Tag Archives: rachel wolf

Rabin’s Assassination: 20 Years On

On October 31st, 100,000 people gathered in Tel Aviv in Rabin square to memorialize Prime Minister’s Yitzkah Rabin on 20 the year anniversary of his assassination.




Yitzhak Rabin was born in 1922 in Jerusalem and grew up in a Zionist home. He had a long military career, including serving some time in the Palmach, the predecessor to the Israel Defense Forces. Rabin was a man who loved and fought for his country and had a vision to improve it and bring it peace. Rabin bean to serve his country in a new way  in 1974, when he first became Prime Minister of Israel, making him the first ever native Israeli Prime Minister.


On November 4, 1995 Israeli Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin was assassinated while promoting the Oslo Accords at a peace rally.

The Oslo Accords was a major peace deal between Prime Minister Rabin and Chairman Yassir Arafat which outlined a five-year path to peace. The Oslo Accords are now generally accepted as unsuccessful. In fact less than a decade after the signing of the Oslo Accords, the Second Intifada broke out. However, luckily, Rabin’s dream of peace did not die with him.  Throughout Israeli society there are calls and hopes for peace within the region.


A young man who epitomizes this hope for peace is a young Israeli-Arab Zionist Mohammad Zoabi who regularly makes videos in three languages: Hebrew, Arabic and English, in which he professes his love for Israel and represents the peace that can exist among Israeli-Jews, Israeli-Arabs and non Israeli-Arabs.


In Hadassah University Hospital in Mount Scopus in Jerusalem doctors Ahmed Eid and Elchanan Fried are often called “Bert and Ernie” and “Fried and Eid,” they regularly work closely to save lives. “Eid is the head of surgery at Hadassah University Hospital in Mount Scopus. Fried is the head of the intensive-care unit.” During the recent wave of violence these doctors have been working together to save the lives of both Israelis and Palestinians; victims and perpetrators, never asking the person they are treating whether he was wronged or the one in the wrong. Israelis and Arabs can work and save lives together.


“Children at Beersheba’s Hagar bilingual school read together. (photo credit:HAGAR: JEWISH-ARAB EDUCATION FOR EQUALITY)” – Photo Source

Recently Israel passed a bill mandating that all children in Israel learn Arabic from the first grade onward. The intention of this bill is to help Israeli and Arab students (who have always had to learn Hebrew) to understand each other through language. The Likud Member of Knesset who sponsored the bill, Oren Hazan, said, “I have no doubt that when the Jewish population will understand Arabic, the way the Arab public understands Hebrew, we will see better days.” This bill provides yet another opportunity for Israelis and Arabs to understand each other and create peace.

The hope for peace did not die on the day of  Yitzhak Rabin’s assassination. In fact, the hope for peace lived on in spite of his assassination and even grew stronger after his assassination. Now in the state of Israel, Israelis and Arabs have plenty of opportunities to make peace with each other. Whether at work, in school, in the IDF or even in the Knesset.

This was written by former American University CAMERA Fellow and current CAMERA Social Media Intern Rachel Wolf.

What can I do?

Former American University CAMERA Fellow Rachel Wolf

Former American University CAMERA Fellow Rachel Wolf

For the last few days, which have felt like years, I have been sitting and watching as Jerusalem, a city that I have called home for the last two summers, erupts in chaos. Places where I would eat schwarma, meet friends and relax have turned into places full of fear where the courageous try to live a normal life. I have to ask myself what can I, an American Jewish Zionist who lives at least an 11 hour plane ride from Israel, do about it? How can I help a situation that I can’t see or reach?

Just before the violence began I heard from former ambassador, Dr. Michael Oren. In his talk entitled, “The U.S.-Israel Relationship,” Dr. Oren spoke about the changes that have occurred in the relationship between America and Israel, including those that took place during and after his ambassadorship, and the enduring importance of US-Israeli friendship. Dr. Oren emphasized that while both countries were seemingly different, they shared common goals and values such as democracy and freedom. Israel is the only democracy in the Middle East and treats its citizens the same way that Americans are treated by their government. Furthermore, Dr. Oren stressed that the relationship between the U.S. and Israel is mutually beneficial, both countries need each other to survive.

Americans can do a lot to support Israel and stand by the Israeli people as they go through a hard and dangerous time. In fact, this is something that Americans have been doing since the founding of the state.  In fact, several Americans helped to build the Israeli Air Force during the Independence war in 1948, as discussed in the documentary, Above and Beyond. Ever since 1948, the US and Israel have had a special relationship, it hasn’t been without bumps, but it has endured.

Now, while our ally is experiencing a tremendous upsurge in terrorism, Americans should stand by Israel and support it. This support can take many forms: from writing on social media about Israel, educating others about the situation, and calling out members of the media on their bias about Israel to buying Israeli products or even just talking about Israel with friends. The impact of these small acts is significant and can be outsized. No one knows when that one item that was posted on Facebook or Twitter or Instagram could start a viral wave of support. This could be an impact that YOU make.

I can no longer stand by and watch what is going on in Israel, but I am a college student, I have classes and homework and internships, I don’t have the ability to pack up my life and go to Israel at the drop of a hat, as much as I would like to do that. For now, I will post on social media, tell my friends what is going on, write pieces like this one and encourage my friends, family and fellow Americans to stand by and support Israel.

This was contributed by former American University CAMERA Fellow Rachel Wolf.


Two Nations, One Heart

Today, after 14 years, people across America take time to mourn the thousands of people who lost their lives in the September 11th terror attacks on the Pentagon, Twin Towers and Flight 93.

While most would see the killing of innocent civilians as something to mourn, some on the day of the attacks did quite the opposite. Many Palestinians in East Jerusalem celebrated, shot up their “victory V” hand symbols and rejoiced in the fact that America had been brought down.

In 2001, Israel was experiencing its own problems with terror during the Second Intifada, which had started a year before and wouldn’t end until 2005. During this time several attacks were carried out against Israeli civilians.

In the years that followed the attacks, Israel, having its own unique history with terror and a bond with the United States and compassion for its people in their time of need, started to create 9/11 memorials in Israel. The two main memorials are in Jerusalem and Ashdod.


The Ashdod memorial is a gray plaque mounted on a stone with a replica of the Twin Towers below it and both the American and Israeli flag above it. The stone is in the middle of a large park with several side-ways slanting trees. The memorial was created, “by Dov Shefi, whose son Hagay Shefi died in the 9/11 attack on the World Trade Center.”





In Jerusalem the memorial also in a park , but rather than it being on a stone it is a 30-foot high bronze-sculpted American flag. This memorial was dedicated in 2009 and was built after the “Jewish National Fund/Keren Kayemeth LeIsrael hired Israeli sculptor Eliezer Weishoff to design and create the memorial.”


These two memorials in Israel and the memorial in New York City, whose architect is Israeli, not only represent the bond between Israel and America as victims of terror, but as people of shared experiences and values of democracy, freedom, equality and life above all.

Pro-Israel, Pro-Carnival, Pro-Fun

On a sunny day at the end of April several pro-Israel and Jewish groups gathered in front of Kay Spiritual Life Center at American University to celebrate Yom Ha’atzmaut, Israeli Independence Day. The small part of the quad was covered in tables, the smell of falafel and schwarma hung in the air and Israeli music was blasted over the loudspeaker. The event was even complete with a bouncy castle and carnival games.


This carnival was the perfect opportunity to show that there is more to Israel than the conflict-based paradigm that seems to rule all discussion of Israel. Israel is a normal country and celebrates its independence just like many other countries, including the United States of America.

IMG_1377 - Version 2

At the Emet booth, run by former CAMERA Fellow, Rachel Wolf, there were treats, a fun game and even some facts about Israel! While at the table students made Israeli flags out of graham crackers and icing.

IMG_1328-1While they were enjoying their treats students were also given the opportunity to play a picture game. The game consisted of a large poster with nine pictures of Israel. Players were given whiteboards and wrote down where they thought each picture was taken. Some students treated the game as a race and others used it as an opportunity to work in teams and learn more about Israel. Those who were able to name most or all of the pictures’ locations were given a choice of Bisli or Elite chocolate.


Throughout the carnival several students came up to the booth and were genuinely interested in learning, not just about the pictures, but about CAMERA as an organization and about Israel. Additionally, the game provided an icebreaker and allowed students to have a fun outlet for learning about the diversity within Israel. The pictures were taken in locations such as Masada, the shuk, Jerusalem and many more, showing that Israel is not just a desert with camels, but a vibrant, modern country.

This piece was contributed by 2014-2015 CAMERA Fellow, Rachel Wolf.

A Night with Noam Bedein

On November 11th, American University’s pro-Israel group Emet, hosted Noam Bedein, the director of the Sderot Media Center. Noam Bedein is a photo journalist who uses his expertise in photography to tell the story of the lives of those living in this southern Israeli city under constant rocket fire. Bedein’s work showcases the challenges and unique living situations of the people in Sderot and their fight for normalcy. Bedein’s visually amazing presentation gave the event attendees a new and, for most of them, never-before-seen view of the struggles of the people in Sderot.



The students at American University were shocked to hear about and see in video the 15 seconds that those in Sderot have to run from rocket fire. This video sat with the students through out Bedein’s presentation and served as the symbol of the threat in the back of the mind of those who live in Sderot. While the thought of these 15 seconds was stuck in the minds of the event attendees, Bedein went on to talk about the hopes of those in Sderot and the development that was going on in the town.


What was more powerful than either the video or the pictures of construction cranes building new apartment buildings was a series of drawings that Bedein showed the audience. The drawings were all done by children living in Sderot. The drawing were about life in Sderot and depicted the rockets and the feelings of the children living there. The drawings that stood out the most were the ones that were about peace between Israel and the Palestinians, particularly those in Gaza who live where the rockets aimed at the Sderot children were being fired from.

Translation: "Shalom to the Children of Gaza,   I understand your difficult situation. Both of us are children and living in war situations. I hope that there will be peace and that one day we will be able to meet and play together and be happy. I wish you a good and quiet year. Hope to see you!" (Photo Credit)

Translation: “Shalom to the Children of Gaza, I understand your difficult situation. Both of us are children and living in war situations. I hope that there will be peace and that one day we will be able to meet and play together and be happy. I wish you a good and quiet year. Hope to see you!” (Photo Credit)

Bedein’s messages of fear, hope and resilience and visual aides resonated with the attendees and gave them the human side of the rockets going into Israel. Bedein’s presentation came just months after the end of Operation Protective Edge, which was criticized by many on the campus. Those same people, however, did not recognize the damage done to the Israeli civilian population who was also subjected to rocket fire. Bedein was able to shed some light on the suffering of Israeli civilians during the operation, thus making it so that the attendees could understand the Israeli side to which they had not been exposed.

This was contributed by the 2014-2015 American University CAMERA Fellow, Rachel Wolf.

CAMERA Student Conference 2015

Day 1

IMGP6056What is better than a bunch of passionate Israel activists? A bunch of passionate Israel activists at the CAMERA Student Leadership and Advocacy Training Conference! After registration, the students gathered at the Boston University Hillel to kick off the day with lunch and introductions. CAMERA’s International Campus Director, Aviva Slomich then gave a wonderful presentation on how to stand up for Israel on college campuses. After which Tatiana Becker, a CAMERA campus coordinator, conducted a presentation entitled “What Do You Know about CAMERA on Campus?” The students played an engaging online quiz, ‘Kahoot’, that tested the students’ know-how when it comes to Israel trivia. The students enthusiastically broke out their phones and frantically typed in answers to Tatiana’s questions.

After the students had their fun with Kahoot, they went to their breakout sessions. There were three options, two of which the students were able to attend. The breakout sessions included,  “Zionism 101” with Sidney Shapiro of Laurentian University, “Witnesses of History” campaign with Rachel Wolf of American University, and “Keys to Planning Successful Events” with Justin Hayet of Binghamton University.

The students then heard from Gilead Ini, a Senior Research Analyst at CAMERA, about detecting media bias and how CAMERA fixes these biases. Afterwards, the students met with David Yarus, the founder of JSwipe, a Jewish dating app, who gave tips on how to give their Israel groups a prominent presence on social media.

IMGP6356After a beautiful picnic in the park with a view of Boston’s Charles River, the students ended the day with a screening of the acclaimed documentary film, the “J Street Challenge,” followed by a Q & A with the film’s producer, Avi Goldwasser. This day was meant to motivate the students, not only for the rest of the conference, but for the upcoming school year.

Day 2

Tatiana Becker kicked off the day with an informative presentation on the best ways make a campus Israel group more attractive to a wide range of students. This involved how to draw people in during tabling, what the best way is to plan events, and how to effectively divide work among members of the group. One of the ways discussed to get students to come to events was to make sure there is food at all of them!

IMGP6390After hearing from Tatiana, the students divided into groups in accordance with their position on their Israel E-Board: President, Political Chair, Outreach Chair, and Communications/Social Media Chair and went into specialized breakout sessions. Some of the challenges that were discussed within the various positions were time management, delegating, and making sure everyone in the group is on the same page.

IMGP6520Then CAMERA’s Director of Student Programming, Gilad Skolnick, spoke with the students the best way to write an op-ed. His tips included how to introduce topics with a hook, how to make writing concise and clear, and the best way to keep people reading!

Masha Gabriel helped the students practice their debate skills by acting as an anti-Israel activist and asking tough questions related to Israel. Simultaneously, Susan Rubin helped the students improve their stage presence, which is an important part of Israel activism.

Aviva Slomich then presented the successful CAMERA campaign, Less Hamas, More Hummus. For this campaign CAMERA teams up with MEMRI (the Middle East Media Research Institute) and uses clips of media in Arabic in order to demonstrate the destructive nature of Hamas.

The students ended the day with Jerusalem U Campus Director, Yoni Mann, who told his story of how he came to be an advocate for Israel, and then facilitated a screening of the film “Crossing the Line.”

Day 3

The third day began two anti-Israel-activists-turned-Zionists: Romeu Monteiro and Kasim Hafeez. Each speaker told his own story and showed everyone at CAMERA that it is possible to cause a change of heart in event the most vehemently anti-Israel individuals.

IMG_5255Next it was time for the students to get moving with a  Krav Maga session led by Gershon Ben Keren.

After their workout, the students heard from Sergeant Benjamin Anthony, the founder of Our Soldiers Speak, who gave a captivating and chilling presentation in which he discussed his experiences and about how the students can be just as powerful on campus as the IDF soldiers in the field.

Then Dr. Ephraim Inbar, the Director of the Began-Sadat center, who will be on tour with CAMERA this Fall, spoke afterwards about the dangers of the Iran deal.

To end the day, Dr. Alex Safian of CAMERA then gave a presentation on how to answer tough questions. This session was key to the students’ understanding how to answer some of the most difficult questions that they could encounter on campus from both students and professors alike.

IMGP7358After a full day of learning and working hard, the students got to enjoy a real Bostonian experience: a Red Sox game at historic Fenway Park!

Day 4

To kick off the final day of the conference, the students heard from Dexter Van Zile and Tricia Miller about the status of Christians in the Middle East, a topic that isn’t commonly addressed, but can help with campus activism.

Then, Lana Melman of Liberate Art came to discuss her work in countering the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) campaign against Israeli artists and performers. Her presentation was timely, as the Spanish Reggae Festival announced that they would allow Matisyahu to perform despite calls from BDS activists to do




After lunch, a mock BDS hearing took place among the students. The students were broken up into groups and told to come up with arguments against BDS. Once their arguments were finished they got the chance to argue against the CAMERA staff who read pro-BDS statements from real BDS votes.

To end the conference, CAMERA’s Executive Director Andrea Levin closed the conference with a moving presentation in which she talked about 10 things to remember when standing up for Israel. Goodbyes were said with lots of hugs and lots of love; a beautiful end to an incredible conference!


To read more about past conferences, check out this page on the CAMERA on Campus website.

There have also been articles published on the JNS, the Jewish Standard, the Jewish Exponent, and the Jewish Chronicle.



Budrus is a documentary that was released in 2009. The film focuses on the anti-Security Fence movement growing in the village of Budrus, located in the West Bank. The anti-Security Fence movement is a series of protests which often start as nonviolent demonstrations but often end with throwing rocks. These protests are meant to urge the Israeli government to change the path of the security fence so it does not uproot olive trees or cross into Palestinian territory.


Julia Bacha wrote and directed Budrus. Bacha is a Brazilian filmmaker and media strategist who was educated at Columbia University. The job of a media strategist is to ensure that a certain message is conveyed in media, which means that the slant in Budrus was not accidental. Bacha now works for Just Vision which has produced films such as, Budrus, My Neighborhood, Encounter Point and Home Front, all of which have a very clear anti-Israel slant.

According to Just Vision’s website, “Just Vision highlights the power and potential of Palestinians and Israelis working to end the occupation and build a future of freedom, dignity, equality and human security using nonviolent means.” Just Vision promotes other organizations such as B’Tselem and Women in Black.

Ayed Morrar, the film’s narrator, is a community leader who often organizes nonviolent demonstrations. Morrar is accompanied by Ahmed Awwad, a Hamas activist. The film attempts to show the audience that these two men are the victims and the nonviolent activists and that the soldiers are led by brutes and thus behave in a barbaric manner. The film also tries to show the people of Budrus as the true victims.

Budrus not only shows Palestinian protesters, but Israeli and foreign protesters as well. This angle attempts to give the movement against the destruction of Palestinian land some sort of validity. However, these international protesters mainly serve as a hindrance to the IDF and not in a helpful way. These international “friends” of the Palestinians often taunted the soldiers and escalated the problems, making it worse for the people of Budrus. The violent response demonstrations increased as the international protesters forced the Israel Defense Forces (IDF) to take more drastic measures, making Israel seem like the aggressor.

This film also shows these protests from the perspective of the IDF soldiers who were serving at the border at the time. While the film paints the IDF and its tactics with civilians as harsh, two of the soldiers, Doron Spielman and Yasmine Levy, are seen as civilized. Spielman discusses the purpose of the fence and its realities, as well as the nature of IDF soldiers, whereas Levy discussed the relationship between the soldiers and the Palestinians and how that relates to the army’s orders.

Spielman acknowledged that the fence’s background was rooted in the intifada, saying, “…and that’s what we’re up against and the answer is a fence. The answer is not going out and mulling down people.”

While the film’s multicultural approach makes it seem like a fair and balanced piece, this is not the reality of the film. The film itself contains shocking language and scenes, in addition to heavily edited footage and a clear bias.

One of the more shocking tends in the film is that the words “Jew” and “Israeli” are used interchangeably. At one point, Awwad discusses how shocked he is that a Jew would stand by his side to fight another Jew. Then, in the next sentence, he goes back to using the word “Israeli.” This is troubling because it not only shows the assumption that all Israelis are Jews, but that Jews are the enemy. This interchangable use gives an anti-Semetic tone to the film.

The film also contains contradictory information that is evident in two main forms. First, in a scene with Morrar’s family, Morrar states that only men will be going to protest that day and that the co-ed march will be held the next day. Not more than 30 seconds after that sentence, his daughter, Iltizam, states that marches are always co-ed.

The other contradictory point in the film is that, despite the fact that Morrar and Awwad, as well as several other protesters, constantly insist that the protests are strictly nonviolent, there is a lot of footage that shows protesters throwing rocks. Though it is usually followed by a cry to stop, the rock throwing is evident of violent intentions. This contrast shows the filmmakers are ignoring these acts of violence in order to push the message that all Palestinians are victims and peaceful.

Iltizam Morrar is also a troubling character in the film. While she is passionate about her people’s land, some of the things that she says in this film can be questionable. For example, she discusses her family’s “history of resistance.”

“I’m from a family that I am proud of. We have a history of resistance. My father, uncles and grandmother are always talking about everything they did in the Intifada. When the Wall came I said, ‘Well, it’s my turn.’”

This reverence for violence is something that is never expanded upon, outside of a few more extreme quotes from Iltizam, but it seems odd that the daughter of a supposedly peace-loving man would admire someone who had so much to do with violence.

Finally, this film loses its credibility with its highly edited footage. There are various points in the film, but it is most evident in the interview with Zeev Boim, that the Israeli side is not allowed to speak. They cut the interviews to the sound bites that they want. Zeev Boim says that an Israeli activist should go on trial for helping the people in Budrus and when they reporter asks him about it, astonished, there is no response. They do not allow Boim to respond, expand on or clarify his comment.

Contributed by CAMERA Intern Rachel Wolf, a student at American University.

Why Are We Bullying Birthright?

This piece has been republished by The Algemeiner.

Birthright is a 10-day free trip to Israel that is offered to all Jews between the ages of 18 and 26 who have not previously been on a peer trip to Israel. While these 10 days are filled with fun and many participants say that they plan on returning to Israel, according to a study done by Brandeis University, four years after Birthright only 25% of US participants and 36% of Canadian participants actually returned to Israel. If Birthright’s mission is to indoctrinate Jewish children and encourage them to make Aliyah and join the IDF, then they are doing a lousy job.

Birthright is an incredible program that young Jewish adults are fortunate enough to have. Although return rates are low, Birthright instills fond memories in participants and allows them to connect to Israel and Judaism on a personal level. Demonizing something that encourages young people to explore a country and a religion without charging them a dime is wrong. Regardless of what one might perceive to be Birthright’s message, the concept and outcomes of the program are amazing.

Rachel Wolf standing by the Fire and Water fountain at Dizengoff Square in Tel Aviv.

Rachel Wolf standing by the Fire and Water fountain at Dizengoff Square in Tel Aviv.

According to their website, Taglit-Birthright’s objectives are “to change the course of Jewish history and ensure the continuity of the Jewish people by strengthening Jewish identity, Jewish communities, and solidarity with Israel via an educational trip to Israel for Jewish young adults around the world.” There is nothing in their objectives about students either making Aliyah nor joining the IDF.

In the past, Birthright has not only been questioned for its non-existent indoctrinatory policies, but for its mere existence. “Where is the Palestinian Birthright?” Few Jewish college students make it through their higher education without having to answer this question. The answer should be that there are plenty of trips for students to go to the Palestinian territories, but they are not free of charge.

Since the tragic death of Max Steinberg in Operation Protective Edge, many articles have come out about Birthright and a few accused the program of being the reason that Steinberg joined the Israel Defense Forces (IDF). Some have even accused Birthright of killing Steinberg. Among those articles was one that got a particularly large amount of attention; the article was titled, “‘Solidarity With Israel’: A Birthright trip convinced an American with shaky Hebrew that he was ready to die for another country”, and was written by Allison Benedikt. Benedikt’s article was not only in bad taste, but it held inaccuracies regarding Birthright’s mission.

The only person to blame for Max Steinberg’s death is the Hamas member who killed him. There is no one else who is responsible. Birthright had nothing to do with the tragic death of this hero. The notion that Birthright is the only reason that Max, or any other lone soldier, joins the IDF is preposterous. There are several reasons why people choose to join the IDF, and despite what they face once they join, they do not blame things such as Birthright for their hardships and tragedies. Izzy Ezagui is an American who volunteered for the IDF and lost his arm while fighting for Israel, and he blames neither Israel nor Birthright for his injury. As Ezagui says in the video, he belonged in the army and while Birthright influenced him, it was not the sole reason that he joined.

Anyone who joins an army and moves to a country after a free 10-day trip needs to spend much thought and time to evaluate such a decision. Becoming a lone soldier is not only a very personal decision, but is not one that is made overnight. Whether they talk about it or not, lone soldiers are people who have thoroughly thought through their decision to move to a new country, leave their family, learn a new language and join the army. While there are programs in place through several organizations that are designed to help lone soldiers, it is still a hard thing to be and a hard decision to make.

Contributed by CAMERA Intern Rachel Wolf, a student at American University and a 2014-2015 CAMERA Fellow. Rachel participated in Birthright in 2013 and is currently working from Jerusalem.

Knotted Narratives

Students for Justice in Palestine (SJP) is not pro-Palestine, they are anti-Israel. This may seem like the same thing (pro-Palestine and anti-Israel), but they are not. SJP seems to only rally around Palestinians who are being killed by Israelis. They don’t talk about the abuse of Palestinians in other countries, such as Lebanon and Syria. They also fail to mention the fact that Hamas is killing its own people by telling them to ignore IDF warnings about airstrikes. SJP chooses to focus on Israel out of hatred of the Jewish State and not love for the Palestinians.

Rachel Wolf is currently interning at our office in Jerusalem. In this picture here she is standing by the Bahai gardens in Haifa.

Rachel Wolf is currently interning at our office in Jerusalem. In this picture she is standing by the Bahai gardens in Haifa.

Why don’t Palestinian groups, such as Students for Justice in Palestine, rally for Palestine rather than against Israel? They host die-ins, raise “Apartheid Walls,” and screen biased films. Yes, these groups often have vigils and events for Palestinian victims or prisoners, but these events are still tangled with their opposing of Israel. Why not have Palestinian cultural festivals that actually talk about Palestinian culture? Most of the time these festivals and movie events focus around the idea of Palestinian oppression at the hands of the Israelis. That is not Palestinian culture. Culture is about food, music, art, et cetera. Culture is neither a way to blame someone else for your problems, nor is it an excuse for violence, retaliation, or hatred.

I have yet to see an Israel group hold an anti-Palestine event. This is not to say that such an event has never occurred, but why should they? The purpose of an Israel group is to talk about Israel. Sometimes these groups bring speakers to discuss the conflict, and, thus, Palestine would be brought up. However, this can also mean attending festivals, eating Israeli food, learning Israeli dances and celebrating Israeli holidays (like Yom Ha’atzmaut). These events are not about talking about Palestinian terrorists killing Israelis or calling Palestinians racist. These events focus on supporting Israel.

Is it possible to be pro-Palestinian without being anti-Israel? Is it possible to be pro-Israel without being anti-Palestinian? The answer to both of these questions is yes. There is absolutely no reason why anyone who supports his one people should be hateful towards another people other simply because of their existence.

It’s time to put an end to the name-calling, slogans and hatred. That is not how this issue will be solved or even discussed. Teaching and learning about other cultures is fine, more than that, it’s what these groups should be doing. These groups should not be rivals on campus. This issue should not be focused about outdoing one side’s demonstration. There will never be a real dialogue on campus if the conflict is seen as a competition. These groups should work together to ensure both Palestinian and Israeli rights.

Contributed by CAMERA Intern Rachel Wolf, a student at American University.

Israeli Reality Check

This is the third draft of “Israeli Reality Check” that I have written and I’m sure that it will still not be current enough when it is posted due to the ever-changing situation in Israel. When I embarked on my journey to Israel in mid-June, I never imagined that I would be here during something like this. Now I can’t even remember how many days it has been since Operation Protective Edge started.

Rachel Wolf in Jerusalem, summer 2014

Rachel Wolf in Jerusalem, summer 2014

The mood in this country has changed dramatically in the last 38 days since I have been here and since Naftali Frenkel, Eyal Yifrach and Gilad Shaar were kidnapped and killed. My first night in Israel was spent at my friend’s moshav. We watched the news of the kidnappings as it was being broken. When I found out the tragic end to the search, I was on a scavenger hunt that my madrichim abruptly cancelled due to the news.

The first time I went to a miklat (bomb shelter) was a sobering experience. I wasn’t scared for my safety, I knew that my madricha (who was luckily in my apartment building at the time) knew what to do. I was shocked that there would ever be rockets in Jerusalem. Earlier that day I had received several emails from my family, all of them begging me to go home before things escalated. In my detailed response of life here, in Jerusalem, I said, “If anything bad (i.e. rockets or terror attacks) happens, it won’t be in Jerusalem. No one is going to bomb the holiest and most well guarded city in the world, let alone G-d. Don’t forget that many people see Jerusalem as His house (that’s why we are in this whole mess).”

My complete denial that anything could happen to Jerusalem was gone the moment that the siren went off. I have been in a bomb shelter five more times since then, which is considerably fewer times than the majority of Israelis. Now, hearing busses screeching, car alarms, and ambulances make me jump in terror.

After the first time I went to the miklat, it became more normal. One night, while in the bomb shelter, my friends and I were taking pictures and playing games on our phones while waiting for the ten minutes to be over. It takes 10 minutes for everything to settle; this was something that I, like many others who have never been to a bomb shelter, didn’t realize. I assumed that being in a bomb shelter took hours, as did my mother who suggested I pack a bag with food and water. I quickly assured her that, contrary to popular belief, Americans can go ten minutes without eating.

Israel is not an awful place to live; on the contrary, it is an amazing place to live, but fear can be a part of life here. When I originally wrote this piece, it was fairly upbeat since I had witnessed nothing. Now, I have a slightly different view of the situation. However, life is still going on. People all around Israel are still smiling, loving, laughing and playing. In Israel, the ability to live is essential. Without the ability to see each day as a gift and an opportunity, life here would have ceased to exist a long time ago, in 1948 during the Independence War.

“The Israeli Reality” is something that I have discussed frequently in the last few weeks. When people say “The Israeli Reality”, they are usually referring to terror attacks, mandatory military service, and metal detectors. Recently, my Israeli reality has included waking up at 7:30am with multiple “Red Alerts” on my phone, showing where rocket attacks have taken place. However, these are not the only things that make up “The Israeli Reality.” This reality is also about drinking Shoko (chocolate milk) from a bag, it’s hiking in the Golan Heights, it’s floating in the Dead Sea, it’s living with a revived language, it’s seeing the Kotel full of people singing and dancing on a Friday night. This is the Israeli reality.

Israel is more than rockets and fear. This is not to say that Israelis are oblivious to their surroundings. On the contrary, Israelis are aware of where they live and what that means for them and their children, but they are also aware of the fact that they cannot spend their lives wondering “what if” every second of every day. They cannot run scared at the first sight of danger.

The Israelis are striving to live each day in absolute normalcy. This can be difficult in some parts of Israel, such as Beer Sheva, Ashdod, Ashkelon, and Sderot, but people succeed at being normal because living as if nothing has changed is a victory.

Many people have asked me how my life in Israel has changed since the rocket attacks started a few weeks ago.  I have told them that I am living my life as if nothing has changed because doing anything else would be a victory for Hamas. If they were to scare me into changing my life or going back to the United States earlier than I had planned, I would be terrorized, and I will not allow that to happen.

Right now I am sitting in CAMERA’s Jerusalem office and my daily routine has not changed since I started interning here just about a month ago. I still come to the office, open my computer, hope that the Wi-Fi is functional and start my work. At the end of the day I go home, eat dinner and see everyone in my program.

I will not deny that my perception is skewed by virtue of living in Jerusalem. I am not in an area where rockets are constantly being launched. I know that I, like most people in Jerusalem, have not had the kind of Israeli experience that means being awoken by sirens rather than alarm clocks. This does not discredit the experiences of people in Jerusalem; rather it sheds light on “The Israeli Reality.” There is not one singular reality in Israel. There is the Jerusalem reality, the Tel Aviv reality, the Ashdod reality and so many more; they all come together to make “The Israeli Reality.”

Contributed by CAMERA Intern Rachel Wolf, a student at American University. This piece was republished under the title An American View of Israel Under Fire.