Nine young Israel Defense Forces combat officers completed a 10-day visit to U.S. Jewish communities on September 15. They were part of Birthright Israel’s program, Reverse Mifgash – IDF Officers Mission. (Mifgash is Hebrew for encounter.) This was the third delegation to come to the United States since the program started in 2019.
The goal of this unique program is to give promising officers a taste of American Jewish life, while creating Jewish-engagement opportunities. The program brings them into the relationship between Israel and North American Jews and provides insight into how Jewish and non-Jewish Americans perceive Israel. The mission also shows participants the complexities of Diaspora Jewish identities and opens a dialogue on the differences between Israeli-Jewish and Diaspora-Jewish identities.
The delegation spent time in New York; Washington, D.C.; and Virginia Beach, Va. At the United States Military Academy in West Point, N.Y., they went to the grave of Col. David “Mickey” Marcus, the World War II-era American officer who played a key role in establishing the IDF. They also visited several synagogues, a Hebrew-language charter school, the U.S. Capitol, Arlington National Cemetery, and a navy base in Virginia Beach.
The delegation participants represent a wide range of IDF combatant units. They are all studying at the prestigious IDF Tactical Command College.
Birthright Israel is a program that since 1999 has brought more than 800,000 young Jewish adults on 10-day visits to Israel to introduce them to the country’s ancient roots and modern wonders.
“We believe it is as important to bring Israeli officers to the diaspora as to bring Jewish young adults to Israel,” Birthright’s CEO, Gidi Mark, said. “This strengthens us as one people. We realize how deeply in-person meetings with members of American Jewish communities and their friends from their trip influences the Israelis in our groups, and such meetings are the purpose of the Reverse Mifgash program.”