Israeli soldiers speak in Columbia

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COLUMBIA - Two Israeli soldiers visited the University of Missouri campus Monday to share a different side of the Israeli culture.

The Israeli-Palestinian conflict dates back to 1948 when the Palestine state went to war. Arabs and Jews both reside in the state but continue to fight over theological differences. 

Students Supporting Israel, in cooperation with StandWithUs, invited Sagie and Idan to visit campus to talk to students about the Israeli "reality," to educate and start a conversation about the Israeli-Arab conflict. The men did not want their last names included in this report to protect their families.

The president of Students Supporting Israel, Chantelle Moghadam, said the army plays a large role in Israel's culture. 

"I think hearing about it from someone who can say it firsthand, who has served in the army, who has been apart of that culture their whole lives, it's a very unique experience that living in the mid-West we don't get very often," Moghadam said.

The soldiers planned to talk about the difference between growing up in America and Israel.

"Life is similar to Americans growing up but at the age of 18 we have a mandatory army service, national service," Sagie said. " It's three years for girls, most people don't know and three years for guys."

Sagie said he played professional basketball before he lost a friend in a terrorist attack.

"That moment completely changed my life," he said. "That day I knew I was going to have a long army service. Something that I could contribute to this society, to my family, to my friends and to try to help as much as possible to make our life better."

Idan said during the tour he hopes to explain what it is like serve as an Israeli solider.

"It is very different from an American solider that are fighting very far away from home," Idan said. "We are fighting on our own land. So when I am taking my soldiers with me to fight in Gaza, sometimes the missiles that we are viewing, that the Hamas shot toward Israel, sometimes my soldiers, even me myself, I can see the missiles going to my home and to my soldiers' home. That's sometimes something that you can't understand from just watching the news."

Moghadam said she thinks it is important for people to understand why the Israeli army is referred to as the Israel Defense Force. 

"Most of what they do is defensive," Moghadam said. "That's very unique, I think, because the United States is not surrounded by countries that want to attack us all the time whereas Israel is and deals with that reality every single day."

Columbia is the second stop for the soldiers who are on a 10-day tour in the United States.