Sunday, June 29, 2014

The Druze

In all the world there are 2 or 3 million Druze. Most of them are in Lebanon(1 million), and in Israel there are around 120.000 , who are living in especially in Galilee. Druze are famous for their loyalty and hospitality.

I had the opportunity of visiting the village of Peki'in. This village has 70% of Druze population, 20% of Christians , 9% of muslin and just 1% of Jews. In the village there is one Jew , very old, who takes care of the beautiful and ancient synagogue.

Druze came out of Egypt in 1100 and migrated to the Galilee. Their religion in very similar to Judaism, in fact they also have the commandment but theirs are just 9 because they don't observe Shabbat. Their holy book called Book of Wisdom , is secret and also his meanings are strictly reserved to Druze.

Druze believe in reincarnation and usually happens that young kids talk about their previous life very precisely.

The Druze flag in made up by 5 colors: white, yellow, green, red and blue. Each color represents a very important value of Druze tradition. White is the purity of the mind, green is the nature , blue is the superior entity who controls the world, red is the blood of the Druze poured during the persecutions and yellow is the morality of the people.

The order of the colors of the shape of the flag isn't relevant because the basic thing is the presence of those 5 colors. Muslims don't respect Druze because they think that the way of keeping the Book of Wisdom seems like if that book doesn't exist.

The only nation to have recognized the ethnic group of the Druze is Israel. Druze must take part to the IDF and during the independence war there were relatively more Druze causalities than Jewish. Today there are a few generals and pilots who are Druze because the State of Israel believes in them.

All the deepest and most important comments or explanation are kept as a top secret information.
Druze population is divided in medium religious and very religious people. This small village is the prove of how it can be possible the co-existance of the 3 monotheist religions and demonstrates that peace is possible.

---David Fiorentini

Saturday, June 28, 2014

6 years later...

The Kotel

6 years ago, I stood in front of a Wall. I had no emotion and I did not feel there was any significance to it. I stood in front of this same Wall yesterday, however, instead of not feeling at emotions, I cried.

We got to the entrance of the Kotel and discussed the amount of time we would need at the Wall. We decided on 45 minutes. I did not understand why we would need 45 minutes to stand at a Wall, but I didn't complain.

After taking around one hundred pictures, we started walking up towards the Wall. There may have been 50 other women there, but I immediately felt as though it was just me and the Wall.

I began to approach it, slowly and tentatively. I don't know why I was so scared. As I got closer, my eyes started to well up. I couldn't explain it.  There was something there, something powerful and something real. The pain that the Jews felt when they lost the temple now was my pain. I was
connected to the history of the Jewish people.

I ended up wanting to spend more time. Not wanting to leave. I've grown up since I was 10 years old. I understand the hype. I understand the significance. And I understand what it means to be a Jew standing in front if the holiest place in the world. The Kotel.

--Sydney Sussman

Hearts turn to the east

The Kotel
By Lily Rebecca Buder

2000 years. Not a long time in the history of the world but forever in the hearts of the Jewish people. Ever since I can remember one word saturated my mind. Jerusalem.

My heart was beating fast, pounding against my sternum as we drove towards the Old City. I slowly watched the holiest city transform from a modern metropolis into the city I'd dreamed about in my childhood. The city of my peoples past.

Walking through security I caught a glimpse of the wall, a symbol of the Jewish people throughout the centuries. By then my blood was rushing in my ears and I wanted nothing more then to run at it full speed. I had never felt such a strong love and devotion for any place in my life.

As I walked towards the wall slowly taking it all in, I felt my heart swell a million times with love. This was it, this was what my life had led up to. As I pressed my fingers to the warm ancient stone time began to freeze. I was the realization of my ancestors, "next year in Jerusalem." They would pray each year at Pesach, a hopeful plea to return to the ruins of our beloved temple.

Tears swelled up in my eyes and poured freely, eventually turning into broken but powerful sobs. The love I felt for my people and our history overwhelmed me. I was in mourning. I was in mourning for every Jew before me whose pleas to return to the temple each year wasn't realized. I was in mourning for every man and woman who died trying to return to the wall. But mostly I cried because I had never felt as much love for Hashem as I did in that moment. The Western Wall is commonly called the wailing wall, I can confirm though that it wasn't adopted due wails of despair, sorrow of course but mostly just love, immense and powerful love.

When we pray in the states our hearts turn to the east, to Jerusalem, to the Kotel. We are constantly remembering the destruction and longing to return. The immense love we have no matter where we are in the world for the wall reaches and permeates through it's smooth facade to the heart of the mount creating an eternal heart for the Jewish people to last centuries.

To spend the holiest day of the week at the holiest place in the hearts of the Jewish people is not an experience that can be conveyed in words. It's an emotionally powerful and spiritually intense experience. The love and the spirituality I felt then was a line to the past, connecting me with every Jew whose heart turned to the wall, to our home.

A True Shabbat Experience (Almost)


I nearly passed out at the Kotel yesterday, but not for the spiritual reasons you might expect. Of course, when I pressed my hand to the ancient walls, closed my eyes and said the Shema, I felt the raw energy of thousands of years of blood and history flow into my body. I started walking backwards when I felt like I had taken in enough of the Wall for the moment, and after about 10 steps my head started to pound. I felt woozy, and my long skirt was wrapping around my thighs like a boa constrictor. In front of the holiest landmark of the Jewish people, I nearly passed out and fell flat on my back.

Let's backtrack. I started the trip running on about 4.5 hours of sleep after waking up early for a 6:30 am flight. Then I embarked on about 25 hours of flying and airport time, and barely slept on those flights. I managed to get some good shut eye on Monday and Tuesday night, but Wednesday was rough. Thursday was even worse-- my roommate Sydney's bed broke as she was sleeping on it, and as the frame become more and more of a pronounced "V" shape, our giggles grew into roaring laughs. Needless to say, I didn't need to have done the ab workout I had done 5 hours prior. We laughed for around 2 hours straight, and then were kept awake by the various birthright groups stomping in the hallway. 

Obviously, I was the definition of a hot mess on Friday. So by the time our evening at the Kotel came, I hadn't eaten for 6 hours, I was dehydrated, and I was exhausted beyond exhausted. The long cotton skirt and sleeved shirt I was wearing weren't helping, and my throat was starting to hurt. This tapestry of factors wove together and created the Lily that could barely walk up the hills of the Jewish Quarter. There's something you should know about me-- I don't know my limits. I tend to push myself, and after I had a bottle of water about midway through the walk, I thought I was fine to continue. After another thirty minutes of hell we made it back to he hotel. I ate about a teaspoon of rice, and promptly fell asleep upon arriving to my room.

I find it interesting that I was so sick when we visited the holiest place we had seen yet. It forced me to sleep for nearly 14 hours, and to actually take care of myself on Shabbat today. I've never actually followed Shabbat, and while I definitely used my phone and turned on lights, we spent all day resting in the hotel. It felt different, in a subtle way, but different nonetheless. After a powerful and hot experience at the Kotel, I spent Shabbat in the holiest city in the world-- and I actually took care of my tired body and followed the commandment to rest. It wasn't reaching nirvana, but it was some kind of enlightenment.

Sun hats and Sunburns

Hikes give you the gift of exploring the outdoors, enjoying the fresh air, and getting fit all while surrounded by Mother Nature. The scenery is always breathtaking, and reaching the viewpoint at the summit always gives you a sense of accomplishment. Although people face the common struggles of the sweat, the bug bites, the sunburns, and everything else in between, they usually appreciate the hike and the stunning nature around them.

On June 27, 2014, a group of teenagers who derive from Israel but live in the United States, hiked the Sataf stream in Jerusalem. These teenagers came on an organized program called Young Judea, in which they learn about their roots while taking notes on their experiences. The Sataf stream is not an immensely challenging hike, and continues downhill for the duration of about two to three hours. The group took breaks and along the way, partly because the sun was unbearable and partly to learn about the history of the Old City, Jerusalem, while hiking in its perimeters. The views were breathtaking and the history very informative, and through the sun hats and the smiles, the hike was a success. It took many of the group members by surprise that the land that they were hiking on had not been the Jewish people’s land for a very long time, fewer than a hundred years.

 Some of the Young Judea participants found it upsetting that so many people had died for the Jewish people to walk this land that we call ours, while other participants found it astounding. It is a question of whether to feel remorse or to feel content about the situation. Some of the group members felt irked by the fact that some people, upon seeing landmarks like the Western Wall, felt a rush of excitement and happiness. They felt that those people should feel sorry that so many people had to fight so passionately for the group that the Jews can now walk on.

 Leeor Acrich, 16, California

Il problema d'immagine dello Stato d'Israele

L'immagine di Israele in Europa  e in Francia è molto stereotipata e malconsiderata.

In tutta Europa i partiti neo-nazisti sono in crescita. In Francia alle ultime elezioni europee ha vinto l'estrema destra del partito di estrema destra guidato da Marine Le Pen, che è, secondo Shlomo Malka, antisemita e razzista.

Questo è stato l'argomento principale del discorso di Shlomo Malka, produttore di un programma radiofonico ebraico in Francia, che è stato durante la primo Media Summit Ebraico che ha avuto luogo a Gerusalemme il 25 giugno 2014. suo discorso era all'interno del pannello problema di immagine di Israele.

La presenza ebraica in Europa è molto debole, quindi non ci sono abbastanza rappresentanti della nostra identità. Invece vi sono molti musulmani e la loro autorità è udita e conosciuta. Questo confonde gli europei tra ebrei e arabi.Male perché in realtà uno dei problemi più grandi di Europa è l'immigrazione dai paesi arabi come la Tunisia, Libia e Algeria. I partiti che sono contro gli immigrati clandestini sono anche antisemiti perché non capiscono le differenze di questi 2 popoli.

In Francia il fenomeno è molto più grande perché i musulmani sono molto più concentrati, in modo non vi sono grandi conflitti tra arabi e l'estrema destra. In Europa esiste una politica estera molto sinistra e pro-palestinese perché la maggior parte dei paesi, soprattutto arabi Italia dipendono dalla benzina e dal gas russo.

Molti governi, come quello Berlusconi ,  dovevano essere gentili con Putin o Gheddafi per ottenere le loro risorse primarie. Percio l'immagine di Israele sta diventando peggiore non solo per l' antisemitismo ma anche per la nostra dipendenza energetica da paesi antisemiti.

Quindi se diventiamo energeticamente indipendenti, i nostri governi potrebbero mostrare apertamente la propria amicizia con Israele.

David Fiorentini

The Israel's Image Problem

In France and in Europe Zionism is very weak. All around Europe neo-nazi parties are growing. In France at the last european elections won the extreme right party lead by Mare Le Pen , who is , according to Shlomo Malka, anti-semitic and racist.
This was the main topic of Shlomo Malka speech, producer of a Jewish radio show in France, that was during the first Jewish Media Summit that took place in Jerusalem on 25 June 2014. His speech was inside the panel Israel's Image problem.
The jewish presence in Europe is very weak so there aren't enough reppresentatives of our identity. Instead there are many muslim and their authority is heard and known. This brings confusion to the europeans between jews and arabs.Bad thing because actually one of the biggest problems of Europe is the immigration from arab countries such as Tunisia, Libia and Algeria so the parties who are against hosting clandestine immigrants become also antisemitic because they don't understand the differences of those 2 people.
In France this phenomenon is much bigger because muslims are much more concentrated there, so there are bigger conflicts between Arabs and extreme right authorities.
In Europe there is a foreign politic very leftist and pro-palestinian because most of the countries especially Italy depend on Arab petrol and Russian gas on their energy need. So many governments such as Berlusconi's one had to be friendly to Putin or Gheddafi in order to get their primary resourses. Because of that Israel's image is becoming worst only because if anti Semitism but also because our dependence on antisemitic countries.
So if we become energy independent our governments could show openly their friendship with Israel.
David Fiorentini

New Experiences

Coming from an Israeli family I have been to Israel many times before. On a few trips we have visited the Western Wall. Though each time I have gone with family and I was much younger.
This trip was a whole new experience. I am now much older than I was last time and I was with new people. I wasn't only with new people but with friends this time. I didn’t have my family rushing us along or needing me to be by their side their whole time. I had half an hour to spend either by myself or hugging my friends and feeling connected to the Jewish people.

Sometimes throughout the year there are times I don't feel connected to G-d or Israel. Living in America and not being a part of a synagogue it’s hard to feel connected. Even when first walking and seeing the Western Wall it didn't affect me the way I thought it would, I didn't feel much. Though once I went up to the Wall and actually touched it and said a prayer, I felt renewed. I felt a connection to not only G-d but I felt I was part of the Jewish people. I felt reconnected to Israel and I finally felt that I was back in the Holy Land. The first feeling I got there will always stay with me. This experience was with new people and in a new age.
From Left to Right: Hadas Ben-David, Roee Landesman, Sarah Eylon at the Western Wall

--Hadas Ben-David

Alive -Day 4

It is often said in the world of Jewish mothers that one cannot truly appreciate something until it is gone. In a stroke of misfortune, I had money stolen from my wallet today, which was snuggly placed inside my back back.  Admittedly, ₪150 is not a substantial amount of money, however to be completely honest I was pissed off. After all, I was spending a night in the bellybutton of the Jewish faith. 

Then I took a step back. Again, in the words of Jewish mothers across the world: I had simply lost money...not a limb, and not a head. Furthermore, I had began to realize how lucky I was. Lucky that I was In a social and economic status where I could afford to lose 150 shekels. Lucky to even have the opportunity to spend the night in such a beautiful and inspirational city. And most importantly, lucky to be alive and healthy, because otherwise the money I lost would have been worth as much as dirt.

---Roee Landesman

Israeli Arabs want peace in Israel

I was always told to believe that the Arabs were the bad guys. They don't want peace, they want war and chaos. I was wrong.

During a coexistence seminar our group talked to and interviewed local Arab Israelis teenagers on if they wanted peace and what they wanted for peace. I witnessed something I thought was impossible, Arabs advocating for peace in Israel.

The seminar began with group conversations with the local Arab teens. We were able to talk to them in English, their third language in which they spoke (surprisingly) practically fluently (they also spoke fluently in Arabic and Hebrew). 

A few minutes into conversation, one person in our group mentioned snapchat. One minute later everyone in the room was taking selfies and adding each other on Facebook and Instagram accounts. The fact that these kids even had social networking completely surprised me. 

This new generation of Arab Israelis however still retain core values of their Muslim religion, one of which is anti-gay marriage. During the group conversations I talked to a girl about how the US is very accepting of gays, to which she responded, "I don't support gays."

After group conversations we interviewed some of the kids on what they want for in the future of Israel. To which one of the kids responded, "I hope [that] one day I can eat in Lebanon and go to sleep in Syria...I hope one day I will never see a gun."

Friday, June 27, 2014

The Israeli Mosaic

Israel is, without a doubt, striking. After today, I would go as far as to say that America is absolutely boring in comparison.

Today's travels involved a lot of just that, travel. An hour drive from Kibbutz Degania to Deir al-Asad, at least another hour to the Druze village Peki'in, and three hours from there to Jerusalem. It is nearly impossible for one to do that much driving in Israel without riding along borders, climbing the winding mountain roads of the Galilee, crossing checkpoints, and seeing the country's trademark red-roofed villages. Every glance out the window was another breathtaking view and another picture that I simply had to take, despite my refusal to be a camera-fixated tourist. Every piece of land has thousands of years' worth of history behind it, saturated in culture and conflict. Every fence is more than a fence; it's a strict line of separation that transcends physical limits and dabbles in personal and political hostility. It seems that there is always another layer to the story.

Peki'in is a village in the Galilee that is 70% Druze with Christian and Muslim minorities and only a single Jewish woman. It's incredibly old, with a synagogue and landmarks that date as far back as just after the 2nd Temple. The narrow alleys, stone walls and picturesquely artsy ironwork on the doors mingle with loud cars and graffiti. The Druze themselves are about a millennium old. They broke off from Islam in the 11th century, were persecuted, and now have a population of 2.5 million scattered throughout the Middle East. Their lifestyle in Peki'in reflects this antiquity and uniqueness. Our group ate lunch at a special restaurant, where a Druze host sat us down at a long, red-clad table and fed us plate after plate of traditional food. The building itself was the former home of the village leader, refurbished to look exactly the way it did 100 years ago when it was last inhabited. We drank Turkish coffee and watched tea candles burn in handcrafted mosaic bowls. The meal absolutely radiated with tradition. Only in Israel can a centuries-old culture remain so genuine and so appealing to a restless group of teenagers. As the meal drew to a close, we talked to a Druze man about the history of the religion and the village. The story of their people and struggles is remarkable. They've been living in the Middle East for a thousand years; that's 3 times as old as the United States. While Americans are all-too-eager to push their beliefs on other people, the Druze keep their religion and beliefs secret.

How is America supposed to compare to all of this? We have a painfully brief history, little ethnic diversity in "mainstream" society, none of our own food, and no unique culture. We are a nation of conformity and materialism, not one of heritage.

Both Israel and America feature an impressive variety of people from different races, countries, religions and backgrounds. In the States, it seems that everyone is mashed together into a bland slush of secular, assimilated "culture." Israel is what I like to call a mosaic: every person, past and present, is individually molded into the fabric of the country. Every story is layered and mixed, but kept pure and whole at the same time. The diversity in Israel is just so obviously beautiful.

So, yes, I will go back to America terribly disappointed and hopelessly bored. I won't abandon the American summer traditions of swimming pools and barbecues, but the whole time, my mind will be with the beauty of the Israel mosaic.

- Kim Robins

Lost and Found

In my path to self-awareness I have discovered that I gain clarity through writing, specifically poetry. Here is a look into my search for clarity on my experience at the Western Wall today with a slam poem called, Lost and Found.

                        Lost and found
Images of leaving and returning

of losing and finding

seeking and achieving

for years my ancestors were lost and found
left the land they had know returned to one they did not

lost the ones they had loved, the things that were theirs, but found somewhere else to place their passion

sought out this passion and today they have achieved.

            My ancestors had real passion – not a selfish desire to better themselves
Not a passion for physical needs.

But for a land they could call home.
A selfless goal that they risked and gave their lives for and one that they have achieved.

Today when my hand touched the cold brown stone of the Western Wall they have achieved.
Today when my friends, that I have known for only six days, and I could cry openly together over the unspoken historic and religious bond that us twelve strangers share, they have achieved.
Today when I set foot onto a ground I have seen many times before and was moved to tears by the feeling I got of a divine presence, in a land that my ancestors fought for –
their shed blood made this land holy
their pain and suffering made this land a home
their courage and selfless passion made this land a Jewish state.

My ancestors have achieved

Further exploring my Jewish identity
Standing at the Western Wall
preparing for Shabbat
lighting the Shabbat candles on the streets of Jerusalem

my ancestors have achieved.

Lost and found
Images of leaving and returning

of losing and finding

seeking and achieving

---Sarah Eylon

A Higher Place

The world wants to be noticed. As eager teens climbed through the upper Galilee the altitude strategically placed popping pop rocks that left us with an uncomfortable ringing in our ears. Despite the clogged ears we were aware that we need our listening sense more than ever.

The winding roads is the assumed complex relationship between Israelis and Arab Israelis. Though the fun began when our concrete ideas had an aggressive jack hammer break our stubborn views into thousands of pieces. High school aged Israeli Arabs filed into a room full of Jewish Americans participating with Young Judea Summer Programs. We were now in full swing in The Coexist Seminar, designed to create positive relationships between Arab Israelis and Jews in the diaspora. It was once said that silence quiets the mind though silence filled our brains with chaos. Through teenaged small talk each individual Young Judaea participate had epiphany: they're are just like us. the hills and valleys that surround the Galilee could be perceived as counterproductive stairs. Though in the relationship between Jews and Arabs our hills and valleys have bridges that will only get stronger with time.

---Dana Brown

The Jewish Connection

I'm not as you would call a very religious Jew. Yes, I go to synagogue twice a year for high holidays but compared to Israeli Orthodox Jews I'm basically atheist. Although I don't pray every day and celebrate Shabbat every Friday, I am still Jewish. It's how I define myself and it's who I am.

The Israeli Jews however have a different view of us reform Jews in the United States. Let us flashback 20 years from now, the soon to be Israeli president after attending a reform service in the United States, while walking out the doors of the synagogue said "this isn't Judaism." 

During a media summit today, June 25, we were shown a Facebook interactive map showing to what countries are specific countries connecting with (i.e having the most friends on Facebook) the most and the least. Each country was represented by a circle, the greater the circle the greater the connection with that country was. When Israel was clicked on its most connected countries were it's surrounding countries (Jordan, Syria, Lebanon). The United States however wasn't even in Israel's top 20 most connected countries.

Israel is the homeland of the Jews and it is very important that it stays connected with the Jews of the world. The United States has the second (to Israel) largest population of Jews in the world, but we don't connect with one another.

The strict ancient traditions of the orthodox Jews in Israel are much different than the way reform Jews practice their religion in America. Due towards cultural differences such as this we have become isolated within one another creating separate communities. In the future maybe the Israelites will look past our liberal ways and we can all be one big happy Jewish community.

---Johnny Scher 

Thursday, June 26, 2014

Visiting the Peki’in Village

Lunch in the Druze Village
Today I met an overwhelmingly friendly and welcoming host, a mystical man who believes in reincarnation, and a man who fervently believes in the sacredness and confidentiality of his secretive religion. This is how the story goes. Midday today I ended up in a town with cars zooming on the roads with loud Middle Eastern music playing. The city was rundown, trash lying down on the ground. Although there was a rundown feeling to this town, there was still something special that stood out to me, yet I couldn’t quite figure it out. As we carefully walked up the steep hills of Peki’in, a Druze village in the North of Israel, to the hospitality lunch, we eagerly awaited the delicious food yet to come. Finally, we arrived at the restaurant. As we opened the door, it was if we arrived at a magical land. Hamsas hung all over the walls, photos of famous Arab figures surrounding us, and trinkets displayed on the shelves. We sat down at the 12-foot table filled with many plates of Israeli foods. Everything looked amazing. There was a special atmosphere in the room. As the Druze host kept coming to the table placing all different types of meat and rice’s, everyone gradually became stuffed.

After we were stuffed from all the delicious food, the Druze man came to the front of the table and began to speak about his religion. Once he started speaking about the secretive Druze religion, I was amazed by his passion towards his faith system and the beliefs that define his Druze identity. He cannot share with other individuals who are not Druze the secrets of the book of wisdom. What was fascinating about this encounter was not only did he tell us the wonders of his religion, but also proved these miraculous aspects to us. For example, the Druze believe in reincarnation and he recounted real-life stories of Druze families with kids who recalled past lives. I was ultimately convinced by the Druze man and was dumbfounded by his stories. 

--Ilana Stein

It All Starts with The Talk

    I like to think of myself as a liberal, open-minded person. I proudly wear my United States Democrat hat, have attended seminars on tolerance and advocacy for minorities, and have been called the "politically correct policewoman" of my family. Yet I still stereotype. None of us like to admit that we stereotype other people, but it's nearly impossible not to. As an American Jew, I've grown up in a community with strong opinions about Arabs and Palestinians, in both an  American context and an Israeli context. So when ISI climbed the mountains of the Galilee at 8 am, ears popping as we made the trek from Kibbutz Degania to the Israeli-Arab town of Deir al-Asad in the upper Galilee, I was nervous. We were attending a coexistence seminar and spending the day with Israeli Arab teenagers, and  we didn't know what to expect. However, our misconceptions about what Arabs would be like-- that they were extremely resentful towards Jews and Israelis, that they would think of Americans as infidels-- were soon shattered. 

     Maybe it was just circumstances and a stroke of good luck, but our ISI group clicked extremely well with the teenage Israeli-Arabs. At first the conversation was slow, but as soon as we asked for their facebooks, the group exploded into a flurry of teenage excitement and social media. We took numerous selfies and exchanged all forms of social media, talking to each other on WhatsApp long into the day after the seminar ended. The girls of The group made many new friends, including a few girls who had spent time in the States. Zaha al-Dabbah was a vivacious 16 year old with dark hair that had dyed ombré on the bottom and long french nails manicured to a tee. Her English was as perfect as her nails, and it was no surprise  when she told us she had spent a year in America. "I was in Clinton, Missouri, but it felt more like plain misery", she said. Her time spent in Miami was much more exciting, and Zaha shared with us stories about her prom night in Missouri, a botched communion experience at a church, and how much she enjoyed Miami beaches (and boys). 

    As fun and light-hearted as our two hours with the Arab teenagers were, as soon as the cameras started rolling for interviews, the conversation got serious. Nadia, Zaha's sister, told us about her experience facing discrimination in an Israeli airport when she came back to the country after traveling to Romania with a Jewish Israeli friend. Nadia told the group that she was detained for "over three hours, and they made me take my shirt off to check if I had any explosives". Not all of the teens said they had experienced discrimination personally, but many of their friends and family had.

    Saleem Al-Dabbah, an 18- year old high school graduate on his way to college to study physiotherapy, closed his interview with a profound and heartfelt statement that left the entire room clapping. "I just want to be able to eat dinner in Lebanon and then go sleep in Syria.. I never want to see another gun again", he said when asked what his version of peace looks like. That sounds like something coined in a propaganda room, but it was evident that his statement came from the heart. 

      Saleem and his sisters came out to the bus before we left bearing the much-welcome gift of cookies in a Tupperware container. As we said "Shukran, Shukran" (Thanks, thanks)  and hugged and clasped hands for the hundredth time, I realized that if a group of teenagers from polar opposite circumstances could connect and befriend each other in the space of 2 hours, peaceful relations are not such an unrealistic dream. The Arab teenagers stereotypes of "fat Americans who are lazy and rude", as one Arab teen put it, were dissipated, as were the ISI groups' stereotypes about Arabs who didn't have the same definition of peace that we do. Some say that these programs for youth are overrated and not productive, because once we mature and become adults, we face harsher issues and become less tolerant and open minded. I refuse to believe this is true. We walked out of that Israeli-Arab community center in shock and awe, waving goodbye to the boys who were waving to us from their rooms and realizing that boundaries created by years of war and resentment had been obliterated by the simplest form of communication: a conversation. 

-- Lily Greenberg Call, 16, San Diego 

I love pigeons -Day 3

In a stroke of luck, I was forced to change into a feminine cardigan as a pigeon shat onto my shoulder In the isolated village of Peki’in. Yet, believe it or not, my luck didn't end there.

Driving up the northern Galilee into a small, Arab village named Deir al-Asad, I immediately felt   uncomfortable. I was instinctively scared not because of the steep hills or the sketchy cats running across the street, but rather because my whole life I had been taught to fear Arabs. Palestinian Arabs, Israeli Arabs, and even Jewish Arabs; they represented violence and pure hatred. However much like the annoying pigeon, a beautiful opportunity happened today that made me rethink my immediate assumptions of the major Arab population.

Meeting in a dusty, white-walled room in  an Arab community center a group of Israeli Arabs face us with curious blank faces. While at first awkward, we quickly began to bond over ordinary teenage subject: Facebook, school, sleeping, and of course food. In fact, we bonded to the point where after an hour and a half, we found ourselves disappointed at the short time span we were given to be with them.

I was shocked. Never in my life had I imagined that Arabs could be my friends. Furthermore, never had I thought that an Arab teen would stand in front of me during an interview, and tell me and my peers that all he truly wants is peace.

This however must be taken with a grain of salt. The teens we conversed with were educated Arab teens that loved Israel. They were not Palestinian, and absolutely not Muslim extremists. 

So while this experience has not completely changed my view of the international Arab community, it has Absolutely altered my view of local  Israeli Arabs. In the end, I discovered that I was not very different from them at all, and that we ultimately yearned for the same goal: peace.

Too Much or Not Enough? : Why the Coverage of Israel has become effectively innefective

“Is the reason why people have such skewed perceptions of Israel because the media covers too much of the situation?” asked Yigal Palmor, the spokesperson for the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, “Or is it because the media doesn’t cover enough of the situation?”

Palmor posed an intriguing argument at a panel session at the first Jewish Media Summit convention held in Jerusalem, Israel, on Israel’s Image Problem.

As the session went on, I realized that the cause of Israel’s image problem is not that we talk about it too much nor is it that we don’t talk about it enough. It is the fact that the media does not cover the proper issues in Israel and they don’t cover those issues in correct ways.

This idea can be broken down into two subtopics: the way in which the information is acquired, and how that information is presented.

Sue Fishkoff, the editor of JWeekly, the weekly Jewish newspaper of Northern California, brought up the statistic that a majority of the individuals, who publish articles expressing different views of issues in Israel, have never actually been to Israel.

How can the sources that we have come to trust effectively cover a situation in a credible way if the only way they acquire information is from second hand sources? They can’t. “ISRAELI SOLDIERS BOMB PALESTINIANS AGAIN.” These are the kind of superficial headlines that have plagued the worldwide media.

I have yet to see a headline expressing why these attacks actually happen. At this point, I do not expect such a headline from individuals who are aware of the need for Israelis to defend their land or understand it.

        One can only obtain such a view from visiting the country and experiencing the true importance of Israel. Until this happens, superficial claims will continue to overtake the media stream.

Along with the lack of knowledge regarding the situations, the media has not been taking advantage of the true advances in technology and social media.

News has changed from print media to online headlines that can be sifted through. Palmor stated, “People get their news from news-feeds, not newspapers.”

As someone who is surrounded by social media on a daily basis, I am able to see what is constantly being clicked on. I believe that as a society we are neglecting the situation in Israel. By only reading what we want to read and filtering out what we don’t want to read, we aren’t ever getting the full story.

While I may not be able to present a specific solution for this issue, I think that it is important to understand the true limitations that the media presents and what we as a society should be aware of when trying to show the world Israel in it’s proper light.

Written By: Sydney Sussman

The Social Generation

Pictured from left to right: Saleem Al Dabbah, Alsa Saa,
Aseel Al Dabbah, Lily Buder, Lily Greenberg-Call,
Hadas Ben David, Sydney Sussman,  Leeor Acrich

The Social Generation
Lily Rebecca Buder

Teenagers are teenagers wherever you are in the world. One may assume that most teens across our globe would live completely different lives with polarized values and beliefs, but in the aftermath of globalization and in the midst of social revolutions globally that is far from the truth. In the small town of Deir al-Asad Israel, lives a vibrant group of strong, intelligent, and socially aware teenagers.
            One may assume that Arab youth would lead drastically different lives then those of their American counterparts but that illusionary wall began to disintegrate today in a coexistence seminar. 
Initially many of us didn’t know what to expect from this meeting. Would it be awkward? Would it be cold tempered? These very well could’ve been possibilities in the eyes of many Americans. The result however was far from the pessimistic outlook of many.
Although we are a world apart physically at our homes, our interests and hopes for the future were very similar with only a few exceptions that were expected. The conversation, however set up it was, felt natural and comfortable. Much of the conversation consisted of discussion of our hopes for the future and our interests.  Although not everyone knew exactly what he or she wanted to do in the future it was clear that we were all driven to succeed and be happy in life.
Social Media also played a major part in kindling the new friendships; by the end everyone had contacted each other through Facebook, WhatsApp, and Snapchat. Plenty of “selfies” were taken by everyone together which may seem like an insignificant piece of our modern “Tech Obsessed” culture, but can really be seen as our desire to remember and cherish the friendships and that experience. In the postmodern world technology may be criticized as something that creates barriers, I’ve only experienced bridges through it. Instead of this being a one-time experience, it has been allowed to continue and nourish friendships through social media.
The fact that they are Israeli Muslims, and we are Jewish Americans didn’t mean much of a difference to anyone involved, in fact it wasn’t even considered in how we went about conversation. Our laid back conversation only turned to politics about the region towards the end of our time together but even then we shared a common goal for the future of Israel and the surrounding region, “Peace”.

Global Coverage -Day 2

     It is often said that ignorance is bliss. Yet in a world of senseless hatred and antisemitism, Jews simply cannot afford this luxury
      This is especially relevant in Jewish journalism, where writers have been reporting about Israel for decades without ever even visiting Israel. In fact, Yigal Palmor the            spokesperson of the ministry foreign   affairs, stated in a panel session discussing Israel's global image problem "Nearly 80% of Jews around the world have never visited Israel". After all, journalists know better than any one that nothing should be taken for granted unless seen with your own eyes.
     So how do we progress towards a future where Jewish journalists   provide truthfull and passionate information about the state of Israel? Easy. We bring the media to Israel, and allow them to see the truth by themselves. Israel must stop convincing, and begin eyewitness reporting.
    The same can be applied to ordinary Jews. As passionate Zionists, we [journalists] have an obligation to spread the truth, and provide Jews around the world with the opportunity to love Israel.   
     In essence, a positive image of Israel can only be achieved by giving the greater Jewish community the chance to report the pure objective truth. Ideally, we will quit persuading, and instead allow people to begin experiencing the truth.

Israel’s opportunity: Why Israel’s media problem is not really a problem, rather an opportunity

“For media, bad news is good news, so bad Jews are excellent news!,” said Yigal Palmor, the spokesman for the Ministry of Foreign Affairs. The Jewish people and the state of Israel have had their fair share of PR and newspaper headlines over the years. 

On June 25th, at the first ever Jewish Media Summit in Jerusalem, Israel, we were allowed an inside look into Israel in the media by some of the leading Jewish journalists in our world today. Palmor spoke on a panel about the issues of Israel in the media. His view was fresh and optimistic, and he approached the age-old problem with humor and insight. 

Palmor expressed that Israel’s image problem, “should not be seen as a tragedy but an opportunity.” This specifically resonated with me. Palmor also expressed that Israel’s ever present appearance in the news is not necessarily a bad thing, we just have to find the right approach, He said, “how many people know the prime minister of Sweden?” A lot of what people hear about Israel is myth and stories and the only way to counteract that without losing the media’s interest is to show what’s real. According to Palmor eighty percent of Jews have never even been to Israel. This is their opportunity! Palmor expressed the importance for those people to go to Israel and learn the truth so we can fight the media with passion and facts. 

In essence what Palmor was saying is that having press isn’t bad, after all people know about us. Instead of dwelling on the bad things that are being said about Jews and Israel use it as an opportunity to engage yourself, immerse yourself in culture and religion and fight back with the truth. 

This particular view resonates with me in terms of our Israel trip in the sense that when the goings are rough, you should not give up. Take a step back and approach the situation with a fresh mind and know that it is just an opportunity, you just have to figure out how.

-Sarah Eylon

Are Jews the reason why Jews are struggling?

At the Jewish Media Summit on June 25, 2014, valid points about people’s opinions on Israel were questioned and discussed. Eyal Arad, current president of Arad Communications, stated that maybe so many opinions are formed about Israel because the Jewish media constantly demands them. The media expects every state and government to have made up their mind about what they think about Israel and its aspects. If the state or government hasn’t yet formed an opinion, then they probably have not given it much thought or weren’t pressured by it. Then when the Jewish media persists about their thoughts on Israel, answers that the media doesn’t like start to form.

Often times, the media doesn’t particularly like what they hear. So the real question is, why does the media force an opinion? Chances are, if states and governments worldwide weren’t constantly being bombarded with questions about Israel, their thoughts about Israel would be more positive. Perhaps, Israel’s image problem is created by the Jews themselves. Eyal Arad made the point that maybe the Jews are pushing it and have reached “overdose” by demanding answers from everyone and every place.

Susan Fishkoff, editor of the successful magazine Jweekly of San Francisco, also present at the conference, said that “Our (Israel’s) image problem should not be viewed as a tragedy, but as an opportunity.” In this case, perhaps the Jewish media should take the opportunity to back down a bit on the questioning about Israel and find another common ground to break news on. Overall, Eyal Arad an Susan Fishkoff brought up an important issue that most everyone looks past, and made it a great and informative conference, along with all the other speakers.

--Leeor Acrich, 16, California

Does Israel Have an Image Problem?

Today we had the honor of attending the Jewish Media Summit in Jerusalem. The first panel session we sat in on was “Israel’s Image Problem”. During this session I found a few speakers very interesting, like Yigal Palmor and Eyal Arad. When asked about what they think about the image problem of Israel Eyal Arad stated “For media bad news is good news, Jews are always news so bad Jews are excellent news”.  This then makes the issues going on in Israel become big news all over the world. Issue here is is that we also don’t want to be out of the news so we Israel also join in on talking about the issues in Israel. At this point though people who have not been to Israel think that it is mostly military zone and not a civilized society.

Another panelist, Yigal Palmor made a very good point. Yigal stated that “There are as many different views on Israel as Jews”. This is the essence of the issue. Everyone has a different view and everyone can believe theirs is correct, this then leads to conflicting stories. He also said that “If it’s worth stating it is overstated”. This again is the bottom line issue. If it’s not worth talking about then it is harder to find articles about but if it is big news that it is shown all over the world. Issue with this is is that bad news is the best type of news. It ends up leading to the bad things going on in Israel are very overstated while the good news which isn’t as interesting gets left behind.

Overall the panelists were very interesting and made very good points that really outlined the real image issues on Israel.
 --Hadas Ben-David

Wednesday, June 25, 2014

"Get Angry!" with Israel's Image Problem

"Get Angry! Indignez-vous!" This was a battle cry for the first annual Jewish Media Summit, held in Jerusalem, Israel from June 22 to 25. A conglomeration of 150 Jewish journalists and media enthusiasts gathered to listen to speakers and panels, with the goal of learning about Judaism and Israel in the media - how it is portrayed, the events that are covered, biases, finances and attitudes. Every person was inspired to "Get Angry!" about the weaknesses of Jewish newspapers, websites and radio stations radio stations in covering Israel and the diaspora.

One of the more remarkable sessions at the Summit covered the topic of "Israel's Image Problem". The panel that spoke consisted of five people from several different countries. Shlomo Malka, a representative of RJC Radio in France, had a somewhat alarming reason to “Get Angry!” about the situation for Jews in Europe.

As it turns out, “Get Angry!” is more than a catchphrase. It’s the title of a book that was published in France in 2011 with the title Indignez-vous (“Get Angry” in English). The book takes a strong pro-Palestinian, anti-Israel stance on issues like discrimination and settlement, without any mention of Israeli initiatives, including the situation with Gilad Shalit (who was in Palestinian captivity at the time). It earned the top spot on France’s bestseller list, with over 600,000 copies sold.

Why has the book been so startlingly successful? France is notorious for its anti-Semitism, socially and politically. According to Malka, both the far right and far left oppose Israel. The general opinion of Jews and Israelis, not only in France but in Europe as a whole, is not good. Is Indignez-vous propaganda, serving to promote anti-Semitism, or is it simply a written expression of the public’s common attitude?

Either way, Malka was very astute in recognizing Israel’s image problem in France. The bestselling success of Indignez-vous is an indication that something in inherently wrong with the way that Israel portrays itself to anti-Semitic Europe, or that something about it was wrong in the past. According to Malka, French journalists who travel to Israel are “amazed” to see that Israel is a country rich in culture and innovation, not simply military conflict. As a result, the gap between the real Israel and the country’s perception in the public mind is closing, and the general attitude towards Israel is becoming more open and less negative.

Despite Indignez-vous’ popularity, there is hope that the general anti-Semitism in France and Europe is turning into something more positive. Malka’s intentions at the Summit were very clear: “Get Angry!” about the animosity towards Jews and Israelis, and use the valuable tool of journalism to remedy it.

- Kim Robins

The almighty border -Day 1

Standing in an abandoned Syrian military base, I can feel the hot summer wind blowing on my face. Israeli farms and kibbutzim, symbols of Jewish nationalism and security, are spread out across the green landscape. 

Moving my focal point 15 kilometers backwards, I am expose to a barren landscape, filled with hatred and violence. We are told that an indestructible wall separate the two lands; hate and peace. However, as I stand on top of the tourist-infested viewpoint I can't help but question this omnipotent border. After all, Syrians across the border were feeling the same desert wind as I was feeling weren't they? They too are humans, and they too have basic human needs and rights.  Ironically, the Germans had segregated Jews against their will a mere 70 years earlier, so why were we now isolating ourselves from the world around us? Of course, at first glance, these questions seem completely rational, and put a negative stigma on the existence of the state of Israel. 

Nevertheless, these are only surface questions that the media advertises on a daily basis. So I am not surprised when an innocent tourist nearby raises their hand and asks the simplest, and yet most complex question of Israel's existence: why create a border? 

Well...a quick history lesson would reveal that the Syrians had for years lived on their land, and only during the '67 war lost their precious Golan heights to Israel. Once again, Israel is in the spotlight as the antagonist, however as is with almost all cases of Israeli violence: Israel was defending. 

And that right there, is the sole justification for a creation of a barrier. Not once had we entered Syria with an intention of senseless hatred, rather, against the common portrayal of international media, retaliation in order to maintain peace. 

A couple days ago a Syrian bomb was found underneath a military post. Within hours, Israeli strikes back, ensuring peace. Now while this may not seem like the most peaceful solution, it is by far the most effective one; quick, precise, and safe. 

So yes, Israel is isolating itself from the rest of the world, but that's simply because we refuse to allow history to repeat itself. Not with the holocaust, not with Syria, not with violence. After all, the best offense is a strong defense.

---Roee Landesman