Always Home: A Soldier's Quest to Tell Every Israeli's Story
The Britain-native IDF (Israel Defense Forces) heavy machine gunner reservist, Sergeant Benjamin Anthony, stood in front of the Yeshiva University audience cool, stern, and steadfast. His message was clear: if the Jewish people wait any longer, amidst disunity and the international community’s persistent attack on our very legitimacy and self-determination, it is as though we await defeat of our beloved Jewish state.
Sergeant Benjamin Anthony, founder of the organization “Our Soldiers Speak”, travels to college campuses, high schools, synagogues and even US reserves’ trainees’ bases. Anthony founded the organization in 2006 out of the recognized need to express what precisely happens in the IDF in light of negative media bias and negative sentiment on so many North American college campuses.
To illustrate this negativity, Anthony began by showing a clip from his lecture at Hampshire college in Amherst, MA last semseter. Attendees numbered 250, and most of them were anti-Israel. The clip is marked by a young woman standing up declaring that she is a descendant of Holocaust survivors, exclaiming, “never again for anybody,” falsely equating the extermination of Eastern European Jews during the Holocaust to Palestinian suffering, with whistles in the background “free free Palestine!” Anthony highlighted that these reactions are the trend, not the exception. To visualize how real this threat is Anthony shared that, on college campuses, he is regularly falsely accused of raping Palestinians and being a Nazi.
The mass emigration of Jews from Europe in light of a real anti-Semitism, Anthony relates, is as real as the terrorist threat the Jewish people in Israel face. To be a member of the IDF is “suddenly recognizing what it is like to be the last line of defense between you and the Jewish people.” The idle response of the Jewish community is even more of a threat than the threat itself, Anthony argues, and it is collective inactivity that should require further investigation.
Anthony also believes that we, as the Jewish people, must fundamentally realize that we are better off because of Israel and it is because of her that there should be “unconditional debt of gratitude”.
The Jewish threat is just as real as the enemy’s threat, though, Anthony emphasized. Although audiences will tell Anthony that his lectures are “preaching to the choir” and Anthony commends these Israel student activists, there is much work still to be done to mobilize other students into changing the Israel sentiment on these college campuses. “Within that so-called choir is the key to victory.”
In conclusion, Anthony offered a comprehensive solution to this existential problem. Firstly, recognition must come into place and a determination to win or else we could follow the dreadful example of the Jews of Europe. Anthony, a native of Leeds, England, grew up in a community of 24,000 Jews which is now a dim 4,500.
Secondly, real dialogue must begin amongst the various denominations of Diaspora Jewry. We must streamline the narrative of Israel, for it is a unifying factor despite the differences.
Thirdly, we must mobilize the youth and get them excited and passionate about Israel. Israel education must be implemented in Jewish day schools, starting with a suggested ‘Israel History’ course.
Fourthly, we must ascertain the allocation of funds from pro-Israel benefactors and ensure its end location is, in fact, favorable. Too many times, anti-Israel sentiment will be taught by one of ours, a Jewish professor. “We are the financial architects of our own demise. The benefactors will redirect funds if you call them.”
Lastly, the final point made by Anthony is that we all have a duty and responsibility and an obligation to apply our talents to maintaining Israel’s existence.
Anthony challenged the audience to “consider for a moment that your grandparents, great-grandparents yearned for Israel when it was riddled with malaria and disease, didn’t we still yearn for her?” The Land and the Jewish people are inextricably tied: this cannot be denied. Anthony urged the audience to not dismiss this notion, but rather believe in it fervently.
Anthony concludes on a fearful but empowering note. There have been constant Jewish massacres throughout history. We, as a people, always run away the moment we perceive danger. Nevertheless, in Israel, we are not running away from the danger. We confront it. The Sergeant recited an impassioned and applicable verse from Deuteronomy 20:1, stating that when the Jewish people go out to battle with an enemy far more numerous than they, we should not fear because God is with us.
For as Golda Meir once stated, “We in Israel, we have a secret weapon. We have nowhere else to go.”
Learn more about Sergeant Benjamin Anthony’s organization, “Our Soldiers Speak,” at www.oursoldiersspeak.org or by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org.