was closest to of my sexual orientation, and they really couldn’t have cared less; it wasn’t an issue for them.”

He also said it was his close friends that encouraged him to eventually come out to his unit.

“They said, ‘Come out, don’t be ridiculous, these are people we’re serving with, you’ve got to open up,'” Hertzog said.

Beth Roseman, a fourth-year in international studies, and an Emerson Fellow for Stand With Us, an international nonprofit organization, said the event was meant to offer a different perspective, one that most people don’t get to hear often.

“We (Stand With Us) feel like it’s not black and white, there’s a very much gray area, so we kinda want you to get information on both sides, so you could see for yourself how tricky the peace process is,” Roseman said.

Like most Jewish males living in Israel, Yushuvaev enlisted in the IDF at the age of 18. He served in the Infantry unit at the Gaza Strip. He said it was one of the most dangerous places to be deployed.

Yushuvaev said an incident that occurred while he was on duty when he was 19 would forever be etched in his memory.

“I was in outpost with three of my friends, and during a routine, one of my friends raised a telescope and all of a sudden he sees a little boy, at the age of 10 or nine, targeting an RPG (rocket-propelled grenade) missile at our outpost,” Yushuvaev said.

Yushuvaev said he was overcome with disbelief, and it wasn’t until he saw the little boy with his own eyes that he came to realize the gravity of the situation.

“The first thing I saw is my little brother who was the same age, the same height (as the little boy), and I couldn’t even imagine how a little boy would do such a thing,” Yushuvaev said.

The three men had two options: either they shoot the boy or they try to find the person who was instructing the child on how to operate the missile.

Yushuvaev said he was sickened at the thought of having to shoot a child, especially since the IDF had “strict” rules when it came to firing at women and children during combat.

“(Shooting) the kid wasn’t even an option, the second option was to find this operator that brought the kid and who was hiding behind the trees and shouting (at) him how to operate the device,” Yushuvaev said. “It took us time, thank God we took down the terrorist and the kid ran away.”

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