Children in Clearwater learn what it’s like to serve in the Israeli army from a 20-year-old emissary who just completed her job in the Israeli air force. WMNF’s Amy Snider has the story…

Just a couple of months ago, 20 years old Noa Ben Ari completed her required two year service in the Israeli military. Now, she is teaching 287 children in Clearwater about Israel, and the Israeli army.

During their senior year in high school, Ben Ari says, Israeli teenagers take a battery of aptitude tests to determine how they can best serve the Israeli military.

Ben Ari was a sergeant in the Israeli air force.

Ben Ari actuality re: air force

She says that while religious Jews and others can find reasons to try to get out of mandatory military service, most Israelis want to serve.

Ben Ari actuality re: great experience

Two months after completing her assignment in the Israeli air force, Ben Ari packed and flew to Florida to teach American kids about Israel. She has lived in the US before. She was born in Minneapolis, moved to Israel when she was three years old, then to New York for sixth through ninth grade, when her father, Gad Ben Ari, served as Chairman of the World Zionists Organization of North America.

Jorie Massarsky is the Executive Director of the Kent Jewish Center’s Camp Or Hashemesh, which is Hebrew for Camp Sunshine. She explains Ben Ari’s participation as an Israeli culture specialist:

Massarsky re: Ben Ari

The children at Camp Sunshine are between two and thirteen years old. WMNF asked the camp director if she thinks young children are ready to learn about war:

Massarsky re: war

Here’s what five-year-old Hilary Finkelstein of Safety Harbor has learned about the Israeli army:


10-year-old Katie Greene of Clearwater admires Ben Ari:


And talks about war and terrorism:


Jordan Hirsch of Palm Harbor is 11. He described going through Ben Ari’s boot camp:


Mark Feinman of Clearwater is 17. He’ll be a senior at Gibbs High School in St. Petersburg. Feinman says he had never considered joining the US army after high school. Serving in the Israeli army, Feinman says, is tougher than he imagined. Ben Ari and her colleagues impress him:


Ben Ari served in the Israeli military during the past two very violent years of the intifada. WMNF asked her how she feels about the Israeli army’s presence in the disputed territories, and about prospects for peace with the Palestinians.

Ben Ari : I don’t know what we’re doing

While Ben Ari had no direct action fighting Palestinians, many of her male friends did.

Ben Ari re: Gaza

Ben Ari says she cannot conceive of a mandatory draft being necessary here. Hostile neighbors, she says, do not directly surround America.

Mandatory military service for all Americans was up for debate before the recent US strike on Iraq. In January, Democratic Congressmen Rangel of New York and Conyers of Michigan introduced a bill to reinstitute the draft in the United States. Rangel said that the all-volunteer military does not reflect a true cross section of American society.

Ben Ari says that because almost all Israeli’s serve in the military, the Israeli army is the best in the world.

Ben Ari: re best army

Here, she leads campers in a song, which says, “We will eventually get peace.� Ben Ari says she is optimistic about peace in Israel, yet at the same time cites the complexity of the situation and her belief that some Palestinian terrorist factions will never negotiate. For WMNF news, this is Amy Snider.

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