Monthly Archives: December 2014

Happy New Year!

December 31, 2014

Happy (Gregorian) New Year!  We are sending a HUGE Thank You to all of our devoted friends, supporters, and students for your hard work and diligence!  

May your 2015 be bold, beautiful, and bias-free.

With love,

CAMERA on Campus

Happy New Year 2015 Cards 1

Graduate Student at Missouri University Writes Strong Response to Saree Makdisi’s Anti-Israel Lecture

December 30, 2014

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We are so proud of Daniel Swindell, a graduate student at Missouri University, for his Letter To The Editor in response to Saree Makdisi’s lecture at MU titled “The Everyday Occupation of Palestine.” Read Daniel’s piece below:

Editor, the Tribune: I attended the Saree Makdisi lecture at MU titled “The Everyday Occupation of Palestine.” I expected a lecture on security checkpoints and other difficulties, and those were mentioned. But the flier didn’t mention that the lecture would include a denial of the Jewish historical connection to the land and that Makdisi would advocate for the destruction of Israel.

First, the introductory speaker explained the conflict as one between the “Zionist and the indigenous population.” Anyone who has heard of the Bible knows that Jewish nationhood, language and religion all originate in Israel, which means Jews are indigenous to Israel, and a minority has always remained. And, “Zionism is the nationalist movement of Jews.” But this statement means Jews’ movement to regain their nation is in conflict with the “real” indigenous population or that Jews are not indigenous.

Makdisi then advocated for Israel to be removed from the map and replaced by a new binational state. Or, as Makdisi asserted, “all that has to happen is to remove the borders.” Calling for Israel to be replaced with an entirely different binational state is the politically correct way of saying that Israel should be destroyed without sounding violent. Yet, trying to destroy Israel is the reason there has been so much bloodshed. As a Jewish alumnus of MU, words fail to express the moral disappointment of knowing six departments sponsored a man who came to inspire students to work for a world without Israel.

Daniel Swindell

Students Supporting Israel at New Mexico Military Institute Hosts Anat Berko

December 29, 2014

This fall, Students Supporting Israel, the pro-Israel CCAP group at New Mexico Military Institute, organized an event titled A Night With Dr. Berko, which attracted over 100 people, including 87 cadets. Anat Berko, a world-renowned terrorism expert whose research focuses on suicide bombers and their handlers, spoke about the insights she gained about women and children involved in terrorism in Israel and how they apply to the rest of the world. The audience, which comprised a tenth of the entire campus population, remained engaged throughout Berko’s presentation and thoroughly enjoyed learning from someone with a unique firsthand knowledge of the topic.

After the event, Benjamin Fischman, a CCAP representative, reported to CAMERA that “several cadets chose to major in counter-terrorism as a direct result of what they learned from Berko that day.” He further noted that “NMMI usually never has speakers present, so to bring a world-renowned speaker to our small campus energized the Corps of Cadets and created a buzz around campus!”

Below are some photos from Students Supporting Israel’s successful event:

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Anat Berko Collage 4D

Pro-Israel Group At Cornell University Has Strong Fall Semester

December 26, 2014

In the beginning of October, CAMERA Fellow at Cornell University, Reut Baer, hosted Yishai Goldflam, who spoke about media bias against Israel. Both CAMERA and the Cornellians for Israel (CFI) cosponsored Goldflam, who focused his lecture both on general biases, but also specific instances of bias and inaccuracy that happened over the course of this summer.

Screen Shot 2014-12-18 at 5.56.26 PMBaer’s goal was to “impact and educate Cornell students on the media coverage of Israel that can be biased or inaccurate. Additionally, through showing instances of media coverage going wrong, we tried to show how to go about reporting news in an appropriate manner.”

“I had someone let me know that this will convince them to attend future CIPAC events,” Baer stated. Additionally, Baer recalled that students who attended the event said it was extremely informative and delivered in a factual, unbiased manner. 

This fall semester, CFI has hosted Gil Cohen-Magen, a lecture by Dr. Eric R Mandel titled The New Middle East: Challenges of the Twenty First Century, Benji Lovitt, and a talk with Judge Stephen Adler. Our CAMERA Fellow and CFI is on a roll! We look forward to hearing about the great events they will host this spring semester!

Mazal Tov CFI!

 

Merry Christmas!

December 24, 2014

To all of our friends who celebrate, have a very merry Christmas!

With love and light,

CAMERA on Campus Staff

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Witnesses of History: The Meaning of Being Israeli

December 23, 2014

This piece was contributed as part of our Witnesses of History campaign by Amit Boukai, our CCAP Liaison from our CCAP group at University of Indiana, Students Supporting Israel

A few loud booms woke me up from a dream early one morning eight years ago. I was 12 years old, and knew within five seconds that the booms I heard were the first of hundreds of Katyusha missiles that would reach Haifa from Hezbollah terrorists in Southern Lebanon. The war had been declared a couple days before, and as I sat at a Shlomo Artzi concert in the Caesarea Amphitheater one of those nights, I could not take my eyes off the night sky, somehow hoping I would see a rocket fly in and move just in time and save myself.

That morning, as I realized what the booms I heard were, I threw on some normal looking pants, my crocs and sprinted down the stairs to find my grandmother at the stove cooking, and my mom and cousin sitting nonchalantly in the living room. I yelled out to them, “Did you hear the booms?” only to have my grandma respond that it was probably just the navy practicing and not to worry.

The second she finished her sentence the deafening and traumatizing sound of the bomb siren went off and next thing I know it, were downstairs in the building bomb shelter. We knew this day would be coming. When the soldiers were attacked and kidnapped at the Lebanese border the week before, we knew; when Katyusha missiles were flying into Qeryat Shemona and Nahariya nonstop, we knew. We prepared for it, knowing Haifa would be next in a matter of days.

Spent Hamas rocket shells, aimed at Israeli civilians, and collected and catelogued by the Sderot Media Center, 2009. Photo credit Samantha Mandeles

Spent Hamas rocket shells, aimed at Israeli civilians, and collected and catelogued by the Sderot Media Center, 2009. Photo credit Samantha Mandeles

For the rest of that week, my little cousins and I, crammed ourselves into the tiny, mold ridden, bomb shelter, shared with our neighbors from the bottom apartment, whom our family did not get along with. A couple times a day, and a couple times at night, our week consisted of being ready to head downstairs within a minute at the sound of the siren, listening to a small transistor radio. At a certain point when the sirens went off every hour or so at night, we simply took cover in the apartment’s stairs, to a point that my ingenious plan would be to bring a mattress and simply sleep on the stairs. My mom decided at that point she would not make her youngest child, who was raised in America her whole life, endure the further traumatization of rockets and sirens, and we packed up and left the next morning to the Dead Sea in hope of finding a refuge.

When we arrived, the hotels were packed, as it seemed that the whole North of Israel was anywhere south of Haifa. At the Golden Tulip Hotel, where we begged to get the last room, a suite, at a discounted price, you could easily tell who came there on vacation and who was there as a refugee from the indiscriminate missiles falling left and right in the north. We decided to return to the US early that summer, and as I began my 7th grade year, I began my obsession and eagerness to research into what and who Hezbollah is, and why they hate me so much that I deserved to experience immense fear and terror at 12 years of age.

The fall of 2006 marks the period during which I began my quest to understand the Arab-Israeli conflict deeply, and learn what made my country that I loved so dearly, “horrible” to such a point that it warranted terrorism and aggression. What made my people deserve to live a life where our mere existence called for murder by a terrorist aimlessly firing Katyusha missiles, hoping to hit me or the child, men, women or elderly, around me?

This was my first, first-hand experience of war; more specifically, this was my first experience of an asymmetrical war. My naïve and ignorant 12 year old self, who just had her Bat Mitzvah that November, prior; who had spent two weeks earlier that summer, in France on her Bat Mitzvah trip, and who spent a couple days on a cruise to Greece and Turkey, was now adding another experience to her “bucket list”: War. I have known what the word terrorism was since September 11, 2001 and the years after that, when I was not allowed to take any bus while in Israel. I knew what it was and to fear it, but never before that summer of 2006, did I know what it felt like to be under attack by it, then and once again, now. Fast forward 8 years from the moment the Second Lebanon War began, to this past summer where a series of events would lead to, what should simply, in my mind, be called a war, Operation Protective Edge, I found myself under the same threat, terror via rocket fire.

I began this summer on a medical service trip to Etsibeedu, Ghana, a community in the poorest district in the country. I left after ten days with the life changing feelings as expected, and a true change in perspective on life and what’s important, almost forgetting that the country I call home is at a constant state of attempted annihilation by the majority of the region. That was, until news broke about the three missing teenagers in June and there I was, back in the swing of Israel advocacy work, spending the end of June, on a 10 day advocacy trip with CAMERA, only to have it end the morning after those same three teens’ bodies were found, hardly identifiable.

After the CAMERA trip, I returned to my Israeli hometown of Haifa, fueled and ready for what was turning out to be a very tumultuous summer. Riots took over most Arab neighborhoods and villages, from the north through to Jerusalem, where a week prior I had spent almost 10 calm days in, but had now become a hotbed for anti-Israel riots and violence. From Haifa, near the Air Force base Ramat David, we could hear our fighter jets flying out at all hours of the day to strike their Hamas targets, knowing they were protecting the south, Jerusalem and Tel Aviv area from the terrorists who aim and hope only to kill any and all.

As the operation slowly became a full scale military engagement, as Hamas and Islamic Jihad became relentless and terror tunnels were discovered opening up deep into the region surrounding the Gaza Strip; in Haifa, we felt safe, too far north for the terrorists to reach us as hard as they tried. One weary night, they almost succeeded. More so, they did succeed, they succeeded in terrorizing the civilians of Haifa. The Christians, Muslims, Baha’i and Jewish residents, were all awoken at 3:30AM one lovely night, by the same traumatizing siren wail I first heard eight summers prior; the same siren wail that eight years ago, made me incapable of listening to Beyoncé’s Ring the Alarm hit from late 2006, for quite a while, as it used the exact same siren wail.

Once again, as I sprinted down the four flights of stairs to the bomb shelter in my mom’s apartment building and I stood there with only one other family, I asked myself, what did the three young girls holding on to their parents’ pajamas do that they deserve to hear their first traumatizing siren, a warning of an imminent threat to their lives? That night, as my heart rate returned to normal and I returned to my apartment, I posted the following on my Facebook. I posted it not only as an Israel Advocate but as a repeated victim of an asymmetrical war, as an Israeli-American who is 20 years old now, more aware and knowledgeable of the ideology, the reasoning and the hate behind each M-302 Iranian made rocket that was fired towards Haifa.

***

The siren that just woke me up at 3:30am wasn’t a siren for a small Katuysha or Qassam as they were such an indication for my 12 year old self in 2006.

It was a siren for a 6 meter tall M-302 Iranian Warhead aimed indiscriminately at a city that is half Israeli Jewish, Half Israeli Arab populated, coexisting peacefully for more than a century, along with two Arab Druze villages just a bit south atop the Carmel mountains, unprotected as well.

These girls in the picture below, are my neighbors in the building, I’ve never met. Only two other families of 8, came down to the bomb shelter. These girls, too young to remember or just may not have been alive in 2006, are not used to this war with terror as unfortunately, our fellow citizens of the south are. Tonight they heard their first traumatizing siren, as I heard mine in 2006.

This time, my heart pounds and I’m sweating more than in 2006. I was a naive child then, not aware of the real danger behind the sirens and behind the enemy lines with an aim to kill me. Not anyone specific but me. Then, I began my role as a young Israel advocate, today, I stand with all the training I have and knowledge and exposure, I should be evermore scared. Knowledge is power, and sometimes knowledge can bring about fear, for knowing exactly what it is that threatens your life is more terrifying than living in ignorance.

Thus, just as in 2006, I gained a perspective and passion to fight against those who simply want to destroy these beautiful girls below simply for being Jewish and Israeli, and thus I strongly stand with Israel; for I should never have to be scared in a western,democratic state where I feel I have the same rights as I do in the US. I should never be scared in the land where my family emigrated back to after pogroms around the world 100 years ago and legally bought lands at the top of the Haifan Carmel Mountains. I should never be scared in the land I know the foundation of our three world religions began, nor in the land where King David beat Goliath and later built his kingdom and his sons thereafter. I am not be afraid because we are a strong people.

Although this summer only one siren wailed through the streets of Haifa, the feeling of unease and war did not end there. When I spent two weeks in Jerusalem teaching a Magen David Adom Overseas Course, I took a day off to attend the funeral of Sergeant Max Steinberg, a lone soldier from Los Angeles who was killed in Gaza and laid to rest on Mount Herzl. I, along with about 40,000 more Israelis, old and young, crammed ourselves as close as possible on the hill, to pay our respects to the Steinberg family and to honor Max for defending a country he only came to experience the year or so before on his Birthright trip. What was astonishing and heartbreaking was that it was his parent’s first time in Israel; the death of their son, who died for a country that is as much his, as it is mine, brought them there, to Mt. Herzl.

Those couple hours, brought me to a point I had never reached when I was a twelve year old fleeing Haifa, or when I was the 20 year old running down to shelter earlier that month. I had reached a point where I witnessed the moral in-equivalence between the two sides, because I knew the reality of the meaning of death in this war and conflict. I knew that while 40,000 strangers came together to mourn the death of one young man, who gave his life for a country that did not raise him, those whose ideology and blind hate that perpetuates murder and terrorism in their society, were most likely celebrating and calling Max Steinberg’s death, a victory. I knew that singing “Kumbaya” cannot be enough and that pleas for a truce or peace would not suffice. This conflict isn’t driven by land, borders, or settlements as it is made to seem. It is driven deeper and deeper into the dirt and mud by the continuous incitement to murderously hate the mere idea of me, my six year old cousin, my seventy six year old grandmother, and all other Jews.

Max Steinberg wasn’t just killed for being a soldier in an asymmetrical war, he was killed for being a Jew; just as the three kidnapped teenage boys were brutally murdered for simply being Jews; just as I was not targeted by a Katyusha missile at 12 years old for anything other than being an Israeli Jew; certainly the M-302 Iranian-made missile Hamas smuggled in through Egyptian border tunnels, did not target me now, at 20 years old, for any other reason than being an Israeli Jew; nor did the Bedouin Arab man killed in the south by a rocket attack die for any other reason than, those who shot the rocket, hoped it would hit a Jew. This incitement to hate and kill for an ideology that is backwards, and goes against all that the people of Israel, the people of democracies believe in, must end. In Israel there has been always a saying by our parents to us when we’re young, “When you will be 18, you won’t have to go to the army since there will be no need, there will be peace.” Israelis hope and pray for peace. We protect our children from terror, not educate them to perpetuate it. If I could, I would go back and not let my 12 year old self not go through my first war; but then again, would I really be Israeli if I hadn’t?

Please check our page for more posts from our Witnesses of History. If you have an experience you want to share, please contact CAMERA on Campus and submit your story!

Harvard University’s SodaStream Situation

December 22, 2014

Last week, Harvard University’s dining services apparently decided to stop stocking SodaStream, due to some agitation against the company by College Palestine Solidarity Committee and the Harvard Islamic Society.

Professor Alan Dershowitz set the record straight, as usual, with a timely op-ed in the Harvard Crimson, reproduced in full below.

I write to commend President Faust’s decision to investigate the unilateral action of the Harvard University Dining Services to boycott SodaStream products.

I have visited the SodaStream factory and spoken to many of its Palestinian-Arab employees, who love working for a company that pays them high wages and provides excellent working conditions. I saw Jews and Muslims, Israeli and Palestinians, working together and producing an excellent product that is both healthy and economical.

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Soda Sream machine

The SodaStream factory I visited was in Ma’ale Adumim—a suburb of Jerusalem that Palestinian Authority leaders acknowledge will remain part of Israel in any negotiated resolution of the conflict. I was told this directly by Palestinian president Mohammad Abbas and by former Prime Minister Salam Fayyad.

Accordingly, although the factory is in an area beyond the Armistice lines of 1949, it is not really disputed territory. Nor does it pose any barrier to a two-state solution. Moreover, Israel offered to resolve its conflict with the Palestinians in late 2000 and early 2001 and in2008, but the Palestinian Authority did not accept either offer. Had these generous offers been accepted, the dispute would have ended and Ma’ale Adumim would have been recognized as part of Israel. So the Palestinian leadership shares responsibility for the continuation of the conflict and the unresolved status of the area in which SodaStream operates. Punishing only Israel—and Israeli companies—for not resolving the conflict serves only to disincentivize the Palestinian Authority from accepting compromise solutions.

The students who sought the boycott of SodaStream invoked human rights. But it is they who are causing the firing of more than 500 Palestinian workers who would like to continue to earn a living at SodaStream. As a result of misguided boycotts, such as the one unilaterally adopted by the Harvard University Dining Services, SodaStream has been forced to move its factory to an area in Israel where few, if any, Arabs can be employed. This is not a victory for human rights. It is a victory for human wrongs.

I have no doubt that some students and other members of the Harvard community may be offended by the presence of SodaStream machines. Let them show their displeasure by not using the machines instead of preventing others who are not offended from obtaining their health benefits. Many students are also offended by their removal. Why should the views of the former prevail over those of the latter? I’m sure that some students are offended by any products made in Israel, just as some are offended by products made in Arab or Muslim countries that oppress gays, Christians and women. Why should the Harvard University Dining Service—or a few handfuls of students— get to decide whose feelings of being offended count and whose don’t?

In addition to the substantive error made by HUDS, there is also an important issue of process. What right does a Harvard University entity have to join the boycott movement against Israel without full and open discussion by the entire university community, including students, faculty, alumni and administration? Even the president and provost were unaware of this divisive decision until they read about it in the Crimson. As Provost Alan M. Garber ’76 wrote, “Harvard University’s procurement decisions should not and will not be driven by individuals’ views of highly contested matters of political controversy.”

Were those who made the boycott decision even aware of the arguments on the other side, such as those listed above? The decision of the HUDS must be rescinded immediately and a process should be instituted for discussing this issue openly with all points of view and all members of the university community represented. The end result should be freedom of choice: those who disapprove of SodaStream should be free to drink Pepsi. But those who don’t disapprove should be free to drink SodaStream.

Alan M. Dershowitz is Felix Frankfurter Professor of Law, Emeritus, at Harvard Law School.

Read more here:
Misguided SodaStream Protestors at American University

SodaStream Raffle Winner Announced

SodaStream and CAMERA in Tacoma!

CAMERA Launches New New York Times Billboard!

December 19, 2014

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Near 10th Ave. and West 36th St. in Manhattan, a new CAMERA billboard criticizing the Israel coverage of The New York Times. Credit: JNS.com

Today, CAMERA launches another in a series of billboards that put the spotlight on the New York Times for their biased coverage of Israel!  Check our our press release, published in JNS.com, and reproduced in full below!

A series of new billboards in New York City calls out The New York Times for what a media watchdog group says is persistent anti-Israel bias in the newspaper’s reporting.

Five new billboards from the Committee for Accuraccamera new nyt billboardy in Middle East Reporting in America (CAMERA) will join an existing CAMERA billboard opposite the headquarters of The New York Times in midtown Manhattan. The midtown billboard reads, “The New York Times Against Israel—All Rant, All Slant, All The Time. Stop The Bias!” The other billboards can be found near the intersection of 10th Ave. and 36th St., at the entrance to the Lincoln Tunnel, and on expressways.

“We are expanding our effort to let the public know, beginning with the newspaper-reading public in New York City, that The Times persists—[and] has even doubled-down—in its long-standing pattern of prejudiced reporting and editorializing when it comes to Israel,” said Andrea Levin, CAMERA’s executive director.

In November, CAMERA called out the “passive language” in an initial New York Times headline on the Palestinian terror attack on a synagogue in Jerusalem. The headline stated, “Four Killed in Jerusalem Synagogue Complex,” without any mention of terrorism. CAMERA also noted that the newspaper, when reporting on Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas’s condemnation of the synagogue attack, omitted any reference of Abbas’s repeated incitement to violence—such as a condolence letter Abbas wrote to the family of the late Palestinian terrorist who attempted to murder Temple Mount activist Yehuda Glick.

On Dec. 10, The Times’s choice of columnist to analyze the controversy surrounding an Israeli bill to formalize the country’s status as a “Jewish state” was pro-Hamas activist Max Blumenthal, the creator of a Twitter hashtag (#JSIL) equating Israel with the Islamic state terror group.

Over the summer, CAMERA used its midtown Manhattan billboard to call out biased reporting on the Gaza war between Israel and Hamas, stating, “Hamas attacks Israel: Not surprising. The New York Times attacks Israel: Also not surprising.”  nyt.billboard2

Levin noted that the billboards are a quick and high-impact way of reminding viewers of “journalistic malpractice” concerning Israel and that CAMERA’s focus on the New York Times’s coverage enjoys “enthusiastic support from the organization’s members and supporters.”

“If The Times imagines it can escape scrutiny, it’s quite mistaken. As long as The Times keeps lying about Israel, we’ll keep telling the truth about them,” she said.

The Quest to Alienate Zionists on Campus

December 18, 2014

star-swastika-fbEver seen or heard Zionist students admit that they no longer feel safe on campus? Wonder how big of a problem anti-Israel intimidation really is? Have censorship and boycott of Jews really appeared in Western academic institutions? Read on to find out…

Today, the folks over at Spiked published a piece on their affiliate website, FreeSpeechNOW!, identifying the problem across the pond, in England. Students at Kings College, London report that they no longer feel safe enough on campus to proudly wear Jewish symbols, and events featuring pro-Israel speakers are stifled, silenced, or shut-down for making anti-Israel students feel “unsafe.”

Yet, shouldn’t college campuses encourage spirited debate between different points of view? Why are only pro-Israel speakers targeted with this kind of opprobrium?  Find out below.

The rage against pro-Israel students exposes the farce that student politics descends into when intolerance seeps in. While keffiyeh-waving campus politicos may feel they’re helping the Palestinian cause by shouting down the other side, actually such intolerant behaviour devalues their position. By refusing to argue, to pit their ideas against those of the opposition, they display weakness, not strength. Elliot Miller, president of University College London’s Jewish Society, tells me of his ceaseless attempts to get his pro-Palestinian peers to share a platform. In the end, his society posted an open letter to UCL’s Friends of Palestine Society, pleading for a chance ‘for students at UCL to hear both sides of the debate on an equal and civil platform, from which they can form their own opinions’. As yet, they’ve had no response.

These students’ experiences of being shouted down or shut up are repeated on campuses across Britain, and increasingly in other Western countries, too. Zionist speakers are no-platformed or booed off campus, while both students and academics agitate for their universities to have nothing to do with Israeli universities or thinkers. The end result is a climate of intolerance around the issue of Israel, making students who are pro-Israel, or who are in Jewish societies sympathetic to Israel, feel that it is a risk to express themselves and hold public debates.

One of the most pernicious ways in which pro-Israel sentiment is shut down is through the branding of it as ‘offensive’ or ‘distressing’ to the student body. SUs and others are now obsessed with keeping students ‘safe’ – by which they mean safe from certain ideas. Safe Space policies, now on statute at students’ unions across the UK, mandate, to quote one example, that the university should be ‘free from intimidation or judgement’; students, it says, should ‘feel comfortable, safe and able to get involved in all aspects of the organisation’. The message here is clear: debate is dangerous, and students shouldn’t be challenged.

Check out the rest of the piece, published here.

Witnesses of History: Marta

December 17, 2014

This piece was submitted by CAMERA 2014 Israel Trip participant, Marta Slobodyanyuk, as part of our Witnesses of History campaign.  Marta is a student activist with CAMERA’s CCAP group at the University of Minnesota, Students Supporting Israel.welcome home

The plane readied itself for arrival. I remember that feeling in my stomach. It was the feeling you get when you are nervous, because you don’t know what to expect, but it is also that feeling you get when you can no longer hold in your excitement. I knew that I was about to land into the place that I already love, but I’ve yet to explore. This would be my first experience here and the only thing that I could think to myself is that I already don’t want to leave. As I got off of the plane I immediately saw the 15 letters written in bright blue, right below the ceiling, “Welcome to Israel.” Suddenly, a blanket of goose bumps covered my whole body, and I felt that I’m home.

This was my highest point in Israel, because I finally experienced the true feeling of what it means to be at home.  Throughout the following six weeks of my stay in Israel, I truly experienced an adventure of a lifetime. Once my first trip had completed, my heart was full of love and happiness. I had never felt such emotions before and never knew that I had the ability to, but Israel just does that to you.

Like any other of my days in Israel, I woke up, had some coffee, and turned on the news, but this day was different. All of a sudden there was breaking news that the night before three boys had been kidnapped and that the acts were most likely done by Hamas. This was the third time I had experienced a full body goose bumps effect and they weren’t the good kind. I couldn’t believe what was happening. I immediately thought to myself that this cannot be true, that this isn’t true, and that if this is true, are the boys going to be okay. Instantly, the campaign of “Bring Back Our Boys” had launched, and the search was on. The only thing I could really feel during all of this, was that if felt as if they were my family. Every day I would have the same morning routine to check if the boys had been found. Eventually, the CAMERA Israel trip had begun. We were learning, exploring, having fun, and most importantly, getting the Israel experience. On the second to last night, we were on our way to an extravagant meal when all of a sudden breaking news had filled the bus speakers and in Hebrew a reporter had said, “New reports about the boys and their whereabouts in thirty minutes.” Our whole bus had gotten quiet. We didn’t know whether to be optimistic or begin to mourn. As we entered the restaurant, somber silence occupied the room as the news was on a television right next to our tables. Although I couldn’t exactly read what was on the screen, I had understood that the boys have been found, and that they were not alive.

Instantly, a breath taking emotion filled my heart and mind. Not the kind of breath taking when you are standing at the top of Masada, but the kind that literally makes it hard for you to breathe. Tears were filling my eyes and nausea was overtaking my body. I felt as if I had just lost three brothers that I never knew. I went outside of the restaurant and couldn’t help but see the huge Israeli flag waving in the brisk wind through the silent country. I could feel the country go into mourning right in that moment, but the flag kept strong and wouldn’t let down.  I don’t know if this was a sign or just a coincidence, but to this day I almost felt as if Eyal, Naftali, and Gil-ad were there, looking over us and letting us know that everything will be okay.

On our last day of the CAMERA trip, we were to visit Tzfat, Herziliya, and then to the Ben Gurion Airport. The mood was dull all day, and I was occupied with anxiety.  It was as if you could almost feel the tension in the country, and at that point, I understood that there is no turning back and Israel will send a message to Hamas.

Getting back to America was very tough. My plane ride back was filled of nothing but loneliness and sadness. I felt as if I had left a part of myself back in Israel and that I will never get it back because that is where it is meant to be. Once I got back to America, already on the news were reports about rockets flying into southern Israel from Gaza, and speculations of what the strong, indestructible; nation of Israel will do in reaction. From past experiences, I already knew what would happen, but I didn’t imagine for ‘Operation Defensive Edge’ to be so long and exhausting for the people of Israel and the supporters of Israel. Not only did we end up losing three young boys, but we also had to suffer the loss of young and heroic IDF soldiers.

To experience so much emotion while in Israel, I fell in love with the nation and its people. I feel like I was not only a witness of history, but I really witnessed what it was like to be part of a community that truly cares about one another. I strongly believe that you cannot experience that connection in any other country in the world. People care for, love, and treat one another like family. People don’t take life for granted in Israel, and I think that is a lesson to be learned for all people throughout the world. I witnessed a nation that puts others before themselves and it truly gives me hope that one day the whole nation of Israel will have harmony or as they say in Hebrew, ‘Tikkun Olam.’

Please check our page for more posts from our Witnesses of History. If you have an experience you want to share, please contact CAMERA on Campus and submit your story!