Nine young, outstanding Israel Defense Forces (IDF) combat officers completed a special visit to American Jewish communities last week, as part of Birthright Israel’s program Reverse Mifgash – IDF Officers Mission. This was the third delegation sent to the US since the program began in 2019.
The goal of this mission, called mifgash (Hebrew for encounter) is to give promising officers a taste of American Jewish life, while creating Jewish-engagement opportunities.
The program brings them into the relationship between Israeli and North American Jews, and provides insight into how Jewish and non-Jewish Americans perceive the Jewish state.
The mission also reveals to participants the complexities of Diaspora Jewish identities and opens a dialogue on the differences between Israeli-Jewish and Diaspora-Jewish ones.
The delegation members spent ten intensive days across the US.
They also visited the United States Military Academy in West Point, New York, where they paid respects at the grave of Col. David “Mickey” Marcus, an American officer during World War II who played a key role in establishing the IDF.
They also visited several synagogues, a Hebrew-language charter school, the US Capitol, Arlington National Cemetery and a navy base in Virginia Beach.
Additionally, they met with Rabbi Shaul Robinson of Manhattan’s Lincoln Square Synagogue; Rabbi Gershon Litt, Head of The Norfolk Kollel, Williamsburg; Rabbi Rosalin Mandelberg, Senior Rabbi at Ohef Sholom Temple, Norfolk, Virginia; Broadway producer David Richental; and former national chairman of the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum, Tom Bernstein.
The participants on the delegation represent a wide range of IDF combat units. The male participants were 1st-Lt. Nitai, Paratroopers Brigade; Capt. Netanel, Givati Brigade; Capt. Rotem, Nachal Brigade; Capt. Amitay, Kfir Brigade; Capt. Nadav, Golani Brigade; First Lt. Meir, Paratroopers Brigade; and Lt.-Col. David, Golani Brigade. The female participants were Capt. Yaeli, Combat Intelligence, Collection Corps and Capt. Ariel, from the unit. They are all currently studying at the prestigious IDF Tactical Command College.
“I found this mission to be truly eye-opening. Not only did it expose me to the way Jews live in the Diaspora, but it opened my eyes to the fact that we’re truly one big Jewish family, and that there is more than one way to connect with my Jewish identity,” Ariel said.
“I found this mission to be truly eye-opening. Not only did it expose me to the way Jews live in the Diaspora, but it opened my eyes to the fact that we’re truly one big Jewish family, and that there is more than one way to connect with my Jewish identity.”Capt. Ariel
“This mission was one of the most significant things I have ever experienced in my life,” Rotem said. “It was mind-blowing, and I hope that it will shape my identity as a human being, as a Jew and as a commander in the IDF.
Birthright Israel is a program that since 1999 has brought more than 800,000 young Jewish adults on ten-day visits to Israel to introduce them to the country’s ancient roots and modern wonders.
“We believe it is as important to bring Israeli officers to the Diaspora as it is to bring Jewish young adults to Israel. This strengthens us as one people,” said Birthright Israel CEO Gidi Mark.
"We realize how deeply in-person meetings with members of American Jewish communities and their friends from their trip influence the Israelis in our groups, and such meetings are the purpose of the Reverse Mifgash program."