Jerusalem U Blog

Make a JU Year Resolution

At this time of year our Facebook timelines are full of our friends resolutions to lose weight, recycle more, focus more on class, etc, and I think we know that most of these resolutions will be epic failures, and they'll will sadly end 2017 a little heavier, surrounded by bubble wrap and plastic, with retakes on the horizon. So here are some totally workable ideas for a happy 'JU Year' for members of The Tribe! 

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5 Ideas to Help You Have a Meaningful Yom Hazikaron Experience.

From nightfall tonight in Israel, the country will be commemorating Yom Hazikaron - the annual Day of Remembrance for the Fallen Soldiers of Israel and Victims of Terrorism. For those of us in Israel, Yom Hazikaron is an intensely powerful, often emotional day. There are few Israeli families who have not in some way been touched by a soldier or victim of terror. Sadly, it is part of the national experience of being Israeli. For many of us living outside of Israel, it is more difficult to emotionally connect to this - there are no siren's or flags at half mast; People aren't sharing their  memories, and TV and radio isn't dedicated to Yom Hazikaron programming.

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Mekonen’s Story: The Global Dream to Belong

Jerusalem U is about to release a mini-documentary about the journey of IDF Lt. Mekonen Abebe. This film picks up on the story of one of the soldiers that we first met in the highly acclaimed documentary Beneath the Helmet during which Mekonen was a trainee soldier in the IDF's parachute regiment, under my command.


Mekonen: The Story of an Ethiopian Jew, presents both his history before joining the army  as well as his process of becoming an IDF officer himself and I am really happy that Jerusalem U has made this film, and that I was able to be part of it, because I feel that Mekonen’s story is an important story to share.

It’s not just the personal account of a remarkable individual, it is also the collective account of an entire community, the story Ethiopian Jewry.

Mekonen's story is perhaps bigger than even than that of his community or of Israel - it is  a univerals story, one that applies to any country grappling with the challenges of absorbing immigrants. It describes the process a person goes through to  integrate into a new society, while still remaining true to his or her roots.

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Return to The IDF: My Experience As A Reserve Officer, & Meeting My Men...and They're All Older Than Me ! 

I finished my first stint in the IDF reserves about a week ago.   It was good to be back in uniform, serving my country again.   Israel relies on a large force of reserve soldiers to augment our standing army - after our three mandatory years of army service, Israeli citizens can be called up at any time for training and at time of war of course.

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A Year Since Gaza (pt.2) - Remembering Friends Lost

This time a year ago, I was fighting alongside my soldiers in Operation Protective Edge. 

This time a year ago, I lost my commander and my two friends Yuval and Nadav.

The first weekend after the war ended I was sent home on leave. I hadn’t been home for over two months. Anyone who knows Israeli soldiers knows that going home for Shabbat is what keeps us going.

The worst punishment that you can give a soldier is to keep them in for Shabbat but this Shabbat was the first time that I would have rather stayed on base. I wanted to be with the people who had gone through what I just experienced—people who understood.

I got home and showered. Then I ate my first home-cooked meal in a month. Afterward, while sitting in my 

room, it hit me. My commander and my friends would never be eatingFriday night with their families again. They’ll never get discharged from the army, get a new job or get married.


I broke down. Out of nowhere, the walls fell and everything came pouring out. I cried for a long time.

Then came the second-guessing - the "survivor guilt". Could I have done something to help? Could I have done something to save them—something to help them be here today?

I couldn’t sleep. I played and replayed it in my head. Things like my last conversation with my commander, when he told me to get a haircut. I was incredulous. A haircut in the middle of a war? But he explained himself, (and these are the last words he would ever say to me):

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My Personal Experience With Campus Anti-Semitism... in Israel

 Since coming back from my speaking tour in the United States, I’ve spent my time speaking at programs here in Israel. I showed Beneath the Helmet to many year-abroad programs in the Technion, Hebrew University, IDC and Bar Ilan, among others.

Overall, it was a positive experience. The students were very interested in the movie and gave positive feedback. They wanted to understand my personal story and how serving as a combat soldier and grappling with complex issues here affects my life.

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Ethiopian Immigrant Becomes IDF Officer: What We Can All Learn From Mekonen

Mekonen graduates from officer’s school this week.

For those of you who know his story, this is truly amazing. Mekonen emigrated from Ethiopia with his family when he was 12 years old, and his father died hours before they boarded the plane.

He spoke only broken Hebrew when he enlisted, and during his basic training he nearly dropped out of the army because of financial difficulties he and his family were experiencing. As documented in Beneath the Helmet, we were able to raise the funds to help him pay back his debts and stay in the army.

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How 60 Former IDF Soldiers Discovered Jewish Unity

(Group picture of the male soldiers)

I just got back from a one week trip to the United States. I learned a lot, enjoyed it a ton, and really grew from the experience.

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Connecting Jewish Campers to Israel Through the Power of Storytelling

This past Monday, I was privileged to speak with several hundred shlichim – Jewish Agency volunteers – who are about to fly to the States to be counselors at Jewish summer camps across America.

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Reflections of a Paratrooper on Jerusalem Day

Today is Jerusalem Day. Forty-eight years ago the IDF reunited Jerusalem under Israeli rule after being divided for 19 years following Israel’s War of Independence.

I had visited Jerusalem before I joined the army, but its importance only became clear to me when I become a soldier.

Around 30% of soldiers have never been to Jerusalem in their life, and the army does a great job connecting them to the city. It exposes them to the history, culture, and religious significance of this city through tours, weekend retreats, and ceremonies.

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