CAMERA Fellows in Focus: Dalya Panbehchi

August 26, 2016

The CAMERA Fellowship supports student leaders in developing and strengthening their pro-Israel activism on campus. With the school year about the begin, we are introducing our 2016-17 CAMERA Fellows who will be working hard to promote the facts about Israel on campus.

Meet Dalya Panbehchi.

Panbehchi Dalya fellowA freshman at Binghamton University, Dalya Panbechi is a first generation Iranian-American from Atlanta, Georgia. Growing up in a Zionistic community and surrounded by Middle Eastern culture in her household, Dalya had learned about Israel and its importance from a young age. However, Israel remained a distant concept for her until this past year when she went to Israel for the first time to study and travel through a gap year program, Midreshet Moriah. Living in Israel for a year allowed Dalya to fully appreciate and truly connect with the land of the Jewish people.

Dalya is fluent in Farsi and remains very connected with her Iranian roots as well as her American identity. With such a rich heritage, Dalya has the opportunity to specially represent Middle-Eastern Jewry as she promotes Israel on her campus. Privileged to be a CAMERA Fellow at Binghamton, Dalya feels ready to take on the challenge of defending and promoting Israel to her full capability this coming year. CAMERA on Campus is delighted for Dalya to join the CAMERA Fellowship and is excited to see her develop as an Israel advocate!

CAMERA Fellows in Focus: Ben Shachar

August 25, 2016

The CAMERA Fellowship supports student leaders in developing and strengthening their pro-Israel activism on campus. With the school year about the begin, we are giving introducing the students who will be working hard to promote the facts about Israel on campus.

Meet Ben Shachar.

Shachar Ben fellowA senior at York University, Ben Shachar is studying biology. He is a recipient of the 2013 Schulich Leader Scholarship, an undergraduate award for Canadian and Israeli undergraduates studying STEM. Ben is dedicated to many causes which promote inclusive and meaningful dialogues among students on his campus as well as on other campuses. As the co-founder of the Random Acts of Kindness Project, he helped to develop a movement that inspires and connects students on over ten campuses to do acts of kindness for one another.  In addition, Ben is also a disability advocate, a long-time peer tutor, and a programming enthusiast.

On a campus where a student can be labeled a ”pro-Israel racist,” by merely being involved with the York Hillel, Ben has a strong Jewish identity and is a passionate supporter of Israel. As Ben expresses in one of his Times of Israel blogs, he has no interest in making trouble on campus. “In my three years at York University I have made a conscious effort to avoid any participation in campus politics.” Strictly apolitical but not hesitant when promoting Israel, Ben realized he has a moral obligation to speak out against a concerted campaign to vilify and intimidate Jewish students and institutions on campus.  As Ben explains, “Jewish students feel unsafe and marginalized,” but for precisely that reason, he also says that “Jewish students can no longer afford to be as passive as I have been for the past three years.”

A well-spoken individual with a variety of interests, Ben has great potential as an Israel advocate, especially at a Canadian university, where anti-Semitism is prevalent.

Ben is proud to represent Israel on his campus and knows that he can successfully promote Israel with the academic, strategical and even emotional support of the greater CAMERA network. CAMERA on Campus is excited to support Ben through the CAMERA Fellowship and help him as much as possible in his endeavors to promote Israel at York University.

CAMERA Fellows in Focus: Jody Miller

August 24, 2016

Every year, a number of Israel activists with exemplary writing skills and leadership capabilities are selected for the CAMERA Fellowship.

Throughout the school year, CAMERA Fellows are provided with a strong support system, including expert guidance, high-level instruction on Middle East issues, and event planning assistance from CAMERA staff, and international networking opportunities with published writers and activists.

In the coming days, you will have the opportunity to get to know our 2016-2017 CAMERA Fellows.

Jody Miller, 2016-17 CAMERA Fellow

Jody Miller, 2016-17 CAMERA Fellow

Jody Miller is a third-year journalism student concentrating in public relations at California Polytechnic State University San Luis Obispo. Jody is a very active member of her CAMERA-supported group, Mustangs United For Israel (MUFI). In addition to her involvement with CAMERA on Campus, Jody will serve as the communications coordinator for the AIPAC cadre at her university.

“As a journalism student, I breathe in the news everyday and constantly see the extensive anti-Israel bias that pervades in the media,” Jody says. She understands the need to promote a positive perspective of Israel not only on campus, but on social media as well. Jody is grateful for the opportunity to be a CAMERA Fellow and the support it provides her. “CAMERA allows me to make the tangible change I have longed for when it comes to anti-Israel sentiment and the opportunity to write                                                                articles about dishonest reporting,” she says.

“CAMERA is not only an incredible organization, but a platform for Israel advocacy and I am so excited to be a part of it,” Jody says excitedly.  As a Fellow this coming year, Jody hopes to provide her student body with a better understanding of Israel and wants to encourage interested students to learn more about all the amazing things Israel has to offer that international media overlooks. 

 

With the help and support of CAMERA, Jody feels fully prepared to advocate for Israel on campus and hopes to develop her skills in order to eventually have a career in pro-Israel advocacy. Welcome to the CAMERA family, Jody!

Alleged “humanitarian” workers in Gaza support Hamas terror

August 23, 2016

This month, the Shin Bet, Israel’s internal security and intelligence agency, busted an alleged humanitarian aid UN employee, Wahid Abdullah Burash, for his support of terrorism. As an engineer of the United Nations Development Program (UNDP), Burash used UNDP funding which was designated for developing Gaza infrastructure, his knowledge from this project, and his access as an UN employee in order to assist Hamas in terrorism.

United Nations aid worker Wahid Abdullah Burash was arrested by the Shin Bet. Photo: Shin Bet security force, via the Algemeiner

United Nations aid worker Wahid Abdullah Burash was arrested by the Shin Bet. Photo: Shin Bet security force, via the Algemeiner

In another recent scandal discovered this August, the Shin Bet arrested Mohammed El Halabi, the chief executive of Christian aid group World Vision, for assisting Hamas with millions of dollars worth of “aid” money designated for Gazans. El Halabi has reportedly confessed that World Vision has been funding Hamas terror tunnels and Islamist militants. This supposed “aid” worker has now been exposed as a life-long member of Hamas. Sadly, El Halabi is only one example of Hamas’s tactics to exploit well-meaning NGO aid efforts in order to advance their terrorist work in Gaza.

Supposed aid workers who in reality support terrorism prevent much-needed development in Gaza and discourage future aid work in Gaza–how can anyone support a “humanitarian” program that may be directly supporting terrorism? As human rights activist Bassem Eid sadly acknowledges, this scandal “will prevent other [NGOs] from working in the West Bank as well as in Gaza.”

As Nitsana Darshan-Leitner, the head of the Israeli Law Center, explains, the arrest of El Halibi is “a turning point in the struggle to deprive terrorists from the oxygen they receive in the form of aid.”

The graph depicts the number of truckloads that entered Gaza via all Israeli-controlled crossings from October 2009 onwards. Source: PalTrade, OCHA-OPT and UNSCO. These figures include truckloads of goods entering the Gaza Strip other than fuel and gas. Source: Gisha, Legal Center for Freedom of Movement

The graph depicts the number of truckloads that entered Gaza via all Israeli-controlled crossings from October 2009 onwards. Source: PalTrade, OCHA-OPT and UNSCO. These figures include truckloads of goods entering the Gaza Strip other than fuel and gas. Source: Gisha, Legal Center for Freedom of Movement

Despite Hamas’ terror tunnels infiltrating into Israel, rockets launched into Israel, and abuse of aid work, Israel constantly assists the inhabitants of Gaza. Even during times of war, Israeli soldiers risk their lives in order to deliver goods and supplies to Gazans.

Sadly, as journalist Ariel Bolstein explains, many organizations including the UN, World Vision, Human Rights Watch, and Amnesty International, have been tricked into funding terrorism or have been betrayed by employees who use their positions to support terror activities. We can only hope that the Shin Bet’s recent discoveries will prompt justice to be served, resulting in the restoration of proper aid to Gaza.

Contributed by CAMERA Intern Penina Simkovitz

Celebrating bipartisanship in a partisan time

August 22, 2016

CAMERA Fellow Hayley Nagelberg.

CAMERA Fellow Hayley Nagelberg.

Last week, as I have so often, I got into a political conversation with some friends.  The topic at hand was if, judging by what we can see today, there will be a physical split down the road between the main political parties we know, or if they will remain unified for generations to come.

Not everyone agreed, as is the case in most discussions of the sort, but the conversation boiled down to one question: are people capable of being unified around specific topics? In other words, does bipartisanship exist at all?

The answer is without a doubt yes.  While there are extremists, it is pretty safe to say we can all agree on big ideas like freedom of speech and support of medical research. The path that leads to implementing these truths may not be clear, but we can all agree those should be givens.

Despite what many might think, the United States’ relationship with Israel is one of those issues that garners support from both sides of the aisle.

Source: www.centerforsecuritypolicy.org

Source: www.centerforsecuritypolicy.org

America sends billions of dollars every year to Israel in military aid, yet Israel is required to spend roughly three-fourths of that money on goods produced in America.  This money aids in strengthening tens of thousands of Americans’ jobs.

Through the United States’ Aid to Israel program, over one thousand American companies have signed contracts.  There are also joint research products between the United States and Israel including binational science, industry and agriculture foundations.

The bipartisan support for this alliance was overwhelmingly evident Monday, May 2, when student leaders gathered at the Illini Union to look back on a year of bipartisan cooperation on campus and beyond.  Students of all faiths and political positions were united in attendance.

The students watched as Illinois congressmen and senators — from both the Democratic and Republican parties — congratulated them on their cooperation and sincere bipartisan efforts. Mark Kirk, Randy Hultgren, Daniel Lapinski, Bob Dold, Peter Roskam, Tammy Duckworth and Rodney Davis all shared messages reiterating this point.

Congressman Randy Hultgren stands up for Israel in a speech on the House floor back in 2011 as well. Source: RepHultgren's video of the speech.

Congressman Randy Hultgren stands up for Israel in a speech on the House floor back in 2011 as well. Source: RepHultgren’s video of the speech.

“Within every generation there are individuals who stand up for what they believe in and become champions of causes that promote peace and solidarity and respect,” said Randy Hultgren, the Republican Congressman from the 14th district. “I’m glad many of you understand the importance of promoting and strengthening the close relationship between the U.S. and Israel. Israel is the lone democracy in the Middle East and shares our democratic institutions and values.”

It is remarkable and inspiring that what unites our two nations is our shared democratic values.  In a region like the Middle East, where instability is found around every corner, having a stable ally that shares our values is so necessary.  This is an important alliance, and it is not only important to learn what unites our two countries, but to understand what our role is in promoting the relationship, no matter your political leaning.

They discussed understanding the mutually beneficial relationship in terms of ethics, security and economics.  And they reinforced the notion of America being a mediator in negotiations of the conflict, but not actually solving the conflict ourselves.

Daniel Lapinski, the Democratic Congressman from the 3rd district, recognized the value in universities being a place to debate national and international topics.  Furthermore, he reiterated the important notion that no nation is perfect, but what is notable in Israel, and makes it such a strong ally of America, is that people there, of all faiths, can express their disagreements with their governments in the press and the courts.

Everything they said was true, but the bipartisan relationship goes so far beyond that. It goes, as one student speaker put it, to a nonpartisan relationship.  Facts, statistics and talking points aside, there is something remarkable about this conflict — the conversation is not about parties, it is about people.

University campuses today seem to constantly be accused of being home to apathetic and lethargic millennials.  Maybe it’s the presidential race, but I see no apathy on this campus.  Instead, I see zealous debate doing exactly what Lapinski described, expressing disagreement through any means available.

In no way am I suggesting the conflict itself is beneficial, but the debate that stems from it is exactly what is needed as we look at the arguably growing political divide in this country.  We argue over statistics without taking the time to recognize the real life applications.  We, as students, are constantly told we are the leaders of tomorrow, but we don’t need to wait until tomorrow to express how the decisions being made today will affect us.

It may be hard to believe given everything that appears in the mainstream media, and even everything that you have witnessed around campus this year, but the U.S.-Israel relationship is one of the ties that truly binds our country, and one that benefits us all in more ways than we can count.

And it is a tie that no matter where we lie politically, has, can, should and will unite us.

This article was originally published in The Daily Illini.

Contributed by CAMERA Fellow at the University of Illinois, Hayley Nagelberg.

For Israel, every day is World Humanitarian Day

August 19, 2016

Today is World Humanitarian Day. On a day like today, Israel can be extra proud of its impressive contributions to populations around the world.

In 1958, only ten years after the State of Israel was established and was struggling to build itself up, the state created an official humanitarian aid agenda. Since then, through various organizations, Israel has been dedicated to serving international humanitarian needs.

As the #IDFWithoutBorders map shows, the Israel Defense Forces have sent countless aid missions across the globe. Sent by the IDF to help the Philippines recover from a typhoon, one doctor explains that “This sort of mission allows you to be a real doctor, this is what medicine is all about.” Medical resources should be used for good, for treating people and saving lives and that is exactly what the IDF strives to do by bringing top medical care and support resources to places in need. With the IDF’s C4I BranchIsrael’s advanced military technology even allows doctors and nurses to create an internal digital medical file for every patient while abroad.

Hundreds of casualties were tended at the IDF field hospital in Kathmandu, Nepal, after the earthquake earlier this year. Photo by IDF Spokesperson via FLASH90 and Israel21c

Hundreds of casualties were tended at the IDF field hospital in Kathmandu, Nepal, after the earthquake earlier this year. Photo by IDF Spokesperson via FLASH90 and Israel21c

IDF delegations are often the first to set up field hospitals and provide help at post-disaster scenes. The IDF will carefully help in areas that could potentially put Israel in danger as well. The IDF recently began helping Syrians by allowing for the delivery of medical, educational, and food supplies into Syria.

Non-profit humanitarian aid organization, IsraAID's chief operating officer Navonel Glick. Source: CIJA

Non-profit humanitarian aid organization, IsraAID’s chief operating officer Navonel Glick. Source: CIJA

Aside from the IDF’s incredible aid work, IsraAID, a non-profit, apolitical organization, has provided aid relief to 37 countries and and reached over one million people in need. The organization works tirelessly to help reconstruct and rehabilitate populations recovering from crises, providing rapid response humanitarian aid as well as long term support programs.

Source: www.bicom.org.uk

Source: www.bicom.org.uk

Just days ago, IsraAID’s chief operating officer Navonel Glick was awarded with the Muhammad Ali Humanitarian Award for his dedication and leadership. Based out of the Tel Aviv headquarters, Glick manages this incredible organization. Glick feels very honored by this award and is pleased that it is bringing attention to the need to further expand international humanitarian aid.

Israel continues to develop internally, and with all its advancements, becomes even more dedicated to helping populations in need abroad.

Happy World Humanitarian Day from Israel!

To learn more about IsraAID, visit their website and check out their accomplishments from 2015:

Contributed by CAMERA Intern Penina Simkovitz.

Amid rise in campus anti-Semitism, pro-Israel students prepare for challenging year ahead

August 18, 2016

For most students, the dog days of August are one final chance for summer traditions such as hitting the beach or visiting national parks with their family before heading back to campus.

For dozens of pro-Israel college students, however, learning about ways combat increasing campus anti-Semitism and anti-Israel activism was their focus during summer’s final weeks.

Over 80 college students from nearly 70 campuses around the world attended the Committee for Accuracy in Middle East Reporting in America’s (CAMERA) student conference in Boston, Massachusetts Aug. 7-10.

“Reports of intimidation on campus are becoming all too common across the globe,” said Aviva Slomich, CAMERA’s international campus director. “Unfortunately campus anti-Semitism seems to be on the rise, which explains why so many students are eager to learn the skills that are offered at CAMERA’s conference.”

The program comes at a critical time for Jewish and pro-Israel students. A recent report by the AMCHA Initiative found an alarming spike in campus anti-Semitism during the first half of 2016.

“Nearly 100 more incidents of antisemitism occurred on campus during the first six months of 2016 compared with the first six months of 2015,” according to the AMCHA Initiative’s mid-year study.

Rezwan Haq, a student at the University of Central Florida, addressing the 2016 CAMERA student conference. Credit: CAMERA.

Rezwan Haq, a student at the University of Central Florida, addressing the 2016 CAMERA student conference. Credit: CAMERA.

Anti-Semitic activity was twice as likely to occur on campuses where BDS (the Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions campaign) was present, eight times more likely to occur on campuses with at least one active anti-Zionist student group such as SJP (Students for Justice in Palestine), and six times more likely to occur on campuses with one or more faculty boycotter, the report noted.

Now in its sixth year, the CAMERA conference seeks to help students learn necessary skills for dealing with anti-Israel activists on campus. The three-day event tackles a number of important issues for students, ranging from educational seminars on the BDS movement to learning about bias in the media. Additionally, the conference allows students to put the knowledge they gain from the seminars to practical use, such as learning about techniques on how to talk with extreme anti-Israel activists on campus and how to work within student government to fight BDS resolutions. These all culminate in an impassioned mock BDS hearing on the last day, where students experience first-hand the challenges they may face during the school year.

“What we offer students is high-level intellectual training and emotional support to meet the challenges of the modern college campus,” said Gilad Skolnick, CAMERA’s campus program director. “Throughout the year we give students the resources to counter anti-Israel activity on campus, such as providing films, speakers, teach-ins, rallies all funded by CAMERA.”

Rezwan Haq, a University of Central Florida economics and political science student, told JNS.org that the CAMERA conference helped him set the foundation to combat anti-Israel activity on campus.

Rezwan Haq, a student at the University of Central Florida, addressing the 2016 CAMERA student conference. Credit: CAMERA.

Rezwan Haq, a student at the University of Central Florida, addressing the 2016 CAMERA student conference. Credit: CAMERA.

“I thought that the CAMERA conference was phenomenal and it truly arms [us] with knowledge and information to combat anti-Israeli rhetoric and BDS on college campuses. I look forward to working with CAMERA during the upcoming school year,” he said.

Haq, however, is not your normal pro-Israel student. He shared his unique experience at the conference in session called “Why I left SJP and joined a CAMERA supported group.”

Raised Muslim, Haq is a first generation immigrant who moved to the United States from Bangladesh at 13. His default inclination was to support the Palestinians because they were also Muslim.

“As I child, I knew I supported Palestine, I just didn’t know why,” he said.

Upon entering school, Haq reached out to his local Students for Justice in Palestine (SJP), a pro-Palestinian activist group that champions the BDS movement on campuses and is often in direct conflict with pro-Israel student groups. Haq said he was outraged at images of Palestinians suffering from the 2014 summer war between Israel and the Palestinian terror group Hamas. He later helped his SJP group bring to campus the “Israeli Apartheid Wall,” which seek to highlight Israel’s treatment of Palestinians by mimicking the security barrier between Israel and the West.

Yet it was that very same wall, meant to protest Israel’s treatment of the Palestinians, which led him to become an advocate for Israel and attend the CAMERA conference.

“Ironically, it was at the Israeli Apartheid Wall was when I spoke to a former IDF (Israel Defense Forces) soldier for the first time in my life. Before then, I used to believe that IDF soldiers were terrorists yet [we] had a genuine conversation when he shared the story of his best friend being killed during ‘Operation Protective Edge,’” Haq said.

“It was at that moment when the image I held of IDF soldiers were humanized,” he added. “I realized that [I] and this former IDF soldier both wanted peace, we just had a different way of going about it.”

Calling it a moment of clarity, Haq’s interaction with the former IDF soldier set off a frenzy of learning for him. He realized that many pro-Palestinian organizations never hold Palestinian leadership accountable for their actions and that they solely exist to slander Israel,” he said.

Also at the conference, students heard first-hand from others who experienced high levels of anti-Israel activism on campus and fought against BDS resolutions.

Jason Storch, a senior pre-med student from Long Island, NY at Vassar College, got involved in pro-Israel advocacy after witnessing the “increasing level of tolerance towards open hostility at anyone so much as on-the-fence about BDS or Israel as a whole,” he toldJNS.org.

“I felt it necessary to at least lend an alternative viewpoint I knew was being withheld from the discussion,” Storch said. “I plan to continue evaluating the situation in the Middle East and coming to various conclusions based on the events, but I cannot see myself not advocating for Israel. So long as there is one liberal democracy amid a sea of tyranny, the decision seems less than challenging.”

Vassar College, a liberal arts school in New York’s Hudson Valley, has been known as a hotbed of ant-Israel activism for years. Recently it was at the forefront of the debate over whether or not to support the BDS movement.  In March, the Vassar Student Association (VSA) voted to endorse the BDS movement. However, after an outcry from pro-Israel groups, alumni and school’s administration, a second vote was held, and the resolution was defeated.

“Vassar as a campus is of course highly anti-Israel, however it is important to remember this manifests itself through an only decent-sized minority asserting themselves the loudest,” Storch said. The whole brand of ‘take no prisoners’ SJP-style of pro-Palestinian activism isn’t resonating with the majority of students, he added.

While he’s encouraged by the defeat of the BDS resolution, as well as the students and faculty who finally spoke out against it, Storch remains concerned of the overall situation on campus.

“While I’m glad anti-BDS faculty have emerged, there’s still a vast discrepancy that often makes students, myself included, worry that they’ll be token Israel student in a class, which can be very intimidating,” Storch said.

With summer ending soon, efforts among pro-Palestinian groups targeting Israel and pro-Israel students on campus will no doubt continue in the upcoming school year. As someone who has been on both sides of the conflict, Haq believes it’s important for students to truly listen to each other in hopes of forging peace, not only on campus but for the conflict overall.

“We should put down our talking points and truly listen to what the other side has to say,” Haq said. “So if you’re an Israeli or an advocate of Israel, take the time to listen to a Palestinian and vice-versa. When I heard that IDF soldier speak to me years ago, it was the first time I ever took time to listen to the other side of the story rather than be defensive. We have to understand that the only way to seek peace is for both sides to come to the table.”

This article was written by Sean Savage and was originally published on JNS.org.

Putting IDF Soldiers Through Higher Education

August 17, 2016

Haredi, or ultra-orthodox Jews, often live in sheltered communities in Israel. Recently, young Haredim have been either leaving their religious background or their community norms in order to serve in the IDF. Many Haredim, often despite their family’s wishes, are choosing to serve and overall become more involved in the workforce of the secular world.

Haredi soldiers. Source: mycatbirdseat.com

Haredi soldiers. Source: mycatbirdseat.com

For many, joining the Israel Defense Forces serves as a great way to become part of the secular world and increase one’s own opportunities. As an alternative to IDF service, those who are unable to serve in the military for medical, religious, or other reasons, can serve in Israel’s National Service, working at schools, hospitals, or other institutions for one to two years.

While the participation of Haredim in the IDF and Israel’s National Service is on the rise, Palestinians have recently become more involved in this avenue of Israeli society as well, serving in the both. Many Palestinians want to help protect the country that is allowing them to live freely, to work, and to advance professionally. Abed, an Arab resident of East Jerusalem explains, explains that she chose to join Israel’s National Service because as an expression of loyalty to the State of Israel. She recognizes the benefits of being in Israel, all that it offers her, and wants to give back to the state in return.

Source: twitter.com

Source: twitter.com

By serving in the IDF or Israel’s National Service, an individual gives up their time and dedicates their efforts to helping ensure the security and development of Israel. The State of Israel recognizes this and as a show of appreciation, has been increasing the benefits for participating young people. For example, the IDF has increased the salaries of soldiers.

The IDF has decided to help soldiers with their higher education recently as well. A new program has been launched to fund university costs for combat soldiers and soldiers who lack sufficient family support, financial or otherwise. Ideally, the IDF would like to develop this program so that every individual in Israel that dedicates their time to serving the country can be helped with higher education in return.

Education is key to financial and professional advancement. Current and recently released soldiers are very enthusiastic about this new program that will financially support them in their university costs. While now financially supporting university costs, the Israeli government is also trying to develop high-school education in order to increase university opportunities already from a younger age.

School girls in East Jerusalem. Source: AlJazeera

School girls in East Jerusalem. Source: AlJazeera

In order to enter university, an applicant must fulfill matriculation exams. By completing the Israeli matriculation exams, an applicant can much more easily apply for a higher education degree. The Israeli government recently set up funding for Palestinian schools that allow students the opportunity to take these exams, and in turn, encourage students’ eligibility to attend university.

Unfortunately, the Palestinian Authority criticized this new beneficial program. While Palestinian residents, such as Abed who wants to advance herself academically and is happy to participate in Israeli society, the PA chooses to bad talk a program that can only increase opportunities for Palestinians.

Balancing between financial constraints and the many different ways to improve Israeli curriculums or encourage professional advancement in Israel, Israeli Minister of Education Naftali Bennett has been leading many beneficial changes in Israeli education. Bennett and the Education Ministry is dedicated to improving education opportunities for all of Israel. As Bennett says, “we have to give the tools and build capabilities for all of our kids to have 21st-century skills” in order to succeed and that is the Education Ministry’s goal for all children in Israel, regardless of their community or origin.

Contributed by CAMERA Intern Penina Simkovitz.

Defending Israel On All Fronts: Joshua Seed Joins IDF

August 16, 2016

CAMERA Fellow Joshua Seed.

CAMERA Fellow Joshua Seed.

The last months of senior year are a daunting period. Filled with the pressures of life after graduation, applying for work, pursuing additional degrees, and finding a place to live, the uncertainties of the ‘real world’ have most seniors avoiding the dreaded question of their future plans. As a recent graduate of Binghamton University, this process is all-encompassing as my Facebook news feed and social circles discuss recent acceptances to master’s programs at prestigious universities and impressive job offers at Fortune 500 corporations.

The process unfolding around me has been viewed not as participant, however, but as an audience member, the enthusiastic fan at a sports game who knows he will never play in the big leagues. While I watch those around me complete the GRE and undergo job interviews, my year instead consisted of weekly visits to the gym, interviews with army officers, and intensive Hebrew learning. This summer I leave behind family, friends, and the familiarities of North American life as I make aliyah (Hebrew for immigration to Israel), building a new home in the Jewish state and enlisting in the Israel Defense Forces.

Such a radical deviation from the ordinary path set before most college graduates naturally induces a number of questions. What are you running away from? What about your livelihood? How could you do this to your parents after all they provided you? The magnitude of the decision to leave the comforts of home and the communities that raised me to travel thousands of miles away and join a foreign army is not taken lightly or made hastily. In contradiction of those who challenge my appreciation for family and friends, the decision to make aliyah is made not in spite of these individuals, rather it is a lifetime dream that has been formed and nurtured through such people and the experiences they afforded to me.

Growing up in a home with a strong love of Israel and appreciation for Jewish education, the significance of the State of Israel to an often lachrymose picture of Jewish history became clear at a young age. Through the Zionism received from my parents coupled with formal and informal education about Israel at school and summer camp, I grew to understand just how remarkable was the Jewish return to Zion and the renewal of our people’s self-determination. Subsequent visits to Israel including a gap year after high school deepened this burgeoning relationship, opening my eyes to the country’s diverse people, who despite cultural and religious differences, built an open and vibrant society where personal freedom is championed and criticism is welcomed, if not encouraged.

Upon entering college, my relationship with Israel took yet another form as I sought to share my past experiences in Israel with fellow students through Israel advocacy work. As forces on campus attempted to disseminate misinformation about the Jewish state, I worked alongside a team of passionate students to present the true picture of Israel using the valuable strategies and resources that I received as a CAMERA Fellow. At its Annual Student Leadership and Advocacy Training Conference before the start of the school year, CAMERA trained its fellows to address and correct the lies often spread about the Jewish state on college campuses through letter writing and other mediums.

Students at CAMERA’s annual Student Leadership and Advocacy Training Conference, 2015.

Students at CAMERA’s annual Student Leadership and Advocacy Training Conference, 2015.

Training its fellows in Israeli history and current events through a range of prominent speakers along with a series of writing workshops to build opinion pieces geared toward campus publications, I left the conference with the skills necessary to convey our message effectively on campus, particularly in campus media. United by a common goal of sharing Israel’s story, the CAMERA on Campus staff as well as the new global network of CAMERA Fellows established at the conference became a powerful sounding board during my time in college, offering advice on how to tackle specific incidents such as biased professors or how to ensure that our limited words in an editorial piece are used most effectively.

Josh Seed(center) and other CAMERA fellows take a break at the 2015 CAMERA Conference, to visit Fenway Park.

Josh Seed(center) and other students take a break at the 2015 CAMERA Conference, to visit Fenway Park.

A precursor to my future plans to enlist in the IDF and defend Israel in a physical manner, the skills acquired at pro-Israel conferences and summits placed me in the trenches of Israel’s defenses on campus in the battle to shape college students’ perception of Jewish history. As Students for Justice in Palestine attempted to rewrite the establishment of the State of Israel and push a fictitious narrative surrounding Israel’s efforts to ward off decades of deadly terrorism, I together with other like-minded Israel advocates ensured that the truth was always easily accessible. When the anti-Israel group held a protest on the first day of classes condemning Israeli actions in Operation Protective Edge, a larger continent of Jewish students and their allies countered the libels by highlighting the party truly responsible for the summer’s bloodshed, the terror group Hamas. The hate and lies experienced during my time as a college student imbued in me a deep sense of responsibility for the Jewish state and her people which contributed greatly to my eventual desire to defend Israel as a soldier in her military.

At eighteen years old, Israeli teenagers are required to enlist in their country’s military due to Israel’s policy of conscription. Choosing to volunteer in the IDF as a 22 year-old American therefore comes as a shock to many Israelis who do not understand why one would trade the luxuries of the United States for an opportunity to be ordered around by a commander two years their junior. As surprising and unusual the choice may appear, my aliyah and enlistment in the IDF is a natural process, a decision made not in spite of those around me, but rooted in the very experiences and values taught by family, friends, Jewish education, and Israel activism. As I arrive in Israel today, I complete a chapter in my life 22 years in the making, fulfilling a dream of thousands of years of Jewish history to return and prosper in our ancestral land, the Land of Israel.

Contributed by CAMERA Fellow at Binghamton University Joshua Seed.

Five Components of Menachem Begin’s Legacy

August 15, 2016

Any Israel advocate or proud Jew will always benefit from learning more about Israeli history, including Israel’s leaders. Education is key to developing one’s own identity and essential for initiating dialogue and discussion with others.

Tomorrow is Israeli Prime Minister Menachem Begin‘s birthday. One of the best ways to celebrate his life is by learning about his legacy. While Begin was controversial to some, he made great contributions to Israel and the existence of the Jewish state. His life can certainly not be confined to a short list, but the main components can be highlighted.

Prime Minister Menachem Begin. Source: britannica.com

Prime Minister Menachem Begin. Source: britannica.com

Preserving cultures calls for each nation to shine

Source: inc.com

Source: inc.com

Begin devoted himself to the Jewish people and the Jewish state, a result of his appreciation for humanity and the rightful place of each culture within it.

As opposed to the now common universalist belief that the world is comprised of one people, diverse and multi-layered, Begin would argue that the earth is filled with many tribes and peoples, each with their own lands and traditions. The idealistic-sounding idea of universalism does not allow for complete diversity–identity is flushed out when all histories are combined into one narrative.

Begin recognized the need for particularism, the idea that each tribe or people has its own respective heritage and set of traditions. Geographical and fundamental separations of different peoples need to be preserved in order to truly respect the nuances of humanity and allow the beauty of each culture to flourish freely.

Israel, not just a practicality for the Jewish people

Menachem Begin sought to establish Israel as a homeland for the Jewish people and emphasized its role of importance for every Jew, regardless of where they live. Israel, Begin felt, is “the beating heart of the Jewish world.” The land itself is the archaeological proof and spiritual foundation of thousands of years of Jewish history. The Jewish people, as Begin believed, is a family not defined and limited by geography.

Israel serves as an absolute necessity for the Jewish people

Children in a concentration camp during the Holocaust.

Children in a concentration camp during the Holocaust.

Begin also recognized the necessity of the Jewish homeland for the Jewish people’s survival. He understood that the Jewish people could become victims again if a strong homeland in Israel was not established. Not to mention the patterns of the Jewish people being persecuted throughout history, current events reflect today’s need for a Jewish homeland in Israel. From terror threats to hatred at the Olympic games, Israel needs to stand strong in the face of hate.

Israel, an active land of defense

'Karakal' infantry female soldier. Source: slate.com

‘Karakal’ infantry female soldier. Source: slate.com

Having a mere homeland is not enough to protect and defend the Jewish people. Begin prioritized security and would take timely action in order to ensure it. During Operation Opera, Begin worked with Israel’s military intelligence as well as the Israeli Air Force to demolish an Iraqi nuclear reactor. The destruction of this reactor squandered Iraq’s potential of harming American and Israeli forces with nuclear warfare in the future.

Today, Israel has the incredible Israel Defense Forces to protect all of Israel’s borders and has great security measures in place to ensure constant safety. Israel’s self-defense systems are incredibly strong because the country is prepared, thinking ahead in order to prevent terror before it plays out.

Israel: a liberal democratic state

On May 8, 2013, Israelis and Palestinians wave flags as Israelis march celebrating Jerusalem Day outside Damascus Gate in Jerusalem's old city. Source: Sebastian Scheiner, AP

On May 8, 2013, Israelis and Palestinians wave flags as Israelis march celebrating Jerusalem Day outside Damascus Gate in Jerusalem’s old city. Source: Sebastian Scheiner, AP

While upholding Jewish tradition and allowing for it a place in Israeli society, Begin believed in tolerance and freedom for all individuals in Israel. Begin was devoted to protecting Jewish heritage but this did not squander his passion for liberal nationalism.

Begin’s legacy of democracy still thrives and flourishes. Israel supports minority rights and helps its inhabitants prosper and live freely.

Contributed by CAMERA Intern Penina Simkovitz.