The President of Israel, Ezer Weizman, and his wife Reuma were guests of honor as the Friends of the University paid a “Salute to the I.D.F.” toward the end of January to kick off the University’s celebrations of Israel’s jubilee year.

The “Salute” sold out the cavernous, new International Convention Center at the southern entrance to Haifa and netted more than NIS 600,000, to be used for scholarships for discharged soldiers and members of the security services who elect to study at the University.

Some 500 soldiers of the elite Golani Brigade were guests of the University for the gala evening. Also included in the audience alongside the Mayor of Haifa and foremost members of Haifa’s and Tel Aviv’s business communities were the Ambassador and the consul general of Norway in Israel and the military attaches from the embassies of almost 40 countries in Israel.

The I.D.F. proved that it is more than just a fighting force by mounting a production of “Movie Days.” Four Broadway-caliber singers, all doing their compulsory army service, performed a musical journey of movies past and present, singing most of the well-known songs in Hebrew translation. The talented singers were ably backed by a professionally sounding IDF Chamber Orchestra, whose conductor was also in uniform. Many of these outstanding musicians are recipients of grants from the United States-Israel Cultural Foundation.

Addressing the audience, President Weizman cited the quiet borders with Egypt and Jordan and said that all parties had something to lose if there was no progress in the peace process. He stressed that the country had to see to it that workers who entered the workplace could do quality work. To this end, the President, who once commanded the Israeli Air Force, acknowledged the importance of helping discharged soldiers to acquire education and obtain jobs. Finally he thought that Israel was a much better place than its citizen say it is. “Each morning,” he advised, “let everyone say something good [about the State]. Perhaps things will get better then.”

University President Prof. Yehuda Hayuth, who had served in the Paratroops during the Six Day War, told the soldiers that they had “a friendly campus awaiting them if they come here [to the University of Haifa] to study.”

Haifa Mayor Amram Mitzna, a former IDF General who once headed the army’s Central Command, said that “now was the time more than ever to aid soldiers to integrate into civilian life and to gain an education.”

Shimon Linial, president of the Israeli Friends Association and a driving force behind the “Salute,” began his remarks by saying, “We the generation of Tashah [Hebrew acronym for 1948] greet the members of the generation of Tashnah [1998].”

A public council, chaired by Maj. Gen. (Ret.) Itzhak Hoffi, lent its support to the successful production of the festive “Salute to the I.D.F.”

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