Tag Archives: jerusalem

Israel Festivals Hit Campuses Across the Country

At the end of the spring semester, universities across the country celebrated Israeli Independence Day by hosting events that showcased Israel’s diverse culture.

CAMERA-supported group Friends of Israel at Rockland Community College held a barbecue in the middle of their campus grounds. There was a professional henna artist and ongoing games. Students were engaged in discussions to learn more about the meaning of the day and the importance of Israel as a Jewish and democratic state.

Attendees at Friends of Israel RCC’s event.

CAMERA-supported group Israel Student Association at Queens College created a similar event, but they set up tables around the quad featuring different cities in Israel. There was falafel and schwarma, a technology showcase, and even a camel to take selfies with.

Students at Queens College take a selfie with the guest camel behind them.

There was also a camel at MIT, where CAMERA-supported group MIT Friends of Israel had a carnival. With food trucks, cotton candy, photo booths and airbrush tattoos, the event was a huge success. Students made hummus from scratch, and several Israel related organizations had informational tables for students interested in learning more about internships and Birthright.

At Brooklyn College, where one of the most hotly debated subjects is Israel, CAMERA-supported group Bulldogs for Israel at Brooklyn College closed down the street of a busy intersection and the Israel Independence Day Committee planned an event to attract large crowds. Music, food, and booths with activities lured in students.

Students at Brookyln College celebrate Israel

At the bioengineering booth, students potted and decorated cherry tomato plants and learned about Israel’s innovations. Tamid, an Israel business club, had guests make their own beverages with soda stream, and AEPI ran a pitching booth to teach participants about Israel’s victories in the world baseball classic. In order to increase traffic to their Facebook page, a green screen was set up where students could be photo shopped into pictures with Israeli celebrities, and they then had to like the page and wait until the pictures were posted.

CAMERA-supported groups Huskies for Israel at UConn and Emory Students for Israel had similar approaches, with stations set up at both campuses to celebrate the many cities of Israel. At Emory, students could decorate hamsas in Haifa with Hebrew students, and eat classic snacks at the shuk with the Meor group. In Jerusalem, the Arab Culture Association talked to students about Arab history in the area, while students could stick notes in the Western Wall. In the Negev, students tried Bedouin tea and relaxed in a tent. And of course, in Tel Aviv, people partied with a DJ on a fake beach. Participants were given a Rav-Kav (Israeli bus pass) that was stamped at each station they visited, and when they traveled to enough places they were rewarded with free falafel or a t-shirt.

All of these events proved to be hugely successful, attracting many new club members and spreading awareness about the vast technology, diverse people, and incredible cities Israel has to offer. Educational and fun, the activities allowed students to enjoy food, music, and Israel education in a relaxed setting.

New Business District in Jerusalem

When you think of business, high-tech, and medicine within Israel, you think of Tel Aviv, and when you think of Jerusalem you think of culture, tourism and religion. Well the Jerusalem Municipality is trying to change all that, and the wheels are most certainly already in motion.

How the new Jerusalem business district will look (Dagan Advanced Visual Solutions)

High-tech and start-ups are booming in the Israeli capital. Over the past two years, Jerusalem has gone from 14,000 to 18,000 employees in these fields. Jerusalem is home to companies such as Mobileye which now has a total of 700 employees in Jerusalem. Jerusalem is now considered as one of the world’s fastest-growing cities in high tech.

To compensate demand, the Jerusalem Municipality is building one of the largest infrastructure projects the city has ever seen, a new business district at the entrance to the city. The new business district, starting from the Chords Bridge and right up to Ben Zvi Boulevard, will contain a staggering 24 buildings including 14 skyscrapers of at least 24 floors each and nine buildings with 36 floors.

Included in the new business district is the newly renovated International Convention Center, which is largest convention center in the Middle East. The new business district will also feature the largest integrated transportation hub in Israel, including a high-speed train to Tel Aviv which will take just 28 minutes, two light-rail lines connecting it with the rest of Jerusalem, as well as the Jerusalem Central Bus Station.

How a street in the new Jerusalem business district will look (Dagan Advanced Visual Solutions)

The new business district will create over 40,000 jobs, and when complete will be the most prominent business district in the country, even more so than the Azrieli Center in Tel Aviv.

Though there is still a long way to go until completion, Jerusalem is slowly starting to diversify into a city incredibly attractive for young professionals.

Contributed by Daniel Kosky, CAMERA Intern.

16 Years Ago, Hamas Murdered 13 Israelis at a Pizzeria

Sixteen years ago, Israel suffered what would be one of the most well-known terror attacks to hit Jerusalem, the Sbarro suicide bombing. The bombing was one of the most striking attacks of the Second Intifada, and still haunts Jerusalemites.

The bombing took place in Sbarro, a fast-food Pizza chain. Its restaurant was located on the corner of King George Street and Jaffa Road, one of the busiest intersections in the center of Jerusalem.

The aftermath of the 2001 Sbarro Suicide Bombing (Wiki Commons)

A suicide bomber, Izz al-Din Shuheil al-Masri, acting on behalf of Hamas, walked into the restaurant at 2pm, when it was filled with customers, including women and children, and blew himself up. The blast killed 13, all civilians, and wounded 130. Among the dead were eight children and a pregnant American woman.

The bomber received help from fellow Palestinian Ahlam Tamimi who picked the target. She was later arrested and sent to prison. During her time in prison she was interviewed by a journalist, and when he informed her of the number of children killed in the attack, she smiled. Tamimi was released from prison in 2011 and sent to Jordan as part of the prisoner exchange with Hamas for IDF soldier Gilad Shalit, but the US is now seeking her extradition.

Mordechai and Tzira Schijveschuurder, both children of Holocaust survivors were killed in the attack along with three of their children. Two other daughters, Leah, 11, and Chaya, 8, were critically injured. Chaya gave her testimony to The Guardian.

“We were hungry, so Mommy said we could go to a restaurant to eat. In that restaurant, you have to pay first and only afterwards you sit down to eat. When we were at the cash register, we suddenly heard an explosion. I ran out as fast as I could. I didn’t look at anything. I just ran out. A medic, I don’t know his name, took me to an ambulance and that is where I saw Avraham Yitzhak (her brother) for the last time.

I said to him, ‘Avraham Yitzhak!’ but he didn’t say anything. After that they took me on a stretcher to the hospital, and I had to have an operation to remove the screws that entered my liver and leg. I saw a sign on the door that said ‘Operating Room’ and started to cry. After that I didn’t see anything.

In my house, they are sitting ‘shiva’ right now. My brothers came here with their torn shirts. I asked them ‘Why are your shirts torn?’ but they didn’t want to tell me that my parents were dead. My brothers were not with us in the restaurant. They found me first. After that, they found out that my sister and my brother were dead.”

The bombing of the Sbarro pizza chain in Jerusalem was just one of many that Israel faced during the Second Intifada, a wave of Palestinian terrorism which murdered over 1,000 Israelis from 2000-2005.

Contributed by Daniel Kosky, CAMERA Intern. 

British Policeman Honored For Thwarting Attack in Israel

A British policeman is being honored by the UK Police Federation with a bravery award for putting his life at risk to intervene in an attack in Jerusalem.

British policeman Richard Burgess was on a pilgrimage to Israel in Feburary 2016. During his time in Jerusalem, he was visiting the grave of Oskar Schindler on Mount Zion, who saved thousands of Jews during the Holocaust. Just before leaving, a woman came up to Burgess and asked him to “please help them, please help them”. He followed the alarmed woman to a nearby alley, where he saw three Arab men beating and dragging what he believed to be a Jewish man.

Hero: Detective Sergeant Richard Burgess (Police Oracle)

According to the UK Police Federation, Burgess “ran at the group, ‘clotheslining’ one of the men, and holding him in a headlock under his right arm. This despite a recent injury, meaning his right hand was not fully functional. With his left hand, he pulled at the Jewish man, freeing him and yelling at him to run. Two other members of the tour [who happened to be off-duty Metropolitan Police officers] arrived to help the man to safety.”

After freeing the Jewish man, the three Arab men started attacking Burgess, who was hit with a claw hammer in the head. Despite being heavily dazed, Burgess managed to get away. Israeli Police have since arrested two suspects they believe to have been involved in the attack, and were convicted of assault.

Richard Burgess showed incredible courage and bravery to intervene and potentially save the life of the Jewish man being attacked. He put his own life at risk to save the life of another in a foreign country, when many would simply run away. As Steve Taylor, chairman of Essex Police Federation said, “he is truly deserving of this nomination.”

Contributed by Daniel Kosky, CAMERA Intern. 

Israel Hosts A Record Breaking 20th Maccabiah Games

Israel is playing host to the 20th Maccabiah Games this month. The Maccabiah Games is an international Jewish multi-sport event often dubbed ‘the Jewish Olympics’. The event brings together thousands of athletes representing many different countries. The event, first started in 1932, takes place every four years, one year after the Olympic Games.

The 2017 Maccabiah Games is special, with a record 85 countries competing and 45 sports on offer. Countries competing for the first time include the Bahamas, the Philippines, South Korea, Malta and Morocco. The number of athletes exceed 10,000, making it the third largest sporting competition in the world behind the Olympics and the FIFA World Cup.

The Opening Ceremony was hosted at the Teddy Stadium in Jerusalem, and it was far from dull. It was attended by Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Israeli President Reuvin Rivlin, who both gave speeches. There were even surprise addresses via the big screen from both British Prime Minister Theresa May, and Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau.

Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu and President Rivlin at the Opening Ceremony (Flash 90)

The Opening Ceremony also featured an impromptu proposal by Canadian athlete Avi Steinberg to his girlfriend Rachel. After she accepted, hosts of the opening ceremony pulled out a wedding gown and chuppah, and the couple’s rabbi, Avi Poupko, officiated a wedding ceremony in front of the entire stadium!

The first Maccabiah Games took place around the time of Adolf Hitler coming to power in Germany, and was played against the wish of the British rulers in pre-state Israel. In contrast, the 20th Maccabiah is the third largest sporting event in the world, and it is taking place in Jerusalem, the capital of the Jewish state. The Maccabiah Games can be seen as a showcase of the remarkable rise in the fate of the Jewish people.

Contributed by Daniel Kosky, CAMERA Intern

“I treated the injured soldier, while in the background they were still searching for more terrorists!”

Paramedic Muhammed Abd Elrhaman arrived at the scene of the terror attack by Damascus Gate and immediately ran to treat the injured soldier, Sergeant Hadas Malka, while reports in the background spoke of more attackers. Muhammed furiously fought to save her life and even stayed by her hospital bed during her final moment. Today he shared his feelings with us. 

The Friday peace was shattered by the voice of the Dispatch Officer in Magen David Adom’s (MDA) 101 Dispatch Center relaying a call about a stabbing by Damascus Gate in Jerusalem. Seconds earlier, three terrorists attacked a Border Police force that was on patrol in the area. One of the terrorists, only 18 years old, stabbed Hadas Malka and critically injured her, however the soldier didn’t give up and fought back for some time. Other members of her unit saw what was happening, shot and neutralized the terrorist, and then immediately called MDA.

Hadas Malka (23), Israeli Border Policewoman murdered in Damascus Gate terror attack (Courtesy)

Muhammed Abd Elrhaman, an experienced Paramedic from MDA’s Jerusalem station who has already witnessed many terror attacks during his years of service, immediately understood that this was a serious incident. Abd Elrhaman explained “I was on a MICU (Mobile Intensive Care Unit) shift in Pisgat Zeev and when we reached Begin Junction, only a minute away from the attack, we received a report over the radio from MDA Jerusalem that the Israel Police were requesting an ambulance after they saw on security cameras that someone had stabbed a soldier and that they are now lying on the floor. At first we didn’t realize that it was a female soldier. Noa Tiram, the Dispatch Officer, immediately sent an ambulance to assess the scene. No more than 20 seconds later it became evident that this was a terror attack, potentially still ongoing, and I called up and volunteered for the call as we were very nearby.

We headed straight to the scene and heard over the radio that it was a developing incident but we were still uncertain as to its nature. At first the suspicion was of a criminal act rather than a terror one. However, seconds later, there was a report that it was terrorism that we had to take special precautions and don protective gear, to team up with the Police, and instruct the youth volunteers to remain on the ambulances. I realized that we would be first on scene and reported so to the Dispatch Center, knowing that there were another five ambulances behind me.”

Hadas was bleeding and unconscious

Treating Hadas reminded Muhammed of previous terror attacks at Damascus Gate, when other critically injured were brought to him. Muhammed said “When I arrived at the scene a regular ambulance reported that he was already transferring a seriously injured patient towards Hadassa Har Hatzofim Hospital. I decided that we would meet him at Damascus Gate by the scene of the attack so that we could treat the patient with drugs and advanced life saving capabilities. When we opened the ambulance door we saw the 23-year-old victim, a female Border Police soldier in combat gear and stab vest. She was unconscious. 

During the primary assessment I noticed stab wounds to her upper body and massive bleeding. I realized that I was fighting the clock and began some intensive treatment.”

MDA arrive on the scene of the terror attack at Damascus Gate (Times of Israel)

During your treatment at the scene, there were reports of other terrorists. Were you scared?

“When I’m dealing with such a critically injured patient, I concentrate only on her – not on the radio. I didn’t hear the warning about further terrorists, and it wouldn’t have made any difference to me because I had to treat her. At the time I was just with her. I undertook a surgical procedure in the field to release air from her chest cavity and treated her other wounds to try to prevent further blood loss.

I told my crew to begin resuscitation attempts, physically performing chest compressions. One volunteer leaned on the wound in her neck to try to stem the bleeding, a second volunteer performed the compressions and I intubated her and started an IV line in her neck to try to stabilize her situation.

Within only 7 minutes we provided most of the treatment at the scene using advanced surgical techniques, ventilated her, gave her drugs and transported her to hospital.”

Muhammed Abd Elrhaman (MDA)

We hoped so much that she would pull through

The crew arrived at hospital with Hadas and immediately went into the trauma room. Muhammed’s crew joined the doctors who fought for her life and he treated her up until her last moments. Abd Elrhaman said “There were a few optimistic moments when we arrived at the hospital and took her to the trauma room, but the optimism was short-lived as her situation worsened and she was classified in a critical condition.

We carried on doing chest compressions, she was given more blood and more drugs, but eventually, about an hour after she reached hospital, she was pronounced dead. We fought for her life – all of us. MDA crews and hospital teams. The moment her death was pronounced was a very difficult one for us all.”

Muhammed’s crew was kept at hospital until after Hadas’s family was informed that she had died. Muhammed said “We sat there and waited. Only after it was all over and we’d been allowed to leave the hospital did I hear on the news that there were actually two scenes and three terrorists who went on a shooting and stabbing spree. That’s when we really understood the magnitude of the situation.”

Today, three days after the event, Muhammed explained “We enter active scenes and treat victims while in danger on so many occasions. We act during those times through a feeling that we have a mission to complete, and with only one thought on our minds – to save the victims. We don’t think about what might happen later or what might happen to us. Each time that we see the scene of a terror attack we run in, when logic dictates to run away to survive. But this is who we are, this is what we know, and this is what we must do.”

Contributed by Magen David Adom

Israel Border Policewoman Hadas Malka Murdered in Damascus Gate Terror Attack

Security has been increased at the Damascus Gate, one of the entrances to Jerusalem’s Old City, following the Palestinian terror attack where 23-year-old Israeli Border Policewoman Hadas Malka was murdered on Friday night.

Malka was murdered and four others were injured when two Palestinian terrorists opened fire on policemen near the Damascus Gate. Simultaneously, a third Palestinian attacker stabbed Malka several times critically wounding her. She was rushed to hospital but died of her wounds.

Hadas Malka (23), Israeli Border Policewoman murdered in Damascus Gate terror attack (Courtesy)

All three terrorists were shot and killed by police. Following the attack, ISIS claimed responsibility. However, Hamas has disputed this claim saying they were responsible, denying the link to ISIS. The attack was praised by Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas’s Fatah Party. Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has since called on the Palestinian Authority to condemn the attack and has demanded it stop paying money to the murderers’ families during a cabinet meeting on Sunday.

Israel has issued numerous responses since the terror attack aimed at thwarting any future attacks in Jerusalem. Benjamin Netanyahu revoked the entry permits into Israel of hundreds of thousands of Palestinians issued during Ramadan.

Knife used in attack (Israel Police)

Netanyahu has also discussed with police and defense officials about turning Damascus Gate into a ‘sterile area’, meaning the area is closed to civilians. However the plan is still in the very early stages and details have not been disclosed.

Damascus Gate has been the site of dozens of terror attacks since the beginning of the terror wave which started in 2015, composing of 177 stabbing attacks, 117 attempted stabbings, 144 shootings, 58 vehicular (ramming) attacks; and one vehicular (bus) bombing. The wave of terror has claimed the lives of 42 Israelis and numerous foreign nationals, including two Americans and a British student.

Weapon used by Palestinian terrorists in attack at Damascus Gate (Channel 2)

Hadas Malka was buried at a military cemetery in the southern Israeli city of Ashdod, with hundreds of people turning up to pay their respects. After the funeral, Prime Minister Netanyahu and his wife Sara visited Malka’s family to express their condolences.

PM Netanyahu and his wife Sara visits family of Hadas Malka (GPO)

Contributed by Daniel Kosky, CAMERA Intern

The Boundless Anti-Israel Hatred of AJ+

Aron White, CAMERA intern

The fact that AJ+, the social media wing of Al Jazeera, is vehemently anti-Israel, is not really surprising. But even by their standards, AJ+ managed to stoop to a new low this week, by using the murders of four Israelis in a terrorist attack, to demonize the Jewish state even further.

On Sunday, a Palestinian man killed four soldiers and injured seventeen more, in a truck ramming attack reminiscent of those that have taken place in Nice and Berlin. The soldiers, all in their twenties, all leave behind mourning families, grappling with the loss of their children in the prime of their lives. Illustrating the volume of Israeli lives lost to terror, Shira, one of the soldiers killed, was the three-hundredth graduate of her school to have been killed in the conflict.

Yael Yekutiel, Shira Tzur, Shir Hajaj and Erez Orbach – the four Israelis killed in Sunday’s attack.

But when cities around Europe joined in marking Israel’s suffering, AJ+ responded in anger, upset at the fact that Israel was being shown sympathy. Paris, Berlin and Rotterdam all flew the Israeli flag on public buildings, to show unity with the people of Israel, in a moral gesture of sympathy, but AJ+ described it as a “controversial tribute to Israel.” This is the title of a video that they produced, which turned Israeli suffering into an opportunity to blacken Israel’s image, through a series of lies and distortions.

The Israeli flag illuminated on Berlin’s Brandenburg Gate.

AJ+ ask in their post, “Where was the Palestinian flag when Israel attacked the West Bank and Gaza?” This is a total distortion – Israel has gone to war three times in Gaza in the past few years, every time acting in self defense, to stop the rockets fired by the Hamas terrorist group at Israeli civilians.

But for Israel’s haters, every act of Israeli defense is one of aggression, and defending the country from thousands of rockets is an attack on Gaza. This theme is also true about a tweet shown in the video, which says that if the Brandenburg Gate lit up every time Israel killed a Palestinian, it would be permanent. This is deceiving – Israel does not indiscriminately kill Palestinians. Rather, the IDF acts in self defense, and indeed has killed many Palestinians who were in the midst of engaging in terrorist attacks. And to say that Israel is “permanently” killing Palestinians is totally unfounded – one that no serious media agency should be repeating.

There is no other country in the world about whom such ridiculous exaggerations are tolerated – no one would ever say that the Americans, the British or the French are constantly killing people in the wars they fight, but somehow Al Jazeera considers such absurd exaggerations legitimate when they are made about Israel.

A screenshot of the video shows distortions, exaggerations and hatred, all in one tweet

There is also reference made to children killed in Gaza in 2014. AJ+ employs the worn out and inaccurate accusation that Israel indiscriminately kills Palestinians, when nothing could be further from the truth. Israel fought a defensive war in 2014 to stop hundreds of Hamas rockets, and took incredible efforts to limit human casualties.

By contrast, Hamas uses its children as human shields, deliberately using civilian areas as the strongholds for its fighters. It is also worth noting that whereas Israel does not want or encourage the death of Palestinian civilians, the Fatah and Hamas leadership does reward and support the killing of Israeli civilians. Hamas praises terrorist attacks, and Fatah gives stipends to people who kill Israeli citizens. Even in the case of this recent terrorist attack, Hamas called a rally to celebrate, and the murderer’s sister praised the attack. But AJ+ is interested in twisting Israel`s self defense to make them look wicked, whilst ignoring the incitement and hatred which underlies Palestinian terrorism.

But beyond being insensitive, malicious and misleading in their video, AJ+ fundamentally harms  prospects for peace by following their narrative. If you tell Israelis that their acts of self defense are murder, you are telling them they have fewer rights than other countries. If you tell the world that Israel doesn’t deserve any sympathy when four of their young adults are mowed down in the street, then you tell the world Israeli lives do not matter. Peace requires an understanding of the genuine concerns and feelings of each side. AJ+ considers Israel to be so low, that it doesn’t even deserve the dignity of sympathy in its time of mourning. Once again, AJ+ continues to churn up hate in the world, rather than pursuing any chance of peace.

Contributed by CAMERA intern Aron White.

Where cultures meet: Christmas in Jerusalem

Coming from a traditional Jewish family, I have never celebrated Christmas at home. While I have always had friends who celebrated the holiday, I never had the opportunity to experience it firsthand back in New York. Moving to Jerusalem, a city sacred to three major religions, brought with it the opportunity to further explore the holiday and its traditions. It may sound paradoxical that I would first have these experiences in the Jewish state rather than majority Christian America, but then again, Jerusalem is not what most people expect.

Many peoples’ perception of Jerusalem is that of a war-torn city. In actuality, the converse is true. While the conflict’s negative effects have included terror attacks and tension among the city’s residents, it is at places like the Church of the Holy Sepulchre – where Jesus is believed to have been crucified – that I found multiculturalism and tolerance at their finest, two traits that I believe are representative of the atmosphere prevalent in Jerusalem.

The Church of the Holy Sepulchre.

As a practicing Jew, my decision to attend Christmas mass was not at all religiously motivated; it stemmed from a desire to personally experience the culture and religion of many of my friends and neighbours. I found a slew of like-minded individuals at the Church of the Holy Sepulchre, from a myriad of backgrounds, whose only common trait was their desire to understand and experience something that had always been foreign to them. From Ethiopian Jews to Muslim Israeli-Arab youth to the agnostic German tourist who invited me to walk with her to Bethlehem for mass at dawn, what brought us together was an environment of pluralism and religious freedom that is ubiquitous in Jerusalem. While this may seem like a normal occurrence, it is regrettably not the order of the day in the Middle East. Religious minorities are being persecuted around the Middle East, not least in the instability of Syria and Iraq, and even in moderately stable countries such as Egypt and Iran. Surprisingly enough, the only conflict that I encountered on Christmas Eve was an argument between the Egyptian Copt and Greek Orthodox monks over the timing of their services in a church shared by six denominations of Christianity.

The service itself, held in four different languages, reflected a feeling of togetherness, evident throughout the evening. While we are used to thinking of religion as something that divides people, on Christmas Eve it was religion that brought everyone together. I believe that this evening did not take place in a bubble, but was part of an atmosphere of mutual respect and understanding present in the city. Ignoring extremists from both sides, one can see evidence of this multiculturalism daily. From buses, to shopping malls and universities, Jews, Muslims, and Christians go about their days in a peaceful coexistence; and from the Parliament to the Supreme Court and even the military, minorities are represented in every part of the national bureaucracy.

In face of this multiculturalism, I cannot help but question why the incessant flow of criticism of Israeli democracy.  In a city where all are free to worship or not worship as they see fit, with no threat of religious persecution or discrimination, I must ask: Why the constant fixation with elaborate plans for externally imposed political solutions? The responsibility for political solutions lies with those living and experiencing the reality on the ground, a reality which today is very sustainable and comfortable for all parties involved, especially members of minority communities.

The way to address these issues is not through people, most of whom have no connection to the land, erecting mock checkpoints or disrupting Israeli speakers. Engaging in dialogue while recognizing the legitimacy of the rights of all relevant parties, should be a starting point for those interested in making progress. The Israeli-Palestinian conflict will not be resolved at Cambridge University. What can be done, by us as students, is to try and build an environment of dialogue and multiculturalism similar to what one can experience during Christmas in Jerusalem. We should instead focus our energy on working together to recreate the unique atmosphere of the city of Jerusalem, one of understanding and dialogue, something which will be significantly more conducive to the dreams and desires of all parties partial to this conflict.

Originally published at The Varsity, Cambridge University`s Campus Newspaper

Contributed by Shlomo Roiter-Jesner, CAMERA Fellow at Cambridge University, and joint founder of the Cambrige Middle East and North Africa Forum, a CAMERA sponsored group.

 

Israeli Students Fight Anti-Israel Campus Activity From Jerusalem

CAMERA Fellow LeEl Hayun

CAMERA Fellow Lee-El Haune

As Israelis, we take our reality for granted. It is full of paradoxes; an unattended bag can stop traffic, yet we are more preoccupied with the thought of being stuck in traffic than the fact that there might be a bomb in their vicinity. Getting a beer with friends among the ancient stones of Jerusalem could be interrupted by a rock throwing incident on the way home; relaxing at the beach in Ashkelon under the hot Mediterranean sun is accompanied by knowing that at any given time, rocket sirens may sound, signalling us to run for shelter.

At times, the Israeli reality is so consuming, that the world’s perception of Israel seems unimportant. This becomes evident when one takes a look at the word for “abroad” in Hebrew, which literally translates to “outside of Israel,” as if the whole world revolves around us. As if we weren’t barely the size of New Jersey; but we are. The way that Israel is constantly slandered in the media, by word of mouth, by leaders worldwide, and by students on campus who don’t bother checking the facts, is an issue that must be addressed. The global Jewish community has answered this call to action within their neighborhoods, on their campuses, and in their states.

All the while only a very few Israelis themselves have woken up to this reality, largely ignoring this international trend. While our everyday realities might be consuming, it is not an excuse to remain dormant in the face of campaigns to delegitimize our home.

This is why we, the students of CAMERA at Hebrew University, feel that as Israelis on our East Jerusalem campus, we must help tackle the problem, by facing the facts and in turn, ensure action on behalf of tomorrow’s leaders.

CAMERA at Hebrew University hosts students from San Diego State University.

CAMERA at Hebrew University hosts students from San Diego State University.

Our understanding of anti-Israel activity on campuses “outside of Israel” is limited. Israeli college students are usually a number of years older than American students, having started freshman year after our army service of two plus years. The American college scene feels like a completely different world from ours, and it can be difficult for Israeli students to relate to.

From so far away, it is difficult to take seriously a number of students “dying in” or raising an apartheid wall. Additionally, it’s hard to understand the impact these students have on the Jewish minorities attending these schools. The very existence of Israel means that often, we do not know what it feels like to be a minority on campus.

Making the situation even more complicated, here in Israel, the widespread feeling on the street is that anti-Israel activity abroad is something the Israeli government should be dealing with. Among Israelis, the topic is rarely discussed. This is something that is slowly but surely changing – not acting is no longer an option. We at CAMERA at Hebrew University felt compelled to bring students together on this issue.

CAMERA's International Campus Director Aviva Slomich with CAMERA Fellows Bar Fabian, Matan Lifshitz, Eden Adler and Lee-El Haune of CAMERA at Hebrew University.

CAMERA’s International Campus Director Aviva Slomich with CAMERA Fellows Bar Fabian, Matan Lifshitz, Eden Adler and Lee-El Haune of CAMERA at Hebrew University.

We began with a vision to act on two fronts. First to educate ourselves, by bringing Israelis to an understanding of the way the world views Israel. Second, we are bridging the gap between Israelis and students worldwide. The great thing about being on an Israeli campus is that we manage to reach all audiences, and students from all areas of the political spectrum. This includes a few Israeli Arabs who attend our events. After a full semester of educational events and evenings out sharing our experiences with students from all around the world, the board of our team attended CAMERA’s sixth annual Student Leadership and Advocacy Training Conference in Boston.

CAMERA’s conference was not only educational and eye-opening, it exposed us to the amazing level of commitment the eighty-five students in attendance have to Israel. We met students who have knowledge of Israel rivaling our own, whose dealings with anti-Israel activists left us in shock. We understood quickly that these students are fighting for us abroad, and that we are their boots on the ground.

Over the four-day conference, we gained a real grasp of the reality on North American and UK campuses. We had an inside look into the difficulties our new friends face on campus on a daily basis, be it apathy or true hatred toward Israel. This understanding, along with the ties and relationships we built with the students, inspired unlimited ideas in us.

We were truly shocked to learn of the rallying around the BDS movement and Students for Justice in Palestine by Black Lives Matter, LGBTQ groups, and other humanitarian “liberal” groups. Coming from the most liberal, diverse and political campus in Israel, it seemed to us that the natural allies of these groups would be the pro-Israel community.

Armed with this knowledge, we can adequately assist the students we’ve met as they combat anti-Israel activity on campus head on. Ethiopian Jews, Druze Arabs, Muslim Arabs and Christians are friends of ours who go to the very same university as we do, and their voices need to be amplified, especially when the accusation hurled at Pro-Israel students is that Israel is a “white European colonial entity.”

We took away practical tools from CAMERA’s conference for better event planning, recruitment, op-ed writing and social media that will allow us to reach a new level of professionalism in our activities with students on campus.

Going forward, CAMERA at Hebrew University will keep in touch with students abroad, exchanging ideas and experiences.  Israel does not stand alone. Undoubtedly, this year on campus will be our best yet!

Contributed by CAMERA Fellow at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem, Lee-El Haune.