One man's fight for the IDF on American university campuses

One mans fight for the

To combat the vilification of the IDF by the global media and groups like the Shministim - Israeli high school seniors who have appeared in the US to declare themselves conscientious objectors to serving in the IDF because of the "occupation and oppression in the occupied territories" - one man is traveling to universities and synagogues across America, providing his firsthand account as a frontline combat soldier of the virtue of Israel's army. Sgt. Benjamin Anthony, 29, founder of Our Soldiers Speak - an organization that aims "to bring the truth from the front line of Israel's battlefields to the people of the Diaspora" - began his university tour September 28 and plans to continue until mid-December. The current IDF reservist has taken upon himself to traverse America's universities in belief that "the diplomatic war is every bit as essential as the military one, and one cannot get more grass roots than the campuses of the US." Additionally, Anthony invites all American synagogues and high schools to work with him to "ensure our soldiers' proud truth is heard." Anthony's message has already been heard at many campuses including: Brandeis, Columbia, Tufts, George Mason and University of Maryland. On his list of universities still to visit are: Northeastern, Emory, UCLA, USC, Berkeley, NYU and many others. Though the trip's size might make it seem like it is well-funded, Anthony is worried funds might run out. "I think people fail to realize that we depend upon private donations to continue our work. There have been many nights spent in the car we were loaned and I feel people assume that we are well-funded and supported. We are not. In fact, we urgently require more funding," said Anthony. After conquering the UK circuit, Anthony brought his abilities to audiences in America for the first time earlier this year. "I was immediately impressed," said Michael Wildes, Mayor of Englewood, New Jersey, who first heard Anthony at his synagogue Congregation Ahavath Torah. Wildes respected Anthony's "demeanor and personal love for Israel" so much, that after a few days, he called to offer the Englishman his own office to work out of. Gordon Dale, a programs director at the Tufts Hillel, was thrilled by his choice in inviting Anthony to speak. "It was fantastic. He spoke with passion and very articulately. He was able to describe the life of Israeli soldiers and dispel the myths about them." Dale added that after his speech, Anthony "spoke politely and eloquently" for an hour and a half with a Lebanese student. "Benjamin handled the questions very well…I think the [Lebanese] student really listened with open ears because Benjamin spoke to him in such a polite manner. The student probably came away thinking much different about Israel than he previously had," said Dale. Asaf Kaya, a junior electrical engineering major at the University of Maryland, was moved by Anthony's speech. As someone who grew up in Israel, and with many friends in Israel's army, Kaya grew up with an admiration for the IDF. "Living on a college campus in the US gave me the unpleasant chance to get exposed to opinions that equate the IDF and its soldiers to nothing less than a killing machine," bemoaned Kaya. While putting up posters to advertise for Anthony's event, Kaya couldn't help feeling "something was missing - the pride of being a future IDF soldier was not there," he said. Kaya added happily, "Sgt. Benjamin reignited that pride in me with his eloquent speech. Suddenly I felt like I was not the only one on campus that knows the truth about the IDF... The ideals that he stands for are the same ones that my friends back in Israel stand for, and that I will stand for next year when I go back to Israel to serve in the most moral army in the world."