American And Canadian Military Cadets Tour Israel And German Death Camps To Strengthen U.S.-Israel Ties
Nearly 50 American and Canadian military cadets toured Israel and German death camps in Poland this month, in a trip that seeks to buttress the future officers’ awareness of the history and shared values at the core of the U.S.-Israel relationship, the two-week Israel Strategy and Policy tour, which was initiated by the New York-based MirYam Institute in partnership with the U.S. Defense Department, the U.S. Military Academy at West Point, the Virginia Military Institute and the Royal Military College of Canada, presented past and present to the future officers.
The cadets’ trip began with a three-day tour of the Nazi death camps, followed by 12 days spent crisscrossing Israel, taking in the sights and meeting with IDF soldiers and commanders. For the non-Jewish cadets on the tour, the country’s size, diversity, mix of modernity and ancient, and the inseparable integration of the people’s army that is the IDF, came as a revelation.
“I was surprised flying in how much smaller Israel is compared to the U.S. and how densely packed everything is, I was struck by the mix of the modern infrastructure in such an historic place” said Ian M., 19, from Cincinnati, Ohio, a cadet at West Point.
“I was surprised by how in such a small country, you have widely different people and cultures who through thousands of years of history maintained their own identity while simultaneously living in proximity,” said Sohum A. a future infantry officer from New Jersey, who attends the United States Military Academy at West Point.
“I knew that the IDF was a conscripted army, but it is amazing how the IDF is part of society and how society is the army, and how integrated and inseparable the two are.” said Macy H. from Seattle, a cadet at West Point.
“The passion that Israelis have for their country and maintaining this place where they seek refuge and are able to be free even though there are wars is striking,”offered Melina B., 19, from North Carolina and the Virginia Military Institute.
The cadets came from a wide variety of backgrounds across the U.S., as well as a handful from Canada. They will be integrated across the military including, for the Americans, the Marines, the U.S. Army’s Armor, Infantry Branches, and the U.S. Navy during their multi-year service.
The trip sidestepped the Palestinian territories due to State Department-imposed security restrictions that did not allow them to enter the biblical heartland.
“We seek to impact the leaders of today and tomorrow now, by exposing these officers to the broad array of policymaking considerations in Israel. We assist the academies with their goal of building mission-ready academies,” said MirYam CEO Benjamin Anthony.
MirYam has brought hundreds of cadets and officers to Israel since its inception in 2017.
“The vast majority of the participants are not of the Jewish faith yet the connection they forge with Israel, is deeply rooted in shared values and common challenges to Israel, the U.S., Canada and the entire free world,” said Rozita Pnini, the MirYam Institute’s chief operating officer.
Willpower and resolve
“Seeing the sites of the biggest demonstration of antisemitism in world history, showed us the power of having a Jewish state and better appreciate the willpower and resolve of the people of the State of Israel,” said Bethany J, a future armor officer from Orlando.
A recurring comment among the cadets was that Israel is not what you see on the news and is something you have to experience for yourself. Some of them were surprised at how the American people and the people of Israel, share a lot of the same interests but from seeing the news headlines, some people don’t realize it, some were surprised at how standing on the Golan and hearing from the IDF soldiers, makes one understand the significance of what the IDF is doing, some expected fear, but what they witnessed is the day-to-day life of the clubs, parties, beaches and nightlife of Tel Aviv as people go on with their lives, and the ability to discuss things openly despite the proximity to danger and not get rebuked.
The cadets said that the news from Israel was one of rockets raining down on the country, Israeli attacks on Palestinians in Gaza, or a government in turmoil, a picture of a country constantly at war externally or internally.
“You are not getting the full story in the media,” said Alexander D.
Produced in association with Jewish News Syndicate
Edited by Eunice Anyango Oyule and Judy J. Rotich