The IDF officers during their visit at the US Military Academy at West Point
The IDF officers during their visit at the US Military Academy at West Point Birthright Israel

Nine young, outstanding Israel Defense Forces (IDF) combat officers - 7 men and 2 women - on Thursday completed a special visit to US Jewish communities in Birthright Israel’s program, Reverse Mifgash – IDF Officers Mission.

This was the third delegation sent to the US since the program started in 2019.

The goal of this unique mission/ program (mifgash is Hebrew for encounter) 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 reveals to participants the complexities of Diaspora Jewish identities and opens a dialogue on the differences between Israeli-Jewish and Diaspora-Jewish identities.

The delegation spent ten intensive days in New York; Washington, D.C.; and Virginia Beach, Va. At the United States Military Academy, in West Point, N.Y., they paid respects at the grave of Col. David “Mickey” Marcus, an American officer during World War II who played a key role in establishing the IDF. They also visited several synagogues, a Hebrew-language charter school, the US Capitol, Arlington National Cemetery and a navy base in Virginia Beach.

Additionally, they met with Rabbi Shaul Robinson, of Manhattan’s Lincoln Square Synagogue; Rabbi Gershon Litt, Head of The Norfolk Kollel, Williamsburg, Va.; Rabbi Rosalin Mandelberg, Senior Rabbi at Ohef Sholom Temple, Norfolk, VA; Broadway producer David Richental; and the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum’s former national chairman, Tom Bernstein.

The participants in the delegation represent a wide range of IDF combatant units. The male participants were First Lt. Nitai, Paratroopers Brigade; Capt. Netanel, Givati Brigade; Capt. Rotem, Nachal Brigade; Capt. Amitay, Kfir Brigade; Capt. Nadav, Golani Brigade; First Lt. Meir, Paratroopers Brigade; and Lt. Col. David, Golani Brigade. The female participants were Capt. Yaeli, Combat Intelligence, Collection Corps; and Capt. Ariel. They are all currently studying at the prestigious IDF Tactical Command College.

“I found this mission to be truly eye-opening. Not only did it expose me to the way Jews live in the Diaspora, but it opened my eyes to the fact that we’re truly one big Jewish family, and that there is more than one way to connect with my Jewish identity,” said Capt. Ariel.

“This mission was one of the most significant things I have ever experienced in my life so far. It was mind-blowing, and I hope that it will shape my identity as a human being, as a Jew and as a commander in the IDF,” said Capt. Rotem.

Birthright Israel is a program that since 1999 has brought more than 800,000 young Jewish adults on ten-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. This strengthens us as one people,” said Birthright Israel CEO Gidi Mark. “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.”

The IDF Officers during their visit at the US Military Academy at West Point
The IDF Officers during their visit at the US Military Academy at West Point Birthright Israel