Knotted Narratives

July 25, 2014

Students for Justice in Palestine (SJP) is not pro-Palestine, they are anti-Israel. This may seem like the same thing (pro-Palestine and anti-Israel), but they are not. SJP seems to only rally around Palestinians who are being killed by Israelis. They don’t talk about the abuse of Palestinians in other countries, such as Lebanon and Syria. They also fail to mention the fact that Hamas is killing its own people by telling them to ignore IDF warnings about airstrikes. SJP chooses to focus on Israel out of hatred of the Jewish State and not love for the Palestinians.

Rachel Wolf is currently interning at our office in Jerusalem. In this picture here she is standing by the Bahai gardens in Haifa.

Rachel Wolf is currently interning at our office in Jerusalem. In this picture here she is standing by the Bahai gardens in Haifa.

Why don’t Palestinian groups, such as Students for Justice in Palestine, rally for Palestine, rather than against Israel? They host die-ins, raise “Apartheid Walls,” and screen biased films. Yes, these groups often have vigils and events for Palestinian victims or prisoners, but these events are still tangled with their opposing Israel for Israel. Why not have Palestinian cultural festivals that actually talk about Palestinian culture? Most of the time these festivals and movie events focus around the idea of Palestinian oppression at the hands of the Israelis. That is not Palestinian culture. Culture is about food, music, art, et cetera. Culture is neither a way to blame someone else for your problems, nor is it an excuse for violence, retaliation or hatred.

I have yet to see an Israel group hold an anti-Palestine event, this is not to say that such an event has never occurred, and why should they? The purpose of an Israel group is to talk about Israel. Sometimes these groups bring speakers to discuss the conflict, and, thus, Palestine would be brought up. However, this can also mean attending festivals, eating Israeli food, learning Israeli dances and celebrating Israeli holidays (like Yom Haatzmaut). These events are not about talking about Palestinian terrorists killing Israelis or calling Palestinians racist. These events focus on supporting Israel.

Is it possible to be pro-Palestinian without being anti-Israel? Is it possible to be pro-Israel without being anti-Palestinian? The answer to both of these questions is yes. There is absolutely no reason why anyone who supports his one people should be hateful towards another people other simply because of their existence.

It’s time to put an end to the name-calling, slogans and hatred. That is not how this issue will be solved or even discussed. Teaching and learning about other cultures is fine, more than that, it’s what these groups should be doing. These groups should not be rivals on campus. This issue should not be focused about outdoing one side’s demonstration. There will never be a real dialogue on campus if the conflict is seen as a competition. These groups should work together to ensure both Palestinian and Israeli rights.

Contributed by CAMERA Intern Rachel Wolf, a student at American University.

Standing Strong

July 24, 2014

Operation Protective Edge has been in full swing for 17 days and Israel has sent troops into Gaza. Just a bit over two weeks after initially entering Gaza, over 30 Israelis have been killed. In the last 17 days over 2000 rockets have been shot into Israel. At the same time, violent protests have broken out in Europe, particularly in France. To Americans, this is the time to call travel agents and start cancelling flights to Israel. They also might think that the people in France should try fleeing to England or any other seemingly pro-Israel or at least quiet nation. However, for the 400 French and over 200 North American immigrants that have come to Israel in the last two weeks, this is not the time to abandon their homeland, it’s time to run towards it.

Despite the calamity in the region, Jews of all backgrounds are still flocking to the State of Israel. Many of these new olim (immigrants) have been dreaming of making aliyah (immigrating to Israel) for years. These are the people that Israel needs, the kind of people who will stand up to fear and terror and say “enough.” These fearless olim have proven their dedication to Israel by coming while rockets are being launched and troops are at war.

The 400 French people are not running away from the riots and going to a place that is quiet. They are proving themselves by running directly into Israel. When they tried to defend Israel at home, they ended up getting hurt. It would be much easier for these French people to give in and join their abusers and blame Israel. These 400 people have not given up by leaving France, they are facing a new set of challenges by coming to Israel.

While the 200 North Americans have not been subjected to the riots in Europe, their presence should be taken just as seriously as that of the French. Making aliyah is not easy for anyone at anytime, especially not in a time of war. Coming to a place where there is a war going on and balancing that with learning about the culture and language is exhausting. These North American olim are to be admired, just like the French, they are proving themselves by running to Israel, rather than running away.

In a video that Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu made for the new olim he expressed his gratitude and support. He said, “…because when Israel is being attacked and you young Jews come here to be part of Israel you’re saying to all our enemies, ‘You’ll never succeed, you’ll never succeed in bending our spirit or driving us away from here…’ This is the epitome of Zionism, what you are doing today…”

It is time for all of us to recognize, and applaud, the courage and dedication of these olim. As Netanyahu said, “This is the epitome of Zionism.” Zionism does not just mean the thought or the hope for a Jewish state, it also means taking action to achieve the ultimate goal. These olim have taken action and serve as an example of triumph over the enemies of Israel and a symbol of hope for Israel’s supporters.

Contributed by CAMERA Intern Rachel Wolf, a student at American University.

10 Commandments of Leadership

July 23, 2014

This piece was written by Rayna Rose Exelbierd, the amazing student who put together the Future Leaders for Israel Conference, sponsored in part by CAMERA. Rayna is the president of Owls for Israel, a CCAP (CAMERA supported) group at Florida Atlantic University. She wished to share her leadership discoveries with anyone who needed some help. 

10 comandements

When I sat down to write this article about directing the Future Leaders for Israel conference, I had a hard time deciding just how to start. How does one accurately describe six months of planning?  How exactly does one narrate months of personal growth in a way outsiders can understand? While I have embarked on many challenges in my life, directing a conference has, by far, been the most difficult undertaking.  Inspired by my Chabad Sinai Scholars class, I have created a set of 10 commandments inspired by the most important lessons learned through my FLI experiences.

  1. Thou Shalt not Complain

People who complain the most do the least work. Just like a group project in school, sometimes people are unable to pull their weight. Do not let any conflict of work ethic prevent a successful initiative from happening.  If something isn’t done, pick up the extra slack and acknowledge that some people need an extra hand. A committed leader must also have a solid understanding of necessary tasks and obligations required to execute.  Delegation is extremely important, but it is not an excuse to be negligent.


This is applicable to anything that requires another person or business to do something needed in the future.  Most people have good intentions, but can forget things for a variety of reasons. Written communication may be effectively used as a reference and a reminder, thus preventing any major dispute.

3. Thou Shalt Create Lists

Lists can serve as a variety of amazing outlets.  Outside the obvious of staying on task, they are extremely important in measuring success. Sometimes an anticipated work schedule can be turned upside down for differing circumstances.  Thus, it is important to identify and invest time in the more urgent tasks. The added challenge is not letting anything slip under the rug.

 4. Thou Shalt Foster Effective Communication

Communication in social situations is entirely separate from communication in leadership roles. Even if a leader is super friendly with their team members, lack of effective communication can ruin a project. As a group leader, one must remember to check in with all team members; remember, a group is only as strong as its weakest member.

5.     Thou Shalt Work With Others

Once a team has solid communication, any dream is obtainable.  Group activities outside of the planning process are really helpful at bringing a team closer together.  The closer members feel to each other, the more accountable they will feel with their responsibilities. The more a leader knows what makes their team feel fulfilled, the more likely success will prevail—no matter what challenges arise.

6.     Thou Shalt Manage Time

While plans may sometimes be broken, an overall schedule of deadlines is essential for group morale.

 7.     Thou Shalt Not Freak Out

Time management aside, solid teamwork and stress management is crucial. Do not waste precious conversation venting about difficulties with another individual unless the person can help remedy the situation.  There is a huge difference between being stressed out and freaking out.

8. Thou Shalt Manage School Well

If possible, work ahead. However, if that simply isn’t possible, speak to professors and trusted advisors in order to keep up with schoolwork. No matter what else is on one’s plate, schoolwork must be close to or at the top.

9. Thou Shalt Take Action

There is never a “perfect time” to do something. As soon as you have an idea, write it down, lock down a date, and contact the necessary people in whichever order is necessary to get rolling.

10. Thou Shalt Remember: “If you will it, it is no dream”

Believe in yourself and your project no matter what life throws at you; never doubt that you’ve got this. Our biggest challenges end up being our biggest blessings, and those challenges will make you a better leader.

Israeli Reality Check

July 22, 2014

This is the third draft of “Israeli Reality Check” that I have written and I’m sure that it will still not be current enough when it is posted due to the ever-changing situation in Israel. When I embarked on my journey to Israel in mid-June, I never imagined that I would be here during something like this. Now I can’t even remember how many days it has been since Operation Protective Edge started.

Rachel Wolf in Jerusalem, summer 2014

Rachel Wolf in Jerusalem, summer 2014

The mood in this country has changed dramatically in the last 38 days since I have been here and since Naftali Frenkel, Eyal Yifrach and Gilad Shaar were kidnapped and killed. My first night in Israel was spent at my friend’s moshav. We watched the news of the kidnappings as it was being broken. When I found out the tragic end to the search, I was on a scavenger hunt that my madrichim abruptly cancelled due to the news.

The first time I went to a miklat (bomb shelter) was a sobering experience. I wasn’t scared for my safety, I knew that my madricha (who was luckily in my apartment building at the time) knew what to do. I was shocked that there would ever be rockets in Jerusalem. Earlier that day I had received several emails from my family, all of them begging me to go home before things escalated. In my detailed response of life here, in Jerusalem, I said, “If anything bad (i.e. rockets or terror attacks) happens, it won’t be in Jerusalem. No one is going to bomb the holiest and most well guarded city in the world, let alone G-d. Don’t forget that many people see Jerusalem as His house (that’s why we are in this whole mess).”

My complete denial that anything could happen to Jerusalem was gone the moment that the siren went off. I have been in a bomb shelter five more times since then, which is considerably fewer times than the majority of Israelis. Now, hearing busses screeching, car alarms and ambulances make me jump in terror.

After the first time I went to the miklat, it became more normal. One night, while in the bomb shelter, my friends and I were taking pictures and playing games on our phones while waiting for the ten minutes to be over. It takes 10 minutes for everything to settle, this was something that I, like many others who have never been to a bomb shelter, didn’t realize. I assumed that being in a bomb shelter took hours, as did my mother who suggested I pack a bag with food and water. I quickly assured her that, contrary to popular belief, Americans can go ten minutes without eating.

Israel is not an awful place to live, on the contrary, but fear can be a part of life here. When I originally wrote this piece, it was fairly upbeat since I had witnessed nothing. Now, I have a slightly different view of the situation. However, life is still going on. People all around Israel are still smiling, loving, laughing and playing. In Israel, the ability to live is essential. Without the ability to see each day as a gift and an opportunity, life here would have ceased to exist a long time ago, in 1948 during the Independence War.

“The Israeli Reality” is something that I have discussed frequently in the last few weeks. When people say “The Israeli Reality” they are usually referring to terror attacks, mandatory military service and metal detectors. Recently, my Israeli reality has included waking up at 7:30am with multiple “Red Alerts” on my phone, showing where rocket attacks have taken place. However, these are not the only things that make up “The Israeli Reality.” This reality is also about drinking Shoko (chocolate milk) from a bag,  it’s hiking in the Golan Heights, it’s floating in the Dead Sea, it’s living with a revived language, it’s seeing the Kotel full of people singing and dancing on a Friday night. This is the Israeli reality.

Israel is more than rockets and fear. This is not to say that Israelis are oblivious to their surroundings. On the contrary, Israelis are aware of where they live and what that means for them and their children, but they are also aware of the fact that they cannot spend their lives wondering “what if” every second of every day. They cannot run scared at the first sight of danger.

The Israelis are striving to live each day in absolute normalcy. This can be difficult in some parts of Israel, such as Beer Sheva, Ashdod, Ashkelon, and Sderot, but people succeed at being normal because living as if nothing has changed is a victory.

Many people have asked me how my life in Israel has changed since the rocket attacks started a few weeks ago.  I have told them that I am living my life as if nothing has changed because doing anything else would be a victory for Hamas. If they were to scare me into changing my life or going back to the United States earlier than I had planned, I would be terrorized, and I will not allow that to happen.

Right now I am sitting in CAMERA’s Jerusalem office and my daily routine has not changed since I started interning here just about a month ago. I still come to the office, open my computer, hope that the Wi-Fi is functional and start my work. At the end of the day I go home, eat dinner and see everyone in my program.

I will not deny that my perception is skewed by virtue of living in Jerusalem. I am not in an area where rockets are constantly being launched. I know that I, like most people in Jerusalem, have not had the kind of Israeli experience that means being awoken by sirens rather than alarm clocks. This does not discredit the experiences of people in Jerusalem; rather it sheds light on “The Israeli Reality.” There is not one singular reality in Israel. There is the Jerusalem reality, the Tel Aviv reality, the Ashdod reality and so many more; they all come together to make “The Israeli Reality.”

Contributed by CAMERA Intern Rachel Wolf, a student at American University. This piece was republished under the title An American View of Israel Under Fire.

In Solidarity

July 21, 2014

They came with their posters and they came with their chants. “Judeonazi” they cried, as the rage filled their eyes and hate filled their hearts. “Allahu Akbar,” they exclaimed as they read off the list of people — both terrorists and civilians — killed in the recent conflict with Gaza. The irony of the fact that this rallying call is often issued by Hamas members before they blow themselves up taking innocent Muslim civilians with them was lost on the otherwise quick-witted mob that filled the square outside Boston’s public library on Thursday July 17, 2014.

The throng was certainly not short on diversity. It ranged from keffiyeh covered white girls who kept yelling “fascist” at me (although I’m certain they did not know the definition of that term) to Arab parents foaming at the mouth hurling racist epithets as their children rode on their shoulders looking on. Apoplectic elderly Jewish women also filled the crowd, wearing bright Palestinian paraphernalia and affirming their unity with Hamas, regardless of the fact that they would likely be lynched in Gaza for being Jews.

You hear about these things in the media all the time but it is quite another thing entirely to bear witness to Jews and Arabs calling for their own destruction. Like a scene from a horror movie wherein blacks marched in lockstep with the Ku Klux Klan, these folks marched for the literal murder of their own people. Yet this was no feature film playing in the cinema. This was a real time theater of the absurd played out in public for all the world to see.

Yet, for all of their hot air and sanctimonious screeching, they were largely unsuccessful. Their objective was to show “that they stood with Palestinians” (as they simultaneously championed their deaths by calling for an intifada). But they were impeded as a few of us decided to go rain on their parade.

Brandeis student Daniel Mael infiltrated the crowd — which was holding signs displaying hatred against Israel — and held up a poster of the three boys murdered by Hamas terrorists. At first they did not catch him, but later on in the protest, their fury was displayed in the form of clever retorts which varied from “ You’re a traitor to your people” to “I know all about Auschwitz, you people are monsters!”

I too got the “You’re a traitor” allegation as I stood upon the steps of the library and held an Israeli flag high for all the exasperated crowd to see. They nearly lost it as they did not expect to see a black woman believe in something completely contrary to what they all believed black women should and absolutely must think. Indeed, their cognitive dissonance was so apparent one Caucasian gentlemen took it upon himself to call me “whitey,” apparently completely oblivious to the color of his own skin.

But for all their draconian dribble and preplanned animosity, we did not budge. We stood firm because we know that the cause that we represent is greater than the lies they chanted. Our cause is a universal one; it speaks to the humanity of both the Jew and the Arab and the quest for a new day when these communities will walk together in brotherhood and be of one accord.

Our cause is for the Jew and Arab who struggle. For the Jew and Arab who fight. For the Jew and Arab who endeavor. For the Jew and Arab who strive. For the Jew and Arab who live. For Judea and Arabia which, with God’s grace and good fortune, will be free.

In Solidarity.

Chloé speaking at a pro-Israel rally. A video clip of her speech is below.

Chloé speaking at a pro-Israel rally. A video clip of her speech is below.

CAMERA's Chloé Simone Valdary and Elliot Hamilton at a pro-Israel rally on Friday July 18th in the Boston Commons.

CAMERA’s Chloé Simone Valdary and Elliot Hamilton at a pro-Israel rally on Friday July 18th in the Boston Commons.

Daniel Mael, founder of the CCAP (CAMERA supported) pro-Israel group at Brandeis, SAIPA, is surrounded by anti-Israel protesters in downtown Boston.

Daniel Mael, founder of the CCAP (CAMERA supported) pro-Israel group at Brandeis, SAIPA, is surrounded by anti-Israel protesters in downtown Boston.

Chloé standing on the steps of the Boston Public Library holding a sign illustrating the Hamas strategy of using human shields, while being yelled at by anti-Israel protesters.

Chloé standing on the steps of the Boston Public Library holding a sign illustrating the Hamas strategy of using human shields, while being yelled at by anti-Israel protesters.

Chloé Simone Valdary surrounded by anti-Israel protesters in Boston.

Chloé Simone Valdary surrounded by anti-Israel protesters in Boston.

This piece was contributed by Chloé Simone Valdary. Chloé is working at CAMERA this summer, and is the founder of the pro-Israel CCAP (CAMERA supported) group Allies of Israel at the University of New Orleans. Check out some of the other pieces that she has written for this blog. This piece has been republished in The Algemeiner under the title “Witnessing an Anti-Israel Rally First Hand.”

New Social Media Sites

July 18, 2014

In response to Operation Protective Edge, Israel’s defensive operation against Hamas in Gaza which has fired hundreds of rockets in the past week into Israeli civilian areas, several new social media campaigns and pages have been created. Among them are #KidsAreNotTargets, Israel Under Fire, and Israel Facing Terror. All three different sites accomplish the same task of showcasing the conflict though they focus on different aspects of it.

Israel Under Fire shares articles about the conflict and also has graphics showing the conflict in a larger context of rockets being rained down on cities. This page also shares quotes, such as one from Tony Blair, the former Prime Minister of the United Kingdom, shown below. Israel Under Fire is, on July 14, the most popular of the three with over 60,000 likes.


Israel Facing Terror showcases Israeli civilians affected by the rockets being shot from Gaza. It also promotes the hashtag #WeAreNotTargets when it shows examples of Israelis affected by the rocket attacks, showing pictures of Israeli civilians taking cover from rocket attacks. In addition, this page shares televised interviews of Israeli government members, such as Naftali Bennett.

#KidsAreNotTargets is similar to Israel Facing Terror, however, it focuses on how the conflict has affected kids, by showing kids in bomb shelters or being sheltered by their parents. It has also shown pictures of people holding up handmade signs which say, “Children are not weapons.”

Overall, social media is being used in an effective manner to showcase the conflict and show the facts on the ground as well as the broader view of the conflict. Showing pictures and graphics that showcase the the conflict help people to understand and internalize what’s going on in Israel right now, especially if they are not in Israel themselves.

Contributed by CAMERA intern Eli Cohn

“One Day” Plea for Peace as Rockets Strike Ashdod

July 17, 2014

Israeli advocate Sara Merson, who participated in the 2012 annual CAMERA Leadership and Advocacy Training Mission in Israel, is now living in Israel, and a current contestant in Israel’s reality singing competition, The Voice.

 Sara as a contestant on Israel’s The Voice. The show is now in its third season, with a Canadian born participant winning season one, and an Arab-Israeli participant winning seasons two.

She has used her voice and singing talent in order to spread the message of the crisis in Israel right now. She posted a video recently documenting the routine race-to-the-bomb-shelter that Israelis have to deal with on a ceaseless basis. In this instance it was filmed after rockets were detected flying over the port city of Ashdod, in southern Israel. In the background, she sings the iconic song “One Day” by Matisyahu, an overture to peace.

Sara Merson and Hayley Magerman in a Golan Heights winery.

Sara Merson and Hayley Magerman in a Golan Heights winery during a CAMERA trip to Israel.

“This is the reality of what’s going on here,” she explains, voicing her frustration with the circumstance. “Over 1000 rockets have been sent to Israel from Hamas in Gaza. Even after the ‘cease fire,’ Hamas continued to send rockets our way.” Her comment comes in response to a Egyptian proposed ceasefire which was accepted by Israel, but flatly rejected by Hamas. The situation does not seem to be improving, with Hamas vowing to continue rocket strikes into Israel until their demands are met.

Israelis in Ashdod have 45 seconds to race to a bomb shelter before rocket impact. Sara sings in this video.

Fortunately, Israel has developed “the ‘Iron Dome’ antimissile system to intercept some of them [rockets], but without it, these rockets would land in heavily populated civilian areas and many would be killed” Sara adds.

“The Israeli government and the IDF are doing all they can to protect its citizens from the barrage of rockets coming from Gaza,” she continues. “I have faith in this country, its military, and its people.”

Sara is a graduate of the University of Florida, where CAMERA currently has a CCAP group. In 2013 CAMERA was a sponsor of the Florida Loves Israel conference, which took place at the university.

This image by Israel's Home Front Command, shows how much time, determined by where someone lives in Israel, that they have from when a siren is first sounded and a rocket hits an area.

This image by Israel’s Home Front Command, shows the amount of time that one has from when a siren is first sounded and a rocket hits  the area.

Contributed by CAMERA intern Alexander Dumanis. Dumanis is a student at the University of Massachusetts-Amherst.

Artists Continue to Fall Victim to Propoganda Artists

July 16, 2014

This piece was written by CAMERA intern Seth Greenwald. The full version is available in The Times of Israel, and the link is below.

As human beings, we are hardwired to be empathetic, hardwired to support the underdog and to care for those who seem to be worse off than we ourselves are. Often, and sometimes rightfully so, we ignore the history that brought a person to their unfortunate place in order to focus only on boosting them up into self-sustainability.

The Palestinian people have become that underdog whom the world is so determined to empower to self-sustainability and self-determination in their own state, a state separate from the Jewish State. In the quest to support the Palestinian people, artists across the world have fallen victim to the propaganda campaign espoused by radical anti-Israel activists at organizations like the Palestinian Solidarity CampaignIf Americans Knew, and the college group, Students for Justice in Palestine.

A lithograph by Osmar Schindler (c. 1888). Post 1967, Israel has often unfairly cast as a Goliath while the Palestinian-Arabs as David (the underdogs).

A lithograph by Osmar Schindler (c. 1888). Post 1967, Israel has often unfairly cast as a Goliath while the Palestinian-Arabs as David (the underdogs).

When individuals and artists hear facts like “Israel forcibly removed…” or “Israel systematically ethnically cleansed…” or “Israel is evicting…” etc., etc., it is only reasonable to assume they will be determined to fight for the underdog—the Palestinians. This hypothetical is true in reality as shown by pro-Palestinian songs such as: We Will Not Go Down (Michael Heart), Israel Palestine Peace Rap (Robert Foster), and Freedom for Palestine (Coldplay and One World). These songs are so powerful and swaying that had I not known the facts, I would have immediately dedicated myself to the Palestinian cause, serving at the forefront of every protest and rally, attempting to make a difference.

Read more: Artists Continue to Fall Victim to Propoganda Artists | Seth Greenwald | Ops & Blogs | The Times of Israel 

Berkeley Hosts Yom Ha’atzmaut Celebration and BBQ

July 15, 2014

On May 6, 2014, Alana Corre, CAMERA Fellow at UC Berkeley, hosted an incredible Yom Ha’atzmaut Celebration and BBQ. In order to celebrate Israel’s 66th year of independence, Alana made kosher meat, Israeli salad, and Sabra hummus available. Keeping with the spirit of Israel, participants also played soccer and frisbee.

IMG_3406 IMG_0563



Avi Jorisch at San Francisco State University

July 14, 2014

San Francisco State University’s Kayla Wold helped to organize an event on May 15, 2014 with the goal of highlighting the Israel narrative to a particularly anti-Israel community.  The event “Less Hamas, More Hummus” brought in around 30 students from a vast variety of backgrounds together to hear from Avi Jorisch about his personal experiences with terrorist organizations, specifically Hamas.  Jorisch engaged this diverse crowd and was able to enlighten many of the students about a new perspective that is not often expressed or even known.  The overarching sentiments were positive and allowed students to question their previous assumptions about Israel and the Arab/Israeli Conflict.

Kayla Wold

Kayla Wold