campus news & events

Colby-Sawyer Presents 'To See if I'm Smiling,' a Dramatic Look at the Experiences of Female Soldiers in the Israeli Army

NEW LONDON, N.H. – Colby-Sawyer College will show a documentary in Hebrew with English subtitles about the experiences of female soldiers in the Israeli army. Israel is the only country in the world where 18-year-old women are drafted for compulsory military service.

In “To See If I'm Smiling,” young women describe what life was like during their two-year draft periods while stationed in places of intense conflict like the Gaza Strip and the West Bank, and how they helped maintain the 40-year-old occupation of Palestinian territories. This documentary combines deeply personal interviews with archival footage and details of the women's daily lives.

“To See If I'm Smiling” is part of the college's Human Rights Film Series and will be shown on Tuesday, April 7, at 7 p.m. in Clements Hall at the Curtis L. Ivey Science Center. Admission is free and the showing is open to the public.

The film shows six female Israeli soldiers sharing emotional experiences that they have suppressed for years along with personal material, footage, and details of their daily lives while at war. One woman recounts how she posed for a photo with a Palestinian corpse. She searches for that picture, saying, “I wanted to see if I'm smiling.” During a time when women in the military are increasingly on the frontline, this powerful film explores how gender, ethics and moral responsibility intersect during war.

Although the women in this film were not directly involved in armed operations, they were in positions that allowed them to gain a unique perspective of the tense relationship between the Israeli and Palestinian populations. For the first time on film, these women revisit their war days with surprising honesty; it seems that nothing is left unsaid. They share shocking moments of carelessness, immaturity and power-tripping while at war. “To See If I'm Smiling” shows the upsetting and riveting psychological transformation that these young women undergo as a result of their years in the military and visibly shows how the culture and experience of war transforms people.

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-Michelle L. Buser '09

Michelle L. Buser is a Communications Studies major and an intern in College Communications at Colby-Sawyer College.

Colby-Sawyer, founded in 1837, is a comprehensive liberal arts college located in the scenic Lake Sunapee Region of central New Hampshire. Students learn in small classes through a select array of programs that integrate the liberal arts and sciences with pre-professional experience. Visit us on the World Wide Web at

Colby-Sawyer College, 541 Main Street, New London, N.H. 03257 (603) 526-3000