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photo of Gilad Skolnick in front of IDF buildingGilad Skolnick

Working abroad to improve Israel’s defense PR

"I didn’t expect this opportunity to come up a year ago when I graduated," 2009 MA grad Gilad Skolnick admits.

Skolnick serves in the research branch of the Spokesperson’s unit of the Israeli Defense Forces (IDF). He works as an analyst for the public relations branch of the IDF.

So how did he end up in the Israeli armed forces?

After graduation, I enrolled in an intensive Hebrew language program in Jerusalem and then got drafted into the IDF," Skolnick explains. "I spent a month in boot camp, going through lectures, pushups, the shooting range, guard duty, marching, etc.   From there I was accepted into the prestigious Spokesperson’s Unit of the IDF. This unit is in charge of everything from communicating with journalists to giving tours of military sites and briefing spokespeople on what issues to focus on when communicating with the media."

Skolnick's position involves putting together reports about international public opinion with regard to various issues of concern to Israel and suggesting strategies to deal with these viewpoints.

"I love working for a cause that I strongly believe in and support," Skolnick adds. "The work environment is supportive and understanding.  It is rewarding to be able to use my skills to help a country that is often unfairly portrayed in a negative light in the media." 

Israel might not have had as clear a picture of Delaware before Skolnick arrived, but he's working on it.

"I enjoyed having an opportunity to teach many of my peers about American-related issues, such as informing them of Delaware’s existence—when Vice President Biden visited the country—and translating his warm comments in support of Israel," Skolnick says. 

It hasn't always been easy for Skolnick to adapt, as he's essentially learning a new language while being immersed in a military culture professionally.

Skolnick explains, "Working in Hebrew is challenging. There’s Hebrew vocabulary that my parents never used with me in the U.S. that I had to learn the hard way—such as military vocabulary, slang, and other advanced words.  I was asked once to write 'margin comments' and spent the time to comment on a document in the said area, only to find out afterward that the Hebrew words for 'margin comments' mean 'footnotes.'" Oops.

Working in an insulating uniform in the Middle Eastern summer is hard enough, but Skolnick is occasionally called up for guard duty. Any crisis involving the military often directly translates to his working very long hours.

Skolnick feels like his preparation here at IPA and within the School of Public Policy & Administration was more than adequate for his current position, though.

"Learning to speak with people of authority and present my research in front of groups bolstered my self-confidence," Skolnick says. "This is how IPA helped me the most." He continues, "IPA gave me real-world experience on long-term projects—knowing what questions to ask, how to work well in a workgroup environment, meeting deadlines, etc.  From working with the Planning Services Group on [transit-oriented design], Complete Streets, or Elsmere’s Town Plan, I gained valuable skills that were easily transferable to this position."

What's next for Skolnick, after his term with the IDF?

"I feel that the experience, knowledge, and skills that I acquired while at IPA and from my versatile master's degree [an MA in Urban and Regional Planning] has left me with a lot of options and flexibility," Skolnick says.  "While working in Israel in urban planning would be a dream job, I am keeping my options open."

"I love the outdoors, hiking, and sightseeing.  With much of the year sunny and rain free (for better or worse), excellent hiking opportunities, and several thousand years of history, Israel is a good match."

IPA is certainly happy to have ambassadors like Skolnick spread its public service gospel abroad, too.

photo courtesy of Gilad Skolnick

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