From the Campus Director’s Desk: CAMERA’s Amazing Student Trip to Israel

July 30, 2013

CAMERA just completed its 7th Annual Student Leadership and Advocacy Mission in Israel. Our CAMERA Fellows, who were chosen to represent CAMERA on campus for the 2012-2013 academic year, participated in the all-expense-paid trip, along with student activists who are members of our CCAP-supported pro-Israel organizations.

Twenty-three Jewish and non-Jewish activists represented universities from across the US and Canada, including UC Berkeley, UC San Diego, Duke University, University of Michigan, CUNY Baruch, CUNY Brooklyn, University of New Orleans, and Concordia University.

Throughout the 10 days, the students met with esteemed professors, government spokesmen, and NGO’s and visited museums that were integral for every Zionist to experience.

From learning about the underground arms factory, The Ayalon Factory, to hearing the story of Israel’s pre-state elite fighting force, The Palmach, to listening to the words of Ben Gurion himself announce the establishment of Israel at Independence Hall, the activists received a sharp and essential history lesson in how the State of Israel came to be.

Declaration of Independence at Independence Hall in Tel Aviv

Declaration of Independence at Independence Hall in Tel Aviv

In between the museums, the students had the pleasure to meet Prime Minister Netanyahu’s Spokesperson, Mark Regev, the Deputy of the National Security Council for foreign policy and international affairs, Eran Lerman, and the Deputy Spokesperson for Israel’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Paul Hirschon, amongst many other influential people.

The presenters answered questions from what are the latest updates coming out of Egypt to Syria to the best practices on presenting this new information on campus. MEMRI staff (Middle East Media Research Institute) provided clips of top Fatah and PA officials declaring anti-Semitic and anti-Israel vitriol to the masses while Khaled Abu Toameh, Jerusalem Post’s Palestinian Affairs Reporter and Analyst, gave a first hand account of what’s it like to work for the PLO and report on Hamas as an Israeli journalist.

CAMERA brought the students to Sderot, to see for themselves the qassam rockets that were shot into southern Israel, aiming to injure, maim, and murder innocent Israelis. Noam Bedein, the Director of the Sderot Media Center, brought the CAMERA group on a special visit to the Erez crossing. There, the students heard from post commanders and learned what passes through the crossing and the daily life of living on the border between Israel and Gaza.

Noam Bedein, Director of the Sderot Media Center holding two drawings made by Israeli children, wishing for peace with their Gazan neighbors.

Noam Bedein, Director of the Sderot Media Center holding two drawings made by Israeli children, wishing for peace with their Gazan neighbors.

The last few days of the trip, CAMERA activists traveled up North to see the different outlooks of Mt. Bental, Gadot, and Misgav Am to receive a deeper understanding of the dangers Israel faced and continues to face with her neighbors.

Hadar Sela, Managing Editor of BBC-Watch, a CAMERA affiliated                        Organization, speaking with the students at her kibbutz, Kfar Haruv.

Hadar Sela, Managing Editor of BBC-Watch, a CAMERA affiliated Organization, speaking with the students at her kibbutz, Kfar Haruv.

One of the most unique activities during the 10-day trip was a visit to Israeli Bedouin Diplomat Ishmael Khaldi’s village, Khawalid. There, Khaldi gave the students his personal story of growing up as a minority in Israel, explained why he is a Zionist and described with us the current work he doing in London to counter the venomous Boycott, Divestment, Sanctions Movement (BDS).

CAMERA Fellows and Activists with Israeli Bedouin Diplomat,  Ishmael Khaldi and family at their village in Khawalid.

CAMERA Fellows and Activists with Israeli Bedouin Diplomat,
Ishmael Khaldi and family at their village in Khawalid.

Throughout the trip, the students discussed amongst themselves and with CAMERA staff their opinions on the lectures and the issues they face on campus. The goal of the this trip was to deepen knowledge of the activists and empower them to feel more confident when returning to campus in the fall. We are humbled to say that we have accomplished our goal!

Testimonials from the trip:

“I don’t think there is any other opportunity that would have afforded me the knowledge and perspective that the CAMERA summer 2013 trip has. Along with the informational museum and city tours, the speakers I listened to day after day were able to, through their experience, passion, and intelligence, intensify my understanding of the Arab-Israeli conflict as well as solidify my quest to seek out and always support the truth.”

Tracey Moskowitz – Michigan State University

“I am grateful that CAMERA provided me the opportunity to see Israel in an entirely different way than ever before. It was incredible to listen to so many well informed speakers and visit various important historic sights. After this trip, I feel more confident than ever in my ability to accurately and confidently defend the State of Israel on my college campus.”

Daniel MaelBrandeis University

 “Working with CAMERA to bring informative speakers to campus and personally study Israel’s challenges provided a lot of information, strategies to be a better pro-Israel advocate, and social connections with other activists at various campuses across the U.S. This combination will serve me well in my future pro-Israel endeavors, and no doubt have a strong ripple effect.”

-Itamar Gnatt – University of Maryland – Baltimore County

Contributed by Aviva Batya Slomich

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