Tag Archives: pro-Israel

CAMERA Fellows in Focus: Ariel Avgi

The CAMERA Fellowship program supports student leaders in developing and strengthening their pro-Israel activism on campus. With the school year underway, InFocus is giving you an inside look into the lives of the 2016-17 CAMERA Fellows who are working hard to promote the facts on Israel on campus.

professional-photosMeet Ariel Avgi.

A sophomore at The City College of New York, Ariel is studying International Relations and Applied Mathematics. She attends the The Macaulay Honors College at The City College of New York.

Growing up in Queens and Long Island, New York, Ariel was raised with a love for Israel and a strong connection to her family’s Israeli roots. Over the years, she has visited Israel on multiple occasions. Ariel’s devotion to Israel and Israel advocacy work is mainly inspired by a sense of moral obligation to help Israel and a desire to express her love for Israel from afar. Since she always enjoys returning to Israel and considers the country her second home, Ariel promotes Israel on campus and tries to spread knowledge about the wonderful, developing democracy of the Middle East as much as she can.

On campus, Ariel serves as an active member of City College’s chapter of the Roosevelt Institute. This past year, she wrote and published a policy proposal in its 10 Ideas Journal for Defense and Diplomacy.  Ariel is also a co-founder of the Students Supporting Israel chapter on her campus.

As a CAMERA Fellow, Ariel plans to further develop pro-Israel advocacy and to grow as a student leader and influential voice for Israel. With the support of the CAMERA Fellowship, Ariel now feels fully capable of educating fellow students and faculty on Israeli history and culture. CAMERA on Campus is excited to support Ariel in her endeavors!

CAMERA Fellows in Focus: Micah Rosen

The CAMERA Fellowship supports student leaders in developing and strengthening their pro-Israel activism on campus. With the school year underway, InFocus is giving you an inside look into the lives of the 2016-17 CAMERA Fellows who are working hard to promote the facts about Israel on campus.

Meet Micah Rosen.

Micah Rosen, CAMERA Fellow 2016-17

Micah Rosen, CAMERA Fellow 2016-17

A sophomore at Brown University, Micah is studying History and Philosophy. He was raised in a household with a strong connection to Judaism. His Jewish identity developed while attending Jewish sleep-away camp, Camp Ramah in California, for many summers. Beginning as a camper at Camp Ramah, Micah soon became an active member of the greater Camp Ramah community.

Each summer, he met and bonded with Israel staff members who inspired him to develop a deep connection with Israel. After a number of years as a camper, Micah planned Israel education programs at the camp and organized panels for high school participants. Taking on a leadership role at the summer camp, Micah continued to learn from staff members and educators in the Ramah community, who oftentimes are heavily involved in Israel advocacy.

Inspired by a deep interest in and love for Israel, Micah is now an active board member of Brown Students for Israel. As part of the board, he plans Israel-related events and works with student leaders to promote a positive, truthful understanding of Israel on campus. Aside from his involvement in Israel advocacy, Micah sheds light on various social issues in America as a staff writer for the Brown Political Review. In addition, Micah is active in Brown’s Student Government. On and off of campus, Micah constantly thinks about how to best support Israel. In addition to all his campus work, he also helps to run several pro-Israel campaigns in the greater Providence, RI community.

Micah is very excited to be a CAMERA Fellow this school year. He knows that the CAMERA community will support him in his efforts to defend Israel on campus. With help of the CAMERA Fellowship, Micah aims to inspire productive, genuine dialogue concerning Israel within his own community at Brown and in Providence. CAMERA on Campus is looking forward to seeing the results of Micah’s passion and hard work for Israel this school year!

From SJP to Pro-Israel: Anthony’s Story

Anthony Berteaux, a CAMERA Fellow and rising senior at San Diego State University majoring in journalism, was once a staunch activist for Students for Justice in Palestine (SJP)’s campaign against Israel. Today, he is a pro-Israel activist. This past week, he attended CAMERA’s annual Student Leadership and Advocacy Training Conference, sharing his story with 80 other Israel activists.

Growing up in Tokyo, Anthony had never met a Jew and had not heard very much about Israel before he stepped onto his San Diego college campus. As a writer for his college paper, Anthony was interested in covering progressive issues and soon learned about many student activist organizations, one of which was SJP. Anthony listened to SJP’s perspective on Israel and would discuss “the Palestinian oppression” in Israel with his campus’s SJP president. As Anthony explains, he became very involved with SJP and “when [BDS] came to campus, [he] did what the progressive thing was to do, which obviously was to support divestments” against Israel.

CAMERA Fellow Anthony Berteaux at CAMERA's Annual Student Leadership Training and Advocacy Conference this year.

CAMERA Fellow Anthony Berteaux at CAMERA’s Annual Student Leadership and Advocacy Training Conference last week.

A man genuinely searching to serve social justice and equality, Anthony followed the Palestinian narrative closely through Al Jazeera’s coverage of the Middle East and would take any opportunity to write or speak on behalf of such an oppressed (seemingly by Israel) people.

After moving across the world from Tokyo to San Diego for college, Anthony never expected to become so involved in Middle-East social justice issues and SJP activism during his first year in college. And to top that off, much to his surprise, Anthony’s perspective on Israel was once again suddenly redefined during the summer of 2014. As Anthony admits, “If you had told me by the end of the summer I was going to be a sympathizer of Israel, I would have probably laughed in your face.”

By chance, Anthony was placed in a campus dorm with a Jewish student during that summer. For the first time, he heard another side of the Israel story. Through many conversations with his new Jewish friend, Anthony learned what Israel does for Palestinians and what Israel means for the Jewish people. The facade of SJP’s ideas began to crumble before Anthony’s eyes. “Israel is a colonialist regime” and “Israel the Apartheid state” were soundbites that Anthony now saw through as ignorant and blatant lies. 

Over the summer, Anthony and his Jewish roommate would discuss Operation Protective Edge, the war in Gaza which was going on at the time. They would watch videos of Israelis running to bomb shelters, an unfortunate part of the reality in Israel.

Anthony learned about Israel’s reasons for entering Gaza during Operation Protective Edge. The Israel Defense Forces had no choice but to send forces into Gaza in order to protect Israel. As morally and succinctly as possible, Israeli soldiers worked night and day to stop the terrorist groups that were bombarding Israel with rockets and digging terror tunnels into Israeli territory from Gaza.

While he sticks close to his values of social justice and truth, Anthony had an open mind and by the end of this summer, his perspective was forever changed. Acting upon his newfound beliefs, Anthony soon became an ardent pro-Israel activist on his campus, particularly through his writing

Hoping to further develop his understanding of Israel and its role in the Middle East, Anthony went to Israel through an ADL student mission. “The experiences during my trip to Israel were really powerful for me as a social justice activist and as a progressive, to understand why Israel is so important for the Jewish people, why it’s a symbol of anti-oppression and why it’s the ultimate testament to social justice” Anthony said, as he reflected on his trip.

While some students at his college challenged Anthony for his change of perspective, Anthony soon realized that his pro-Israel ideas were received well by many of his progressive-thinking friends. While they normally heard about Israel through AJ+ and other sources with an anti-Israel bias, his friends began to open their minds to his pro-Israel views.

Tikkun Olam, the Jewish idea of fixing a broken world, is an ideal that Anthony constantly strives for and hopes to share. He is very happy when he can broaden the understandings of his fellow students. It saddens him that the lack of knowledge about Israel’s story on campuses often translates into a missed opportunity for students to deepen their understanding of social change. As Anthony explains, “A lot of particularly progressive students and social justice activists on campus seem to not understand Israel’s importance in the conversation of self determination, empowering oppressed peoples, and responding to oppression.”

Anthony admits that becoming pro-Israel was not easy for him at first either. But, as Anthony attests, “The more I got engaged with pro-Israel activism, the more I saw my own progressive values reflected in the promise and reality of the Jewish state and that’s something I wish more people on my campus understood.”

Today, Anthony writes for Israel as he would any other cause he believes in. On a personal level, he also loves learning about Jewish identity and culture. He even joins his Jewish friends at their lively Shabbat dinners. He is fascinated by Jewish history and admires the history of the Jewish people. “Such a powerful story, a story of resilience, celebrating life in the face of oppression,” he remarks.

Contributed by CAMERA Intern Penina Simkovitz.

SAFI’s Immediate Success

SAFI, the Student Alliance For Israel-Madison, formerly known as Madison Friends of Israel, is the Emet for Israel group on the University of Wisconsin’s campus. Their kickoff event of the semester took place in early February, and since then they have gathered a good amount of attention from their fellow students. Unfortunately, a pro-Israel voice was becoming increasingly necessary in order to balance out the anti-Israel rhetoric on campus.

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The group has been incredibly successful in catering to their member’s needs and requests in learning more about the Jewish state. In the past few months, the group has created an Israel class, throughout which Israeli history, culture, and its current political climate is taught. The board has also established the SAFI Ambassador Program to give students a way of being more involved without committing to the course.

In addition to the kickoff event, SAFI has raised awareness about Israel through its weekly newsletter, a recent YouTube video it released, and its “Fun Fact Friday” social media campaign. Another effective initiative has been bringing speakers, including Joel Chasnoff, a comedian who presented the many facets of Israeli society.

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This CAMERA – supported group is looking forward to the many events and classes it will bring to the University of Wisconsin. At its inception, its main goal was to get more students to care about Israel, to begin asking questions about it, and to create a more balanced dialogue. Members are pleased that this objective has already been achieved to an impressive degree!

Chloe Valdary Inspires Zionism at Baruch College

CAMERA Fellow Sivanna Shusterman.

CAMERA Fellow Sivanna Shusterman.

On Thursday March 31st, The Youth Organization for Israel, the pro-Israel organization at Baruch College, had the privilege of hosting Chloe Valdary. She is an African American pro-Israel activist, who speaks at various universities across the country about Israel activism and the importance of taking a stand to support the things that you believe in. She shared her experiences with various students present at the event.

She was born to a Baptist family, and at the age of three years old, her father began to ask questions about their religion and after some research he discovered the First Century Church, where the congregants that belonged to that church were in fact practicing in accordance to the Torah, the Jewish Bible. They were observing Sabbath, Kosher practices, celebrating holy days etc. This was something that greatly appealed to Chloe’s parents. In New Orleans, her family joined its new community.

As a result, Chloe grew up observing many of the laws that comes directly from the Torah and Jewish culture. This upbringing had a enormous effect on her and it influenced her to become even more immersed in Jewish culture and Israel activities.

When she arrived at New Orleans University, she was a film student, but she wanted to take a stance on her campus and stand up foo Israel and its’ right to exist. She started a pro-Israel group on campus sponsored by CAMERA on Campus, and began her activities which would create a new atmosphere on her college campus. She began to hold events, and table in order to get a positive message out there about Israel and what it stands for. She wanted to ensure that people understood what Zionism truly meant and that Israel was not a racist apartheid state like many have tried to paint it.

Chloe Valdary. [Credit: Chloe Simone Valdary Facebook Page]

Chloe Valdary. [Credit: Chloe Simone Valdary Facebook Page]

She was able to achieve this environment on her campus and today she works for the Wall Street Journal, conducting a study about pro-Israel activities on college campuses across the country.  Chloe was strong and she had the courage to stand up for what she believed in and for the truth. She encouraged us as a student body to continue to stand for the things that we believe in and to know that we can make a change and we can make a difference in our university environment if we put our minds to it.

As millennials we have the ability to change the world. We are the generation that will inherit the new world problems that trouble the world on a daily basis. It is our responsibility to stand up for what is right and create a better future for the generations to come. If we can lead by Chloe’s example and find the courage within ourselves to spread the truth and take action in order to create a better tomorrow, perhaps we will leave a better world for those who come after us.

Contributed by CAMERA Fellow at Baruch College, Sivanna Shusterman.

The Time is Now

CAMERA Fellow Shoshana Kranish.

CAMERA Fellow Shoshana Kranish.

Picture this: advocating on a college campus for a democracy that has legal protections of LGBT individuals, equal rights for men and women, protections of religious minorities, and has a vibrant economy that’s home to incredible technological, medical, and agricultural innovation. Then imagine being attacked, threatened, or shoved aside for doing this. Now you can better understand what it’s like to be a pro-Israel advocate at universities across the nation.

The pro-Israel movement at Syracuse University isn’t huge, but with upwards of 3,000 Jewish students, it has the potential to be. There are small-scale events which receive little attention, and are contributed to with little, if any, school funding. Currently, the sole pro-Israel group on campus operates under the umbrella of a larger prominent Jewish organization. For the most part, that group – which I am the president of – has been left in the dust.

In January, when I applied for my group to become an independent, recognized student organization on campus, the application was rejected. The grounds for this decision were that we had the capacity to function under the larger umbrella organization under which we were founded. The Office of Student Activities also shared concern with our group not being inclusive enough – that is, they felt the pro-Israel group would not be a space that was open to people of different racial, political, ethnic, and national backgrounds, and for students with varying opinions on Israel. It doesn’t take a genius to see through this message. The office had first forced us to remain under a Jewish organization – forcing the group to retain a Jewish aspect that could serve to turn away potential members – and then claimed that, as such, the group would not be open to the greater community.

Hall of Languages, Syracuse University, May 9, 2014

Hall of Languages, Syracuse University, May 9, 2014

Because of the decision by the Office of Student Activities – and the fact that it was encouraged by university staff – students on campus are missing out on engaging, enriching events as the voice of the pro-Israel group has been stifled.

There are no other pro-Israel student groups at Syracuse. Even with a recent effort to host a J Street event on campus and eventually form a group, this statement still holds true, as the mission of J Street, a group falsely claiming to be pro-Israel on campus, is to condemn Israel and Israeli policies while hiding behind the guise of being ‘progressive.’ As a progressive, Jewish, Israel advocate myself, J Street does not speak for me, nor do I imagine, does it speak for many members of this campus community. On their own website, J-Street states that they “hold Israeli policy – implemented by governments of all political backgrounds over decades –responsible for creating the current situation that threatens the security and the future of the national home of the Jewish people” There is no mention of any responsibility on the hands of the Palestinian Authority or Hamas for the wave of terrorism.

The pro-Israel group that I head up on campus is one that celebrates Israel through the country’s democratic policies of granting freedoms to LGBT individuals and ethnic and religious minorities. We pride ourselves on promoting the liberal ideals of the sole democracy in the Middle East and the fantastic technological and agricultural innovations it has produced in the last 68 years. J Street’s vision is not this. Allowing a J Street chapter on campus would only serve to divide the already-small pro-Israel community. The campus community at Syracuse is largely apathetic, and given the choice between a group that calls itself pro-Israel and a group that actually is pro-Israel will only lead them to shy away from discussion and discourse. What we need is unity, not internal divisions.

A proposed J Street event to be held at a prominent Jewish organization on campus was eventually postponed, but that doesn’t mean that J Street is gone. I fear that a small group of determined students will try to bring a chapter to campus in the near future; there’s also no doubt that they will seek to operate under the same Jewish organization my group is currently forced to be under. As a Jewish organization, J Street may turn non-Jews away because of its religious affiliation, and may turn Jews away because of its pseudo-‘support’ of Israel through constant scathing criticism of the Israeli government. However, Syracuse Students for Israel is open to students of all religious, cultural, political, ethnic and national backgrounds. It was a mistake for the Office of Student Activities to refuse recognition to the sole pro-Israel student group on campus. What are our prospects when another group that claims the same purpose comes along?

Editor’s note: This article was updated on 11/05/16.

Contributed by CAMERA Fellow at Syracuse University Shoshana Kranish.

Apply to be a 2016-2017 CAMERA Fellow by May 1st!

A Day with AIPAC Protesters: A Memoir

CAMERA Fellow Ben Suster.

CAMERA Fellow Ben Suster.

From presidential candidates to a spectacular rotating stage that left me with more questions than answers, AIPAC put their entire heart into throwing the Super Bowl of Israel conferences. Organizers go above and beyond to ensure we leave the conference with a better understanding of Israel’s past, present, and future. However this isn’t a Policy Conference promotion and I must admit that the majority of my learning came from a more outside source; and by that I mean from physically outside the doors of the conference.

With unending apologies to AIPAC and my mother, my biggest takeaways from the conference arose from spending time with the scores of anti-Israel protesters set-up in front of the convention center.

I estimate that there were close to 400 protesters whose only goal that day was to make our walk to the main entrance a dash more annoying than it would have been otherwise. Conversation with individuals who held signs equating Israel with the KKK typically go against my number one rule of valuing my time. But seeing my friends outnumbered and surrounded by these bigots inevitably had me concerned for their safety.

I ultimately joined them outside and initially stayed true to my values by keeping to myself and documenting the brawls and arrests on my phone. However, once outside, it was virtually impossible to remain unalarmed.

Ben Suster with protestors before things got really ugly.

Ben Suster with the protestors outside the AIPAC conference before things got really ugly.

The nature of the protesters’ shared hatred revealed itself through bouts of physical and verbal assault with conference goers and the police.

I witnessed a conference participant tripping on a row of police motorcycles as he was backing away from a fight, who then lay defenseless as he took blows to the face by protesters. He was pulled out of the pile by officers and escaped into the side entrance along with a freshly bruised face.

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A photo taken by Ben Shuster of protestors.

Officers were scolded by the more passive protesters and were told that they should be ashamed of themselves for protecting the 18,000 conference attendees. Such a heinous absence of civility is only fostered through hatred and the world must stop fooling itself into believing that such mob mentalities are only found at Trump rallies.

An obsessive loathing for the Jewish state, instead of an unconditional love for the Palestinian people, is what drives a group of people to demand that the police to call it a day, subsequently enabling protestors to overthrow a conference.

Only the most passionate anti-Semites would gravitate to a conference for what they believe is the functioning head of the world’s banks, media, and ISIS. There were the inevitable casual calls for the expulsion of Jews into the sea as well as frustration expressed over their beliefs that Jews control the world.

I’ve been referred to as a Zionist pig and colonizer in the past, yet this was a new experience for me. To be informed that they “aren’t falling for our tricks anymore,” that the “anti-Semitism card is played out” and that “[us] Jews can’t deceive for much longer” was both startling and confusing. I was asked why I hate our country so much that I would attend a conference whose only end game is to destroy Congress. While it’s disturbing that we still live in a society where these primitive superstitions persist, it’s vital to understand that this was an overwhelming sentiment shared by the crowd.

The temptation to engage with the protestors eventually overcame me. Watching this living and breathing form of hatred left me with a sense of angst that could only be absolved through confrontation. I understood I was subhuman to them but rather than provoke the perpetually provoked I attempted practical dialogue.

Each attempt I made to engage with the protestors was discouraged because they believed that I was only present so I could learn how to more efficiently trick them in the future. In hindsight this is partially true considering how I grasped that their narrative is overwhelmingly based on lies and myths. It was common belief that children are being dragged from their beds and executed on the streets. When hate is left to fester, evidence isn’t needed to believe that the IDF plants knives next to Palestinians after they’re neutralized.

Violently referring to families as “fucking cockroaches” as they were escorted by security into the convention center was as eye-opening as it was frightening. I was called a “ZioNazi,” “fascist” and was informed that I am worthy of being stabbed along with everyone else who supports Israel. While flattering, I can’t help but wonder if my grandparents believed escaping Nazi occupied Poland would be the end of such a reality.

Although I am still trying to wrap my head around this extreme afternoon, I recognize that the protest itself was a manifestation of the underlying cause of this conflict. Only the ideology that Jews don’t belong in Israel can lead to such detestation; not land disputes.

Nevertheless, my head is held higher than it has ever been. Meditating on these moments was difficult, but I was desperate for a silver lining. Celebrating Purim the day after the conference, I came to understand that we have seen this hatred before. Ironically it’s because of this reason alone that we must keep pushing forward and nurturing hope; because like the Assyrians, Babylonians, Romans, and Nazis before these protesters, this will pass.

Contributed by CAMERA Fellow at UCF Ben Suster.

Apply for the 2016-2017 CAMERA Fellowship here!

Hebrew U Students Join the Fight for Accuracy on Israel

 

LeEl Hayun

Lee-El Hayun

For Israelis, daily life can be intense. Most of us have served in the IDF during one operation or another. When driving, we stay clear of the areas where there is a high chance of having rocks thrown at our cars. Here in Jerusalem, we avoid walking around with two headphones in, to ensure that we are not caught off-guard in the event of a terrorist attack.

At the same time, students around the world who support Israel are facing a different battle.

Israeli students are largely unaware of what it’s like to be a Pro-Israel student on a college campus in the U.S., Canada or the UK. Nor are most of us tuned in to the difficult fight for accurate Israel-related coverage in media outlets around the world, and the subsequent effects biased coverage have on the public’s perception of the Jewish state.

This is why we opened the first CAMERA on Campus group at Hebrew University in Jerusalem. Our goals are three-fold. First, we aim to educate ourselves about Israeli history and the competing political narratives about the conflict. We also want to increase students’ awareness of the challenges faced by Pro-Israel groups on campuses worldwide. And third, we hope to create ties with students from all over the world. These relationships will allow us to share our experiences, and will disseminate the truth about our country.

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For our first event, we focused on familiarizing our students with the challenges of BDS (Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions against Israel) facing Pro-Israel students on campuses.

We started off the evening with a basic overview of the BDS movement by Jerusalem U’s Campus Director Yoni Mann, who shared with us the powerful short film “Crossing the Line 2.” Becky Sebo, featured in the film, then expanded on her personal experience as a student activist at Ohio University, where she was arrested on campus while speaking out against BDS. Lia Lands, Communications Associate for CAMERA on Campus, shed some light on students’ Pro-Israel activity and addressed the intimidating atmosphere they can experience. We wrapped up the evening with a panel of international students, who shared their experiences as Pro-Israel students on campus.

Becky Sebo is arrested at Ohio University.

Becky Sebo is arrested at Ohio University.

Feedback was overwhelmingly positive from the 50 students in attendance. Many were shocked to discover the scary atmosphere that exists on campuses for many students, and were quick to inquire about how they can help.

We come from all sides of the political spectrum, but we are united when it comes to sharing our beautiful homeland with the world. We look forward to working with all CAMERA Fellows and Interns at all universities as your boots on the ground. Together, we will make an impact.

Contributed by CAMERA Fellow Lee-El Haune of CAMERA at HUJI.

Apply for the 2016-2017 CAMERA Fellowship here.

Jonathan Elkhoury and the Power of Dialogue

On January 28th, Jonathan Elkhoury embarked on his North American campus tour in partnership with CAMERA.  “I lost one country, I won’t lose the other one. Today I’m starting one of my most important journeys – a journey in the United States about the truth,” he remarked on his Facebook page.

Jonathan Elkhoury at Ben Gurion Airport

Jonathan is a gay Christian Arab spokesman for the Christian Empowerment Council (CEC) in Israel. His father was an officer in the South Lebanon Army (SLA). When Israel evacuated its forces from Lebanon in 2001, Elkhoury’s family was endangered due to the IDF’s support of the SLA. His father was forced to flee to Israel in 2000, leaving his family behind – Jonathan, his mother and brother only managed to join his father in Israel a year later.

Elkhoury addresses the issues pertaining to Christians and minorities in the Middle East and works closely with Father Gabriel Naddaf.

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In total, Elkhoury visited ten campuses in February 2016, and attended a number of other events. He spoke for Emet for Israel supported groups at Stanford University, Ohio State University, Case Western University, Cornell University, SUNY Albany, SUNY Binghamton, MIT, Boston University, and CUNY Hunter.

Elkhoury Speaking at SUNY Binghamton

Elkhoury Speaking at SUNY Binghamton

Students have remarked on how refreshing it was to hear stories about minorities in Israel from such a unique source. Elkhoury also makes a point of being open to answering all questions by his student audiences, which proved very effective. CAMERA Fellow Suri Bandler only had praise for the speaker, “Jonathan was clearly relaying his own perspective and experiences, and he did so openly and honestly. He was engaging and encouraged people to ask questions. He brought a new perspective on Israel and its minorities – one that not many people had heard before or even knew existed.”

The ease with which Jonathan Elkhoury shares his experiences growing up in Lebanon and Israel as a gay Christian Arab, and as a human rights activist, brings students a nuanced and distinct outlook on Israel-Arab relations.

Contributed by Bar-Ilan University CAMERA intern, Jasmine Esulin.

Women’s Rights in the Middle East: Israel vs. The Rest

In honor of International Women’s Day, it’s important to remember that most women throughout the Middle East do not have rights as we know them.

For International Women’s Day, a compilation of challenges women continue to face was released by the Associated Press. Honor killings continue to take place in the Palestinian Territories. In Iraq, there are no laws protecting women against domestic violence. Female citizens in Saudi Arabia were only granted the right to vote in municipal elections in 2015 and are still forbidden from driving. Kuwaiti women earned this right a bit earlier in 2005. In Syria, however, women have recently earned seats in Parliament, but in northeastern region, where ISIS has much control, they are being forced to cover their whole bodies, including hands and faces. In Iran, women don’t have the right to attend sporting events where there’s a chance they may see men exercising.

Iran's supporters shout during the FIVB Men's Volleyball World Championship first round match between Iran and Italy in Milan September 27, 2010. © 2010 Reuters

Iran’s supporters shout during the FIVB Men’s Volleyball World Championship first round match between Iran and Italy in Milan September 27, 2010. © 2010 Reuters

According to accounts from “My Stealthy Freedom,” a movement to help women escape the Iranian regime, “Iranian poets Fatemeh Ekhtesari and Mehdi Musavi have been sentenced to more than 20 years in prison and 99 lashes for ‘kissing on the cheeks and shaking hands as unrelated members of the opposite sex.'”

Source: My Stealthy Freedom Facebook Page

Source: My Stealthy Freedom Facebook Page

As members of the Western world, these figures should shock us, but unfortunately, this is reality for a large number of women within the Muslim world.

What should shock us even more though, is that just last year, the United Nations claimed that Israel was the greatest violator of women’s rights, and failed to mention Saudi Arabia and Iran.

As a woman living in Israel, who regularly travels throughout the country, from communities of ultra-Orthodox Jews to the shores of secular and extremely liberal Tel Aviv, I see every day that women of all faiths and denominations hold rights here. These rights allow women to wear anything they choose. Upon Israel’s establishment, the government modeled the country on the Jewish concept of free will. I see Muslim women wearing hijabs in the streets of Jerusalem, modern Orthodox women with hair coverings and baggy jeans, teenagers in leggings and belly shirts, Haredi women in stockings and shirts covering their collar bones, eighteen year olds in IDF uniforms, and female members of Israel’s Parliament wearing pant suits. We have laws protecting us from domestic violence. We have been allowed to drive since roads were paved. We were granted the right to vote on the momentous day we were granted a state.

Source: Humans of Tel Aviv FB

Source: Humans of Tel Aviv Facebook Page

When it comes to women’s rights, Israel holds itself to a high standard regarding its female citizens. The rest of the Middle East could learn from this model, but true freedom for all does not seem to be its top priority.

Contributed by Bar-Ilan University CAMERA Intern Jasmine Esulin.