Shani Knaani, an Israeli Fellow with the Jewish Agency for Israel and Hillel International, is paying a visit to Hillel and the Elon community as a whole.

Knaani grew up in a kibbutz, a communal living area in northern Israel, and then moved on to join the Israeli army.

"So in Israel, the army is mandatory," Knaani said. "Each of us when we turn 18 we don't go to college like you do in the states. It is something that we do because we need to do it."

Although the army is mandatory, Knaani said she that enjoyed her time while she served. She began her military service as an observant at the field of intelligence and moved her way up and eventually became an intelligence officer.

"I liked it; I did it for more than my mandatory time. In my days it was one year and nine months for girls and I did it for three and a half years overall," Knaani said.

After her time in the army, Knaani traveled to various places around the world, including Thailand and Nepal. She earned her bachelor's of arts in political science at the University of Tel Aviv and eventually made her way to the United States.

"It wasn't really my plan, my master plan, it just happened," Knaani said.

Knaani is part of the Jewish Agency for Israel and Hillel International, an Israeli fellows program that sent her to America. Those in the program have set three main goals for their time here.

"We call it the three E's," Knaani said. "We have engagement, experience and education, Israel related obviously."

The program has brought her here to Elon to share her perspective and life stories with the community.

"I'm a human resource for people and I'm happy to be a resource, that's part of the reason that I'm here for," Knaani said.

As this resource, Elon students have been asking Knaani about her perspective on global issues. One student in particular has benefitted from Knaai's visit to Elon.

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"Since I was born and raised in the United States and she was born and raised in Israel it is great to have a conversation with someone who has a different experience than you and especially connecting over Jewish heritage," said Spencer Neiman, Hillel Engagement Intern.

Knaani has one main message that she wants students to receive.

"To understand that it's more than black and white. The gray in the middle, it is not even one gray. It can be so many different grays and its not only one group is right and the other group is wrong," Knaani said.

With all of the conflict going on in and around Israel, many Elon students have been asking Knaani how these issues have affected her.

"I think it's a global thing and it doesn't really matter if I'm Israeli or you are American or someone is from some other country. It is really global," Knaani said.

Looking at this issue as a global problem, Knaani wants people to realize that no matter the distance between them, Israel and America are very similar.

"People want to change the world, to fix the world, to add value to the world and I think this is really common between Israel and America," Knaani said.

Knaani will be at Elon for the remainder of this week and is open to talking to students with a curiosity about her life and her perspective on global issues.


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