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Sunday, November 10, 2019

Notations From the Grid (Special #VeteransDay2019 Edition): Saluting Courageous Soldiers

On this Veterans Day Week End here in the United States and Remembrance Day, we salute courageous soldiers including those in the Breaking the Silence Movement in Israel who have spoken up: 


We’ve had a busy few weeks. Apart from our regular work here in Israel, we also brought our photo exhibit to the J Street Conference in Washington DC. But we’ll get to that later; first, let us tell you about the two biggest things we’re working on at the moment:

Lone Soldiers' Tour

Every year, thousands of Jews from the Diaspora join the Israeli military. Like Israeli-born soldiers, many of these ‘Lone Soldiers’ are sent to serve in the occupied territories, maintaining Israeli military rule over millions of Palestinians.
Throughout November, a group of US-born IDF veterans will be speaking at synagogues, campuses and other venues - many of them the very communities in which they were raised. We believe the Diaspora Jewish communities cannot look away from what's happening on the ground, and have a responsibility to hear from those Israeli soldiers who grew up in their midst.
We will be holding panel events in Philadelphia, New York City, Boston, St. Louis and Washington DC. For a full list of stops on our tour, click here.

Expose[d]: A portrait exhibition by Quique Kierszenbaum 

For over a decade, celebrated photojournalist Quique Kierszenbaum has documented IDF veterans who gave testimony to ‘Breaking the Silence’. As a photographer who has worked with some of the world’s best-known news outlets, Kierszenbaum has dedicated himself to the composition of 52 photo portraits of the young men and women who, as soldiers, participated in routine patrols, checkpoints and night-time raids of homes across the occupied territories as well as large-scale military incursions. They stood in front of his camera with their faces, identities and stories exposed - and without the blanket of anonymity which our testifiers are given as a matter of principle. The result is a series of 52 portraits of former soldiers, Israelis who were sent to uphold a military regime in the occupied territories, alongside 52 testimonies that describe in stark detail what that process means - to them as individuals and to us as a society. 
‘Expose[d]’ will run from November 14th to December 5th at 5 Rabenu Khananel St. in Tel Aviv. This is a must-see, so if you’re in Israel at the time, please join us; and if you know of someone who will be, tell them to look up details by searching Quique Kierszenbaum Photographer on Facebook.

What we’ve been up to

On October 27th-29th we had the honor of presenting our very own photo exhibit at the J Street annual conference in Washington DC. J Street's annual conference draws thousands of community representatives, young leaders and rabbis as well as politicians and executives every year, and this year's guest list included some of the biggest names in Israeli and American politics (including Democratic 2020 Presidential candidates), community leaders, presidents of organizations and activists from around the world.
Our photo exhibit was originally put together in 2004 by the founders of Breaking the Silence, a group of over 60 IDF Nahal Brigade veterans, and has since toured the world, from the Israei Knesset and the EU parliament, to campuses and forums around Israel, North America and Europe. The exhibit is comprised of photos taken by soldiers while they were serving in the occupied territories, and gives the viewers a glimpse of life for millions living under military occupation as seen by the soldiers who upheld it.
But this time was particularly special. Among the hundreds of visitors who attended the conference and came to the exhibit were several congresswomen and men, as well as senior Israeli and Palestinian politicians and officials. We were particularly pleased to welcome Rep. Ilhan Omar to our exhibit, who had planned to come on a tour of Hebron with us earlier this year but whose entry was barred by the Israeli Government in an attempt to cover up the occupation. The cover-up attempt will not be effective as long as we continue breaking the silence and sharing our stories with anyone who’s willing to listen.
Banning Reps. Omar and Tlaib from making a congressional visit to Israel and the occupied territories seems to have had a ripple effect, peaking interest in visiting the territories and hearing about what goes on there. This week, the Palestine Institute for Public Diplomacy released a virtual reality app which lets its users visit - virtually - the very places which the Congresswomen were banned from entering. And of course, the app’s tour of Hebron is guided by former IDF soldiers from Breaking the Silence. Check it out on Android or iOS.
We’re always pleased to be keeping busy with special events and meeting friends and supporters from around the world, but all the while, we’re making sure to keep up with the bread and butter of our work: collecting testimonies from former soldiers, taking groups and individuals on tours of the occupied territories, and giving talks to groups from near and far. If you’re planning on being in the area soon - or if you know of someone who is - join us on a tour. Our next tour, to the South Hebron Hills, will take place on November 12th.

Thank you as always for your ongoing support for our important work.


The Breaking the Silence team

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