Our final educational seminar (official seminar at least) took place this week in Be’er Sheva, at the Leonardo Hotel. The intensive two days consisted of building tools to properly advocate for Israel on college campuses. Yossi’s shpeil was that we can choose to involve ourselves or distance ourselves as much as we want from Israel activity, but like it or not we will be in positions where we are put on the spot to defend Israel.
Neil, of course, did not have us bored from the first second. He “angrily” called individuals out, made them stand up, and demanded that they justify something about something or another related to Israel. We later learned that all scenarios that he used have been used on him before (including one about how Israeli government could endorse the massacre of gays at a bar… referencing the isolated incident when a hate crime against gays was executed at a bar in Tel Aviv, which the government completely condemned). He then showed us a video called Crossing the Line, which documents the dire situation on the college campuses. We went through many of his defense tactics and different advocacy tools he had to offer for us. I have some notes written down but not in front of me at the moment. In the afternoon, a woman in her mid-twenties named Michelle, a New York native who’s now the director of Diaspora relations for Stand With Us, did a presentation as well and talked about things we can do to be active on college campuses. They showed us the Alan Dershowitz documentary Case for Israel; I should probably read the book. That was all Tuesday – we went home in the evening.
On Wednesday, we returned and started with a presentation from Itamar Marcus who’s high up in the Palestinian Media Watched. He showed us some of the most appalling TV clips from Palestinian TV that indoctrinate hatred into children (including my favorite, Farfur), as well as examples of schools, sports arenas, and street names named after Palestinian “martyrs.” After that, a founder of Jewlicious online magazine did a presentation about the importance of using technology such as Facebook and Twitter to our advantage in promoting Israel. In the end, it was a presentation that had a message that could have been conveyed in five minutes, but not terrible. The afternoon was extremely intense, though. Neil planned a simulation activity in which we were all assigned to different student groups – hugs for peace, Palestinian groups, an Israel group, a sports club, an Indian group, and a Black group. We had to plan programs for freshman week to promote ourselves, join together with other groups, and then we had to call different arms of the university to actually book rooms, security, catering, etc. (those were madrichim). Making those calls was an extreme pain because having five groups calling one phone all at one time just doesn’t work. I was in the Israel group, and of course part of the simulation was that there were increasing security issues the whole time because of an attack on a Muslim blamed on Jews and death threats to Zionists. It got intense but Neil was impressed in the end of the way we got into it (especially the Indian group). What was stressed throughout the entire seminar was that if someone is not comfortable speaking in public, they should focus on technology or planning programs or demonstrating Israeli culture in public (he gave an example of someone who used fashion to portray Israel) – the political stuff is not always the most necessary.
I’m still yet to put the Israel advocacy skills I’ve learned into use, but I still gained a lot from reinforcing tools and facts, and this time around I also learned a couple of new things.