After his high school graduation, Daniel Weiss didn't pursue a typical college career.
Instead, he traveled 7,000 miles to Israel, eventually joining the Israeli military.
Weiss, now a psychology professor at Penn State, gave a lecture on his yearlong experience in the Israel Defense Forces (IDF) Tuesday night as part of Israelity, a lecture and forum hosted by Chabad of Penn State.
Weiss, who was born in Maryland, touched on his experiences in the IDF and Israel's conflict in the Gaza Strip with Palestinian political group Hamas.
After graduating high school in 1989, Weiss moved to Israel. Inspired by Israeli youths, who typically join the military at age 18, Weiss said he followed suit and joined the IDF.
"It wasn't all glory," he said, talking of the days he would spend simply guarding buildings.
Weiss served for one year, but said Israeli youths generally serve three, which shows how devoted the Israelis are to their nation, he said. He also talked about his darkest hours in the military, when he lived in a Palestinian refugee camp for three months.
Regarding the current territorial conflict between Israel and Palestine, Weiss said that "countries have a responsibility to their citizens, and I think Israel had to react."
Attendee Livnat Maldonado of State College, another former member of the Israeli military, said it is important to understand Israel attacked Gaza with no intention of harming civilians.
"There have been no wars in history when civilian casualties have not occurred," Weiss said. "But there is a notion that there is some new 'smart bomb' that knows how to avoid civilians and just hit military targets."
Tuesday was International Holocaust Remembrance Day, so Weiss also spoke of the Holocaust's place in history.
To put the number of Jewish people killed in the Holocaust in context, Weiss made a comparison close to the hearts of his Penn State audience.
"If you attended every home football game at Beaver Stadium for the four years you were at university, and then killed every single person at every single game you attended, this number would still be less than half of the Jews who died, never mind the other innocents killed," Weiss said.
People need to study history in order to avoid repeating it, Weiss said.
Heated debate followed Weiss' lecture. Some students of Arab descent said they disagreed with Israel's military operations in Gaza and challenged Weiss' statements.
"I thought that the discussion was very productive and that Dr. Weiss did a great job of balancing the audience. He tried to help keep people's minds open," said Sarah Meretsky, co-director of Chabad of Penn State.
Though most of the audience felt strongly in favor of Israel or Palestine, several students simply wanted to learn more about the conflict.
"I think people want to discuss and seek solutions, because this is something they carry in their hearts. Getting to see real people and their feelings added a new dimension to the problem," said Jinghao Lu (junior-sociology).