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Published: Wednesday, 7/24/2002

Former Israeli soldiers bring culture to youth

BY MIKE JONES
BLADE STAFF WRITER
Moranne Held, second from right, discusses Israeli culture with Brad Warshaw, Jordan Tracy, and Taylor Zanville, rear from left, as Chad Silver, right, listens. Moranne Held, second from right, discusses Israeli culture with Brad Warshaw, Jordan Tracy, and Taylor Zanville, rear from left, as Chad Silver, right, listens.
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The Toledo area, "has so much space'' said Inbal Korem, and "it's so green,'' her friend, Moranne Held, added. Then, talking excitedly over each other as they often do, "and your lake!''

Laughing and talking in unison, "And you don't even know it.''

The two 21-year-old Israeli women who completed their military service are living here this summer to work with children at the summer camp at the Jewish Community Center in Sylvania.

They are part of a group of former servicemen and women who volunteered to come to the United States as part of an annual program that sends recent veterans to Jewish community centers across the country.

Their role is to impart Israeli culture to youngsters enrolled in JCC summer camps, according to Eric Goldstein, executive director of the local center.

The women both said that their reasons for traveling to the Toledo area involved improving their English, experiencing America first hand, "and because it's fun.''

They also said they wanted Americans to learn about Israel from their points of view. They said they were surprised when people asked if Israelis get around in cars and seem not to understand that it is a modern nation.

Although there isn't much in the way of culture shock, because the two cultures share many day-to-day similarities, both women said they were somewhat taken aback by the size of things in this country.

"We went to Meijer. It would be a mall in our country,'' Ms. Korem said.

Ms. Held said that in her hometown she lives in a big house. "My house is huge. Here, my house becomes one room,'' she said.

Their trip to Meijer also produced an incident that is both humorous and somewhat poignant.

"In our country, there is security at all buildings. If you go to work, if you go to the movies,'' Ms. Held said.

"When we went to Meijer, we saw a security person near the front door and we went over and automatically opened our bags and showed them."

There was no reaction and, "we stood there staring at each other standing for 5 minutes with our bags open,'' she laughed.

She added that as members of the military, both women have been touched by tragic events in their country.

"It has either happened to you or to someone you know,'' she said of terrorist attacks in Israel.

Ms. Korem said she is here, in part, in memory of a friend she was going to be with this summer.

Both were scheduled to go to a camp in Pennsylvania, but her friend was killed in a terrorist bombing along with the friend's father and brother.

She said she couldn't go to the overnight camp in Pennsylvania, because she needs some time to herself and, "I don't trust the night.''

Ms. Korem said she decided to stay in the program, which eventually brought her here, "because life must go on.''

She spent two years in the army as a specialist in electronics, and Ms. Held was in the army for almost three years as an officer in an artillery unit. All Israeli women are required to spend two years in the army and all men must serve three years, they said.

While here the two women are staying with local families, visiting attractions, and going out with people in their age group in addition to working at the summer camp.

Ms. Korem and Ms. Held both said they've been treated very well, "and nobody makes fun or our English.''

Both women intend to enter college when they return to Israel.

They said it seems odd to be working alongside people of about their age who are nearing the end of college, but it's the obvious result of their military service.

Before they go home, they have an itinerary of about two months that will take them to Chicago, California, Key West, Fla., and visits to Washington D.C. and New York City.

Ms. Held and Ms. Korem both said they plan to volunteer for the same program next year and hope to return to the Toledo JCC.



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