Imagine There’s No Countries

August 31, 2015

Recently, it seems that there has been an interesting question reverberating through the walls of the American Jewish Zionist community: Are anti-Semitism and anti-Zionism the same thing? In stereotypical Jewish fashion, in a room of ten people, there are likely to be at least eleven answers to this question. And yet, regardless of whether there is consensus on this topic, there seems to be widespread agreement that the follow-up question is always “Why?” Whether we are examining the hatred of Jews or the hatred of Israel, we all want to know: “Why does the world hate us?”

There are countless answers to this question, and most of them deal with the topic of anti-Semitism. To name just a few examples: the world needs a scapegoat for its problems the Jews are an easy – if arbitrary – target; Jewish people have been too successful and influential in Hollywood; Jews have become too wealthy as doctors and lawyers and bankers; and, of course, there is the idea that the Jews killed Jesus Christ. In answering the “why” of anti-Zionism, many people seem to link it inseparably to the “why” of anti-Semitism, saying that Israel-hatred is either a natural association or an expected outgrowth of Jew-hatred. One of the few explanations offered for anti-Zionism that is not related to anti-Semitism is that Israel is hated because of her occupation – occupation of the disputed territories, and also of the land of Israel itself.

PANO_20150625_104336 (1)Rabbi Daniel Gordis shared with the CAMERA student leaders a different answer – one that is neither connected to religion nor to the land in question. Daniel Gordis explained to us that following World War II, the world stood firmly in opposition to two concepts: strong ideological nation states, and the use of force. The United Nations, and later the European Union, were welcomed into the family of nations because they unified countries, as opposed to encouraging them to each stand alone. By contrast, Israel stood by herself, as a strong nation state. Israel was born as a state where the majority of people held similar, if not the same, beliefs, and a state that, within hours of her existence, showed the world that she was not afraid to use force, and could do so competently. In Gordis’ view, it was for these two reasons that the world was against Israel from the moment of her creation.

These worldwide fears of nation-states and the use of force did not lessen during the years immediately following WWII. Fear of the Cold War gripped countries around the world for many years. People in America were afraid of Russia growing even stronger and taking over more land. The space race was of concern to many individuals. The buildup of nuclear arms petrified even more. Democracies were opposed to Communist and Fascist nations. The post-war mindset was that nation states were at the root of much of the world’s problems, especially if they could only be maintained through the use of force. The nations of the word essentially wanted safety and stability, and they were therefore willingly prepared to vilify any country that did not epitomize those objectives.

John Lennon, whom Gordis called “the prophet of the 60s,” sang:

Imagine there’s no countries
It isn’t hard to do
Nothing to kill or die for
And no religion too

Imagine all the people living life in peace

This song “Imagine” was emblematic of the “Great America”’ of the 1960s, and was also representative of the European point of view. This was a sentiment that everyone agreed on. And what did Israel stand for? Standing apart as its own country – a Jewish country, pressured by hostilities on every side – it was exactly contrary to the two ideas that had most of the world’s support.

As one of the CAMERA student leaders, I found Gordis’ analysis to be an interesting addition to the conversation about why the world hates us. I don’t think that anyone knows the answer to this question as a certainty and, to be sure, there are many plausible answers. At this point, however, the question that needs to be posed is where to go from here. Human beings are trained to look backwards, and try to understand history so as not to repeat it. In fact, we go so far as to say that “hindsight is 20/20” – as though by finding reasons for past atrocities, we can prevent them in the future. It is not natural for us to accept that we don’t have conclusive reasons for something and move on. With that said, we need to stop arguing amongst ourselves over the “whys,” as interesting as they are to consider. We need to accept that that there is anti-Semitism and there is anti-Zionism. We need to join together so that we can appropriately answer any and all of the reasons that are proposed. And, lest we forget, we need to force the other side to answer for its own false statements and aggressive tactics, and to finally come to the table prepared to work with us for peace.

 

This piece was contributed by, Hayley Nagelberg, the CAMERA Fellow at the University of Illinois. Hayley participated in the 2015 CAMERA Student Leadership/Advocacy Training Trip to Israel.

CAMERA Student Conference 2015

August 28, 2015

Day 1

IMGP6056What is better than a bunch of passionate Israel activists? A bunch of passionate Israel activists at the CAMERA Student Leadership and Advocacy Training Conference! After registration, the students gathered at the Boston University Hillel to kick off the day with lunch and introductions. CAMERA’s International Campus Director, Aviva Slomich then gave a wonderful presentation on how to stand up for Israel on college campuses. After which Tatiana Becker, a CAMERA campus coordinator, conducted a presentation entitled “What Do You Know about CAMERA on Campus?” The students played an engaging online quiz, ‘Kahoot’, that tested the students’ know-how when it comes to Israel trivia. The students enthusiastically broke out their phones and frantically typed in answers to Tatiana’s questions.

After the students had their fun with Kahoot, they went to their breakout sessions. There were three options, two of which the students were able to attend. The breakout sessions included,  “Zionism 10″1 with Sidney Shapiro of Laurentian University, “Witnesses of History” campaign with Rachel Wolf of American University, and “Keys to Planning Successful Events” with Justin Hayet of Binghamton University.

The students then heard from Gilead Ini, a Senior Research Analyst at CAMERA, about detecting media bias and how CAMERA fixes these biases. Afterwards, the students met with David Yarus, the founder of JSwipe, a Jewish dating app, who gave tips on how to give their Israel groups a prominent presence on social media.

IMGP6356After a beautiful picnic in the park with a view of Boston’s Charles River, the students ended the day with a screening of the acclaimed documentary film, the “J Street Challenge,” followed by a Q & A with the film’s producer, Avi Goldwasser. This day was meant to motivate the students, not only for the rest of the conference, but for the upcoming school year.

Day 2

Tatiana Becker kicked off the day with an informative presentation on the best ways make a campus Israel group more attractive to a wide range of students. This involved how to draw people in during tabling, what the best way is to plan events, and how to effectively divide work among members of the group. One of the ways discussed to get students to come to events was to make sure there is food at all of them!

IMGP6390After hearing from Tatiana, the students divided into groups in accordance with their position on their Israel E-Board: President, Political Chair, Outreach Chair, and Communications/Social Media Chair and went into specialized breakout sessions. Some of the challenges that were discussed within the various positions were time management, delegating, and making sure everyone in the group is on the same page.

IMGP6520Then CAMERA’s Director of Student Programming, Gilad Skolnick, spoke with the students the best way to write an op-ed. His tips included how to introduce topics with a hook, how to make writing concise and clear, and the best way to keep people reading!

Masha Gabriel helped the students practice their debate skills by acting as an anti-Israel activist and asking tough questions related to Israel. Simultaneously, Susan Rubin helped the students improve their stage presence, which is an important part of Israel activism.

Aviva Slomich then presented the successful CAMERA campaign, Less Hamas, More Hummus. For this campaign CAMERA teams up with MEMRI (the Middle East Media Research Institute) and uses clips of media in Arabic in order to demonstrate the destructive nature of Hamas.

The students ended the day with Jerusalem U Campus Director, Yoni Mann, who told his story of how he came to be an advocate for Israel, and then facilitated a screening of the film “Crossing the Line.”

Day 3

The third day began two anti-Israel-activists-turned-Zionists: Romeu Monteiro and Kasim Hafeez. Each speaker told his own story and showed everyone at CAMERA that it is possible to cause a change of heart in event the most vehemently anti-Israel individuals.

IMG_5255Next it was time for the students to get moving with a  Krav Maga session led by Gershon Ben Keren.

After their workout, the students heard from Sergeant Benjamin Anthony, the founder of Our Soldiers Speak, who gave a captivating and chilling presentation in which he discussed his experiences and about how the students can be just as powerful on campus as the IDF soldiers in the field.

Then Dr. Ephraim Inbar, the Director of the Began-Sadat center, who will be on tour with CAMERA this Fall, spoke afterwards about the dangers of the Iran deal.

To end the day, Dr. Alex Safian of CAMERA then gave a presentation on how to answer tough questions. This session was key to the students’ understanding how to answer some of the most difficult questions that they could encounter on campus from both students and professors alike.

IMGP7358After a full day of learning and working hard, the students got to enjoy a real Bostonian experience: a Red Sox game at historic Fenway Park!

Day 4

To kick off the final day of the conference, the students heard from Dexter Van Zile and Tricia Miller about the status of Christians in the Middle East, a topic that isn’t commonly addressed, but can help with campus activism.

Then, Lana Melman of Liberate Art came to discuss her work in countering the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) campaign against Israeli artists and performers. Her presentation was timely, as the Spanish Reggae Festival announced that they would allow Matisyahu to perform despite calls from BDS activists to do
otherwise.

 

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After lunch, a mock BDS hearing took place among the students. The students were broken up into groups and told to come up with arguments against BDS. Once their arguments were finished they got the chance to argue against the CAMERA staff who read pro-BDS statements from real BDS votes.

To end the conference, CAMERA’s Executive Director Andrea Levin closed the conference with a moving presentation in which she talked about 10 things to remember when standing up for Israel. Goodbyes were said with lots of hugs and lots of love; a beautiful end to an incredible conference!

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To read more about past conferences, check out this page on the CAMERA on Campus website.

There have also been articles published on the JNS, the Jewish Standard, the Jewish Exponent, and the Jewish Chronicle.

 

Clark University hosts ‘Human Rights and Justice for Terror Victims’

August 26, 2015

10169222_10203990995388098_8629783330635967984_nOn October 29th, CHAI—Clarkies Helping and Advocating for Israel—hosted British-Israeli tour guide Kay Wilson, on tour with StandWithUs, for a talk on her experiences after surviving a terror attack in December 2010. The lecture, “Human Rights and Justice for Terror Victims,” culminated Wilson’s life both before and after the attack, but spoke specifically on the care she received from Israeli Arabs directly following the attack. Hosted by CAMERA Fellow Seth Greenwald, the lecture proved to be a learning experience for all who attended.

Attendees of the lecture were moved from tears to laughter as Wilson chronicled her experience. After the attack, Wilson was left with substantial injuries, and was treated by both Israeli Arabs as well as Israeli Jews. Because of this experience, Wilson has created and spread a discourse on the coexistence that currently exists between these two groups and the future that can be formed because of it. Through her personal experience, Wilson is able to move people to understand something that is so frequently ignored.

Everyone at the event was able to take something away from the lecture. Audience members asked Wilson questions about her opinion on world-wide terror attacks, as well as her experiences with anti-Semitism. In her candid responses, Wilson was impactful and engaging. Students easily made an emotional connection with Wilson and her story, and by the end of the evening had a better understanding of the implications of attacks such as the one Wilson survived.

Wilson frequently tells her story to university students, always trying to promote a message of peaceful coexistence between the Jews and the Arabs of Israel. She encouraged students to be advocates for the Jewish people and the state of Israel, stressing the importance of unity with Jews around the world. Greenwald said the lecture was one of best he has ever heard, and would recommend her to every university.

Keeping Pro-Israel Students Safe on College Campuses

August 25, 2015

Contributed by 2014-2015 CAMERA Fellow Logan Woodard

It is college-touring season for many high school students all across the country. Applying for college is a very exciting process, and choosing the right college is an incredibly difficult and often stressful decision. There are so many factors that impact the final decision a high school student makes. I remember some of the things I had to think about when I was choosing which college would suit me best. I sat down and took a look at all of the schools I had been accepted to and then I started the process that every student on their way to college goes through.

Will I be able to get financial aid? How far from home do I want to be? What is the academic reputation of each potential school? How good (or bad) is the food? Do I know anyone already at the school? Will I fit in with the other students? How is the Greek life? These are the questions I asked myself when I was choosing where I would spend the next four years of my life. I think these are the questions most students on their way to college have asked themselves for decades.

Or at least that’s how it used to be.

This past Saturday was Accepted Students Day here at the University at Buffalo. This is an exciting time for so many parents and perspective students. High School seniors and their parents get a chance to see the university, meet current students, check out the academic departments, taste some food, and learn about some clubs. I am a very active member of both the Jewish and pro-Israel communities at the University at Buffalo, so for the past few years, I have helped table for this exciting day. Last year, I tabled with Hillel, and this year, I tabled for a club I helped establish, UB for Israel. It’s always a lot of fun talking to students and their parents and answering their questions. However, I noticed one pretty significant difference while tabling this year. Perspective students came over to the UB for Israel table with the usual questions—“what events do you guys do?”, “can you help me get to Israel?!”, and the occasional supportive comments and nods of approval from parents. Then came the new questions, the questions I never had to ask— “how are the relations with Palestinian students?” and “how bad is SJP (Students for Justice in Palestine)?”

These questions took me by surprise. Perspective college students are now considering the likelihood of being harassed or physically attacked while deciding where they want to go to college. I never had to ask these questions while I was in the shoes of current high school seniors just a few years ago. The questions these perspective college students and their parents are asking did not fully hit me until later that night while I was thinking of the implications they carry. Their concerns make sense. Early on in the 2014-2015 academic school year, a student was punched in the face by a member of Students for Justice in Palestine and had anti-Semitic slurs hurled at him at Temple University. In March, a Jewish fraternity house at Vanderbilt University had Swastikas spray-painted on it. There are countless other examples of anti-Semitism on college campuses, and this is clearly beginning to worry and influence students and their parents.

University officials and administrations need to step up to the plate. They need to start promising students and their parents that they will be safe at their schools. This is a critical time where student hate groups such as Students for Justice in Palestine, who have stated their support for Hamas, a genocidal terrorist organization, are becoming increasingly more threatening and radical. Pro-Israel student groups need to ensure incoming college students and their parents that they have support systems on campus and that there is no need to fear these anti-Semitic groups.

The Importance of Muslim Zionism

August 24, 2015

Contributed by 2014-2015 CAMERA Fellow Logan Woodard

Muslim Zionists are those who identify with the Islamic faith, and simultaneously support the self-determination of the Jewish people inside the State of Israel. The history of Muslim Zionism goes as far back as the Middle Ages with Zionist interpretations of various verses of the Qur’an. More modern examples can be seen coming out of a number of different countries, including Israel, from the 20th century to the present. An example of Muslim Zionism is a 1918 article from the Al Qibla, a daily newspaper in Mecca, supporting the Balfour Declaration. “The resources of the country [Palestine] are still virgin soil and will be developed by the Jewish immigrants (…) we have seen the Jews from foreign countries streaming to Palestine from Russia, Germany, Austria, Spain, and America. The cause of causes could not escape those who had a gift of deeper insight. They knew that the country was for its original sons [abna’ihi-l-asliyin], for all their differences, a sacred and beloved homeland. The return of these exiles [jaliya] to their homeland will prove materially and spiritually an experimental school for their brethren who are with them in the fields, factories, trades and all things connected to the land” (Katz, 25).

Muslim recognition and support of The State of Israel is crucial to establishing peaceful relations between Israel and her neighbors. Muslim Zionists offer a different pro-Israel perspective and give hope for peaceful faith relations both within the Middle East and abroad. With more tolerance and understanding will come cooperation, peace, and prosperity. These Muslim Zionists are not only supporters of Israel, but are also supporters of the Palestinian people and their right to not live under Hamas, a genocidal terrorist organization.

A number of Israeli-Arab Muslims, who make up 20% of Israel’s population, identify as Zionists because they are able to experience Israel firsthand. They live life as equal citizens of Israel and understand the importance of the only democracy in the Middle East. There are Muslims who serve in the military, as police officers, and as members of Knesset. They experience rights as full Israeli citizens and have complete freedom of religion, sexuality, speech, and more.

Muhammad Zoabi is a 17-year old Arab Israeli Muslim Zionist who was made famous this past year due to his activism and outright support for the state of Israel on social media. Over the summer, Muhammad was forced into hiding after he “received death threats, [was] harassed, and [was] almost kidnapped to PA territories.” Muhammad’s unwavering support for Israel inspired many in the pro-Israel community, and he received a great deal of support during this difficult time. Many even offered to harbor him to protect him and his family from harassment and possible murder, despite the risk to their own lives and the lives of their families. Muhammad, despite his young age, is able to identify what makes Israel truly amazing. He is able to appreciate the rights awarded to him in the Jewish state, and he is using these freedoms to share his love and support. Muhammad has started a revolution within the Zionist community by showing us that there are Muslims who are willing to stand up for equality and democracy despite the risk to their own lives. He revitalized our hope that peace is possible.

Above: Muhammad Zoabi sharing his love for Israel.

Kasim Hafeez is a British citizen of Muslim Pakistani origin. He is a former Islamic radical who, upon reading Alan Dershowitz’s book “The Case for Israel”, became an active member of the Zionist community. Hafeez is coming to speak at the University at Buffalo with the help of the Jewish Federation of Greater Buffalo on April 28th. We will be extending an invitation to the Muslim student community in the hopes that they see that Zionism is not exclusive of Islam.

Above: Kasim Hafeez sharing his story.

I hope that these brave individuals will inspire others within the Muslim community to stand up for peace and democracy and to speak out against terrorism and anti-Semitism.

Day 8 Of The Israel Trip: Wrapping Up

August 21, 2015

On the last full day of the Israel trip, the students started their day at Kibbutz Misgav Am. They visited the Naot Factory, had lunch with Haeyl Azam at his Druze Village in Daliyat El-Carmel, and went to Atlit before having their final wrap-up meeting at the end of the trip.

Kibbutz_Mizgav_Am_2015When the students got to Kibbutz Misgav Am, they were shown the view of Lebanon from the most northern point of Israel. From the deck at Misgav Am, the students could see Lebanon and Metula, and the extremely small distance between the two. While viewing this area, the students heard from their tour guide, Ronen Malik, about his experience in the Second Lebanon War. This story not only illustrated the great power of IDF soldiers, but it also showed how close Israeli civilians live to war. This made many of the students understand how Israelis live—always on the edge.

After seeing the spectacular view from Kibbutz Misgav Am, the students went to the Naot factory. Naot is an Israeli sandal company whose factory is located in the north of Israel. The students were excited to see where these popular shoes are made.Naot_Logo

 

After building up an appetite from shopping, the students had lunch with Haeyl Azam at his Druze Village in Daliyat El-Carmel. Azam explained parts of the Druze religion, which is a secret religion, and its culture. He also touched on the Druze in the IDF. The students were particularly interested in this topic because of how much the Druze are praised for their service in the army. Part of the Druze culture is being loyal to the country in which they live; thus, the Druze are key supporters of the state of Israel, in and out of the military.

To end their day, the students went to Atlit, a detention camp where people were sent after trying to come to Israel during the British Mandate. The students were shown around a boat, which was a replica of the kinds of boats that were used by the Jews seeking refuge in their homeland. This boat told the tale of the people who were on the boats, showing what their lives might have been like while they were on the boats. The area surrounding the replica boat was used to hold hundreds of barracks. The students were shocked, imagining what it must have been like to have survived the Holocaust, only to be put back into barracks, just feet away from freedom in their homeland.

This trip had a profound impact on the students, all of whom took away things that help them gain a new appreciation for Israel and the challenges that the nation and the people face on a daily basis.

 

Day 7 Of The Israel Trip: Kibbutzim and Kayaking

August 20, 2015

Written by CAMERA trip participant Rachel Wolf

On the seventh full day of the Israel trip, students met with Hadar Sela, the managing editor of the BBC Watch. The students also went to Majdal Shams and met with one of the prominent leaders there, watched an Oz 77 film about the 77th Battalion in the Yom Kippur War at Kibbutz Elrom, and kayaked down the Jordan River.

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Photo Credit: Jeremy Ginsberg

Hadar Sela (left) is the managing editor of BBC Watch. BBC Watch is a part of CAMERA’s British Department which monitors the British Broadcasting Company (BBC) and handles its inaccuracy.  BBC Watch helps keep the BBC, which is a publicly funded news program, accurate and fair. Sela discussed her work with the students, explaining how the BBC Watch was started and why it was so important. Additionally, Sela showed the students Kibbutz Kfar Haruv, where she lives. What is unique about Sela’s kibbutz is that it is in the Golan Heights, an area that was under Syrian control prior to being under Israel’s, meaning that if Israel were to ever give back the Golan, Sela would be sitting in Syria. Furthermore, there have been “red alert,” or air raid, sirens in the north not because of spillover from the Syrian civil war that is currently going on. This fact made the students realize the difficult situation that Israel is facing right on its border.

The students then went to Majdal Shams, a Druze village in the north, and met with one of the leaders in the community. He discussed the differences between the Druze in the north and the Druze in the south. The main difference is that the northern Druze still have some ties to their communities in Syria. Israel even lets these people cross the border to see their families.

After meeting with Hadar, the students went to Kibbutz Elrom to watch Oz 77, a film about the 77th Battalion in the Yom Kippur War. The film features real footage from the Yom Kippur War that is shown alongside interviews with friends and relatives of deceased soldiers as well as surviving soldiers. The film gives a new and unique perspective, making one feel as though he is on the frontlines of the war.

Later that day, the students went kayaking on the Jordan River. They broke up into small groups and were given a meeting spot near the end of the river. Some students even decided to race each other down the river. This was the highlight for many students, as it was not only a hands-on way of learning about Israel, but it was also a lot of fun.

Day 6 Of The Israel Trip: Hezekiah’s Tunnel and Ishmael Khaldi

August 19, 2015

The sixth full day of the Israel trip started with the students packing the bus and preparing to go to the north of Israel. Before going to the north, the students spent their day exploring Jerusalem’s Ir David (City of David), walking through Hezekiah’s Tunnel, touring HaOphel—the Eastern wall of the Temple Mount—and visiting the Bedouin village of Khawaled, home of Ishmael Khaldi.

In Ir David (the City of David), the students learned about the ancient history of Jerusalem and specifically the area that was the City of David. The tour began with a short film about the area, which lead to a series of light shows and films within the city, all leading to their wading down the water tunnel also known as Hezekiah’s Tunnel. This tunnel is a dark underground waterway which reveals how water was transported into the City of David.

After coming out of the tunnels, the students toured HaOphel, the remaining Eastern wall of the Second Temple. This ancient site had key evidence pointing to an ancient Jewish presence in the land of Israel. The students saw the ruins and artifacts that are on the side of the temple that most people do not know about. One of the artifacts had an ancient Hebrew inscription from the time of the Second Temple.

The students then went on to visit the Bedouin village of Khawaled, home of Ishmael Khaldi. Khaldi, who is usually working in London as an Israeli diplomat, is Israeli’s first Bedouin diplomat. Prior to his being chosen to be a diplomat in 2004, Khaldi served in Israeli Defense Forces (IDF), Defense Ministry, and the Israeli Police. Additionally, Khaldi has acted as the spokesperson to the Arabic news media during the disengagement from Gaza. Khaldi began his talk by talking about Bedouins and their culture. He then spoke to the students about the battle outside of Israel for Israel’s legitimization on college campuses and within foreign governments. He encouraged the students to stand up for Israel on campus.

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Above: Ishmael Khaldi telling his story.

Days 4 and 5 Of The Israel Trip: Mount of Olives and Machane Yehuda

August 18, 2015

The fourth full day of the Israel trip was short and lots of fun! Day 4 was a Friday, so the students were let out early in order to prepare for Shabbat, the Jewish holy day of the week. The day started with a lecture by Professor Efraim Inbar, Director of the Begin-Sadat (BESA) Center for Strategic Studies, and then the students went to sift through the dirt from the Temple Mount at Emek Tzurim on the Mount of Olives. The day ended with the students getting lunch and other goodies at Machane Yehuda (otherwise known as the shuk).

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Left: Students looking for ancient artifacts from the Temple Mount!

Professor Efraim Inbar served in the IDF as a paratrooper and later went on to be a part of the Political Strategic Committee of the National Planning Council and the Chair of the Committee for the National Security Curriculum at the Ministry of Education. Additionally, Inbar was on the Academic Committee of the History Department of the IDF and served as the President of the Israel Association of International Studies. Inbar specializes in politics and security strategy in Israel, and discussed the current security situation in Israel and the focus on Iran. Inbar also discussed how the US policy on Iran is affecting Israel and what the policies of both countries should be like in order to combat the threat posed by a nuclear Iran.

After hearing from Professor Inbar, the students went to Emek Tzurim on the Mount of Olives in order to sift through dirt from the Temple Mount. After a massive excavation project was started on the Temple Mount, the people who would go on to form Emek Tzurim took the discarded dirt and started to sift through it for artifacts. Students on the trip found things that are from both modern times (such as pottery from the British Mandate) and ancient times (such as tiles and pottery dating back to the Roman Empire).

At the end of the day, the students went to Machane Yehuda, or the shuk, and were given the freedom to roam around the massive semi-outdoor market. In the shuk, many students visited the small restaurants and bakeries that operate at a swift pace on a Friday just before Shabbat. The hours before Shabbat are the busiest at Machane Yehuda, as the stores are all trying to sell what they can before closing for the weekend.

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On Saturday (Shabbat), the students were given a day off to explore Jerusalem or observe Shabbat. Many students went to the various open quarters of the old city, walked around Jerusalem and visited the Western Wall (also known as the Kotel). At the end of the day, the whole group rejoined for a Motza’ei Shabbat meal.


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Day 3 Of The Israel Trip: Speakers and Spokespeople

August 17, 2015

The third full day of the Israel trip started with a meeting with Professor Gil Troy, a Shalom Hartman Research Fellow and author of Why I am a Zionist, who discussed how to portray Israel on campuses and how to tell the difference between legitimate criticism of Israel and anti-Semitism. Troy recognized that not all campuses are the same and that the cases of extreme anti-Semitism are quite rare, but that all students must be prepared for changes in their campus environments.

After meeting with Professor Troy, the students went to Shalem Center to meet with Daniel Gordis, who is Vice President of the center. Gordis is a world-renowned scholar and is highly knowledgeable about the Israeli-Arab conflict. Gordis told the students to look at the conflict from different perspectives. He explained that the key way to win the argument on campuses is to understand the conflict from all sides and to have real criticisms of the state, not to just say, “Israel isn’t perfect,” but to actually say how it could be perfected. Additionally, Gordis emphasized reading books on the conflict from different perspectives. For example, he recommended books from both Ari Shavit and Michael Oren, who present different perspectives and opinions on what is going on in Israel.

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Above: Students listen to Daniel Gordis speak.

The next stop on the trip was the CAMERA office, where students met with Arnold Roth, the founder of the Malki Foundation, an organization that helps families with disabled children care for their children at home. This amazing organization was founded out of tragedy. Roth’s daughter, Malka Chana Roth (who went by Malki), was one of the victims of the 2001 Sbarro pizza suicide bombing. Roth focused his talk on what it is like to be the parent of a terror victim and how this has affected the rest of his life. Even his vocabulary has changed since the attack. Rather than calling his daughter’s murderer a “suicide bomber,” he uses the term “human bomb,” as he thinks that the word “suicide” should not be used when the intention was not for the bomber to kill himself, but to kill others.

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Left: Arnold Roth tells his story.

After Roth, students heard from Khaled Abu Toameh, a Israeli-Arab journalist who began his career in the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) newspaper that was run by Yasser Arafat, and now writes for several news organizations including the Jerusalem Post. Toameh discussed his life as a journalist and how he is able to get into areas that would otherwise be off-limits to Israelis. Toameh also focused on how unlikely a Palestinian compromise is.

The final speaker of the day was Avi Mayer, The Jewish Agency’s Spokesperson for International Media. Mayer discussed different social media, and particularly Twitter-oriented, strategies for the students to use in Israel advocacy. Mayer emphasized the ability of one person to change the view of Israel through social media and how important it is that the pro-Israel community maintains a singular message when it comes to Israel. Mayer started the hashtag #IsraelLoves in response to the trending Twitter tag #IsraelHates. While his hashtag never ended up trending on Twitter, it was still widely seen, and hundreds of people responded, making it a success.

To end the day, the students went to the Old City of Jerusalem to have dinner and a discussion about campus activism. At the meeting, the students were able to help each other by telling the other students about what has failed and succeeded on their campuses. This conversation allowed the students to connect with each other about their activism.

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