Thursday, July 31, 2014

Response to "An Israel Without Illusions"

(Grossman's op-ed is linked above)

     In his recent NYTimes op-ed "An Israel Without Illusions", David Grossman, an Israeli author of noted books like Falling Out of Time and To the End of the Land, argues that Operation Protective Edge is just another part of the seemingly endless "grindstone of this conflict" that Israelis and Palestinians have been circling for years, but that the death and emotional damage it brings may spark a change in the Israeli psyche. Grossman uses his personal experiences as an Israeli and an activist to make the claim that both sides of the conflict "[have] evolved sophisticated justifications for every act [they commit]...In this cruel and desperate bubble, both sides are right", and that now, Israelis are starting to question the futility of this violent cycle, and why their governments "have been incapable, for decades, of thinking outside the bubble". Grossman seeks to ask both the Israeli government and the Israeli people to open their minds to finding a solution other than war, and to see that both Israelis and Palestinians are "[trudging] around the grindstone... in tandem, in endless blind circles, in numbing despair". By pleading with Israelis on the left and right and with both Jews and Arabs to look past the cursory and try to understand each other, Grossman establishes a somber and realistic tone that warns the reader of becoming apathetic to the violence-- if that occurs, we will "continue to turn the grindstone of this conflict, which crushes and erodes our lives, our hopes and our humanity".

    This is an op-ed that no matter where you stand on Operation Protective Edge, you need to read. It is a chilling yet optimistic reminder of where we have come, and  what we need to do moving forward after the war. 

- Lily Greenberg Call, San Diego, '16

Sunday, July 27, 2014

The Last Chapter

We have reached the end of our trip, wow three weeks have already passed.
This is not my first visit to Israel in fact I come here every year, practically I'm Israeli. But until this trip I had not visited all the beauties of this nation. First of all, I recommend to don't stay only in Tel Aviv and Jerusalem, there are hundreds of other attractions.

Despite all the dangers, every time I come here it seems to me to come back home and everytime I want more and more to move to Israel.

On this trip I met all the aspects of Israel, some I did not know: how the minoritiesk live in the country, and the new state-funded projects. But above all, I have witnessed firsthand the Arab-Israeli conflict. Fortunately, I was out of range of the missiles of Gaza, but I've always had a little fear.

During the visit to the Knesset, the Israeli parliament (only 120 members!) I fully understood the Israeli politics. Officially it is almost the same as the Italian one, there is a coalition government, the system of allocation of seats is proportional and the president of the republic is only a symbolic figure and the only power he has is the grace to guilty. Some deputates are Arabs all of them at the opposition. But this is real Democracy.

The thing that shocked me most of all, however, is this: taxation. Did you think that in Italy or in USA the taxes are outrageously high? Well then it means that you don't know Israel! 60% of the all revenues goes to the State and gasoline costs more than in Italy, where is the highest in Europe.
The cost of living is higher, but unlike Italy in Israel there is no tax evasion and all aren't sad to pay taxes. Why is that? Of course, because here they know that the money goes into good hands and is used in the best way.

The current situation is already difficult to solve, in addition to any action of Israel almost all media and the institutions of the world condemn us!
The most disconcerting fact is that Egypt, which theoretically is a supporter of the Palestinians has closed its border with Gaza, while Israel has open borders and, moreover, sends energy, food and fuel.
The EU puts pressure on Israel on giving iron and cement with which they build tunnels to go under the border with Egypt and bring the weapons with which to attack us!

I think we should first of all stop aid to the civilians of Gaza and invade the strip and conquer it. The world sees the Palestinians as innocent civilians, but for me they are not! Hiding a terrorist in your house or keep illegal weapons or act as human shield is to be complicit to the terrorist! 1,500,000 people live in the strip of which 20,000 terrorists. If the population was really honest and fair they would boycott the terrorist or go on Israel's side to help defeating the terrorists!

This is not a racist speech and not willing to say that all Palestinians are guilty and must be stopped, but I don't understand how Palestinians might think that their cause is right.

After all, this situation is also present in Italy, but instead of Hamas there is Ndrangheta. The real mafia is the minority, but the population is depending from it and succumbs without protest.
The real difference is that here we are talking about two different States, nay, of a state and a terrorist entity!

Israel is a fair State, everyone has the right to vote , freedom of religion, thought and opinion. While the Arab regimes every person who tries to be different from the rest of the flock is killed immediately.
So I can concede that many Palestinians are just scared of Hamas so they don't react.

Therefore I recommend you to visit Israel, regardless of religion, ideals or values ​​that you have, because Israel is a free country and wants to share with you this freedom.

David Fiorentini

Thursday, July 24, 2014

The Outsider

I have just finished breakfast. Eggs and bagel. One can't get more Jewish than that. Typically after breakfast I feel full and ready to jump start the day.

As I was chomping on my bagel smeared with butter I was scrolling through my iPhone. As I clicked on the Facebook App I was excited to see if more people had liked my newly set profile picture. But as I scrolled through my newsfeed every post was about Israel. I clicked on an article, "Shalom MotherF*****" The profanity set me off and I thought it was another naïve article. Instead it was a piece of art crafted for the purpose of people like me. People who cannot sleep at night. People who are worried sick to their stomach. People who just finished their bagel and want to throw up.

I have been on the news twice since I have returned home from Israel. The first time around I thought I did a great job representing the Jewish people. I gave facts. I showed the truth- what an amazing concept- truth in the news.

The second time.

They said they wanted my emotion, how it feels to be in a "war zone". So I told my story about being in a bomb shelter in the hospital. I was sick and instead of seeing the doctor right away I was brought to a tiny concrete room. Though I only had to go in a bomb shelter once. Many Israelis have been experiencing rocket filled skies for a decade. Going into a bomb shelter is "normal".  I had to do it once.

They should have asked me what my emotion is outside a "war zone".

I feel blinded. When I was in Israel I could see the situation. I could talk to Israelis who were there. Now I have a cotton cloth sown onto my face. Many people say to me, "We're so glad you're home. Aren't you?" I typically respond, "Yes it's great to be home. When can I go back?" WHEN CAN I GO BACK? I am tense. Shoulders heightened filled with worry and wonder. Being outside a war zone.

 It is our turn to advocate for Israel. Even though I am not in Israel I have my family there. I have eight million Israelis to advocate for. And so do you. ​

--Dana Brown

Age, 17

South Bend, IN

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

United | Together

We are strong. Israel and it's army, the Israel Defense Forces (IDF), are advanced and powerful. The current mission at hand, that of Operation Protective Edge, is to cripple Hamas infrastructure and to obtain lasting peace for the Israeli people. The IDF will accomplish this goal, regardless of hardships along the way. Granted the mission may cost hundreds of lives and millions of Anti-Zionist YouTube hate comments, however when the IDF sets its mind to a goal, it succeeds. This was seen years ago in the war of independence during the first days of the IDF and the state of Israel, and was seen recently with the retrieval of Gilad Shalit, an Israeli prisoner of war. The IDF is using this power for humanitarian actions as well. At the moment, an Israeli field hospital is operating for Palestinian civilians outside the Erez crossing. Over a hundred trucks of supplies including medicine, food, and water have entered Gaza since the first day of the ground incursion. The IDF has even used its powerful air force intelligence to recognize children being used as human shields by terrorists, and in doing so has cancelled tens of airstrikes.

We are resilient. The end goal of Hamas is to terrorize Israel's population and to destroy the Jewish people. Israel combats this terrorism on a daily basis not only by physically destroying their missiles using our technologically-advanced Iron Dome, but also emotionally. Israeli citizens continue with their busy lives during times like these, while remembering to often check the news as to keep updated on the situation. Israeli children in Sderot continue to play underground in classrooms built as bomb shelters. Despite Hamas's best efforts, life in Israel goes on.

We are United. All around the world, Jews are holding hands and praying for Israel. Whether it is a small 50 person community in Siena, Italy or the larger bay area community, Jews feel more united than ever at a time like this. Some choose to be informed of the conflict, some choose to donate money to Israel-benefitting organizations, and other, such as me, choose to write and educate the world about discrimination towards Israel and the ongoing crisis. Regardless of how we do it, the Jewish community is united and will forever stand with Israel.

In the wise words of deputy consul general Eyal Naor: "We are strong. We are resilient. We are united". Now, more than ever, Israel and Jews are filled with pride, courage, and strength. I believe that despite our different opinion and views, together we can come together and end Hamas's reign. Together, we can make a difference, and together we will restore peace to Israel and it's people.

Rain and Rocketfire: Perspectives At Home and Abroad

By Lily Greenberg Call

(The first part of this blog was written last Tuesday, as I was waiting to board my final flight home from Israel. The second part was written July 21, nearly a week later).

It's 5:33 pm EST, July 15, and I am sitting at gate C61 in the JFK airport. Why, you may ask, am I not at home like every other kid on the ISI trip? You can ask G-d about that one, because even I'm not sure what happened last night. I was ready to go home after spending nearly all day traveling from Tel Aviv to Brussels to New York, and I had said my goodbyes to the remaining travelers from our lovely group. I was mentally and physically beyond ready to be back at home with my family and my own bed. I boarded my plane at 4 pm Monday evening, surveying my fellow passengers and my seat. Middle, which is not ideal, but I was in between two nice looking gentlemen. Fine, I could handle this. 5 hours of flying was nothing compared to the 13 I had just done. I settled down in my seat and after about 30 minutes of waiting, realized that we hadn't moved at all. I started to get anxious. I could feel in my gut that something about this flight wasn't going to work out well, but a combination of exhaustion and paranoia caused me to start getting very, very nervous. I actually enjoy flying very much, so this paranoia was a new experience for me. Turns out my gut instincts were correct. As the minutes went by, my new friend and seatmate Justin and I got progressively annoyed. Finally, we heard the rumble of the intercom and the pilot's voice above us. "Hi folks, looks like it's rush-hour at JFK. The summer storms are coming in so everyone's trying to get out on time. We're just waiting for some lanes to clear up". Okay, no problem, I thought. I settled in to wait for another 30-45 minutes.

Flashforward to 4 hours later: there I was, still sitting in seat 14B. I repeat, 4 hours later, we had yet to be airborne. Unfortunately, I was only at the beginning of what would become a night from Delta Hell: 5 hours stuck on a plane, 2 hours waiting in the airport to see if my flight was canceled because of the storms (of course it was), 10 hours in the JFK Holiday Inn Express, another 4 hours in the airport, and then, 2 more hours waiting on the Tarmac.


By the time I landed in San Diego, 27 hours later than I was originally supposed to, I was literally skipping down to the baggage claim. I had never been more happy to be back in sunny San Diego in my entire life. It's actually somewhat humorous to read what I wrote a week ago. The situation itself was hardly funny. I was exhausted, and more than ready to get home. But now, after Operation Protective Edge has escalated into a full-blown ground invasion and the death tolls have risen to over 500 Palestinians and over 25 Israeli soldiers, my airport debacle seems like a speedbump in comparison to what's happening across the world. It wasn't exactly easy coming back to America-- I remember sitting in an airport restaurant in a daze, trying to process the culture shock that I was experiencing. I realized how much Americans take for granted, not that I can really blame us. Americans are realistic within our reality-- but our reality is so idealized compared to what most of the world faces on a daily basis. While on the trip, as the situation around us escalated, a friend of mine was constantly making jokes about our still being alive in order to lighten the mood. As simplistic and hyperbolic as "at least we're all still alive!" jokes are, there's something to be said about that perspective. If there's anything that being in a war zone for a week taught me, it's that when there's a possibility that a rocket could hit the area you're standing in, any other problems in your life become secondary. If everyone you love in the world is alive, healthy, and safe, you're luckier than most people. I hate to sound like a self-help guru, but it's true. I realized on this trip that for me, holiness is about appreciation. Sometimes, you have to be denied something, like safety and security, in order to fully appreciate it.
While I was in the country, I didn't appreciate how lucky I was to be in Israel during such a crucial time, and I don't think it fully hit me until a few days back in the States. As cliche as it is, I feel a completely renewed sense of duty and obligation to advocate for Israel right now, especially on social media, and I feel more prepared than ever. As a liberal, pro-Israel person, it hurts me to see my liberal friends posting things like #FreeGaza and very misleading, supposedly "informational" videos on Facebook and Twitter. I was wondering the other day, if I wasn't Jewish and had no connection to the state of Israel, would I support Israel? Hamas has created the perfect media recipe to gain the support of bleeding heart liberals like myself: dead Palestinian children and civilian casualities, mixed with phrases like "occupation", "human rights violation", and "genocide". The thing is that once you look past the media's facade, you realize that the Palestinian people are suffering mostly because of their choice of elected leadership. I feel bad for them, and each Palestinian death hurts my soul. No one wants to live the lives they are living. But I feel equally as bad for the 1 million Israelis who have under a minute to seek shelter from rocket fire, and I refuse to apologize for the fact that the Israeli government has invested in life-saving technologies like the Iron Dome. I refuse to apologize for protecting the sanctity of life. That's as liberal as it gets.
At the very beginning of the trip, I wanted to write a piece about how culture was the root of the Israeli-Palestinain conflict. I thought I had it all figured out by day two, and if you've been following the blog you'll know that this perspective of mine quickly changed. Unfortunately, I don't have an answer for why this war is taking place. I wish I did, and I wish it would end. The only thing we can do is learn from it-- learn to appreciate all of the beautiful things in our life, and not to worry so much about things that are so small in the grand scheme of life. We in America need to use our voices, not our weapons, to fight. It's the only way to create a road that can lead to peace.

Sunday, July 20, 2014


I am filled with grief. My heart aches every time I hear news reports about soldiers being wounded and killed. Why so? I seem to be asking myself this phrase multiple times a day. Really? Seriously? I don't understand? I am mad. I am angry. I feel like screaming. I am deeply disturbed. I am emotional. I am filled with despair. I need it to stop. I need Hamas to stop. Not only are they taking away the lives of our soldiers, but also they are killing their own people. They simply don't care. I feel disgusted. I feel sorrow for the Jewish nation. There is a bare pit in my stomach.
Nineteen, 20, 21 years old. Soldiers- men who are drafted into the army. Young men. Men who have lives waiting ahead of them. I can't help but not to cry. My anger has taken control over my body. My thoughts are consumed with pain. Painful thoughts. A painful reality. Not human. It isn't human for individuals to act with such hatred and cruelty. How is it even possible for individuals to act so viciously? I want to scream. Tears. Constant tears trickling down my cheeks.
Can you believe it? Open your eyes? Stop hating? Why cant you all see? Why? I will risk myself for the State of Israel. I am deeply in love with the country. I need to go back to Israel. I need to take care of things. Please. I am strong and brave. I will be independent. Just please give me a chance. I believe. I believe in freedom. Freedom for the State of Israel to exist. Freedom for the people. I walk on the NYC streets, it doesn't feel right. As I see I love NYC t-shirts, I want to see Israel Defense Force apparel.
I use to think that even though I live in the West and my heart is in the East, I was just fine. But now, it's different. It is more than that. I must fight for my country. It isn't enough for my heart to be in the East anymore. I must go back, and be there. I need to be in Israel.

---Ilana Stein 

Thursday, July 17, 2014

IDF begins ground operation in Gaza Strip

Operation Protective Edge now in its tenth day has taken a new turn with a ground invasion of Gaza which intends to take out terror tunnels.The IDF forces that entered Gaza included combat engineers, field intelligence, tanks, and infantry. Since the beginning of Operation Protective Edge ,the IDF had hoped that a ground invasion would not happen but with two failed ceasefires due to missiles shot from Gaza by Hamas, this has become a last resort in thwarting terror activity in the Strip. Although this new phase of the operation will likely have casualties on both sides it seems to be the only solution at this point in the conflict.

So far it has been confirmed that at least 200 Palestinians have died since Operation Protective Edge began on July 8th. Many of the confirmed dead were civilians. Sadly this is a terrible outcome of war, as even the IDF diligently tried to minimize those effected by the strikes on terror outposts in the Gaza Strip by dropping leaflets, conducting phone calls to residents, as well as roof knocking (non harmful explosives that warn people to leave immediate area).

My heart goes out to the innocent people in the Gaza Strip who are caught up in this conflict, those living in extreme fear every day in Israel, and the IDF soldiers who are bravely attempting to destroy the terror tunnels. The real sadness of the situation is that an anti-semitic terrorist organization is not only hurting innocent Israelis but the people they claim to be working and speaking for.

I have no doubt in my heart that the Palestinians are suffering but we should take a moment to ask ourselves this question, "Is it really by the hands of the Israelis?"

LILY BUDER, 17, Mill Valley CA

The full truth -Roee L.

The following article was written in a response to the video link mentioned above. These are my pure opinions and reactions to the video, yet I encourage everyone to facilitate their own beliefs about Israel and the video.


I was taught my whole life that mistakes are beneficial, and should be seen as an opportunity to learn. There's no way we learn from mistakes if we refuse to acknowledge them. There is a common misconception among advocates for Israel that they are required to support and love Israel's every action. I believe that not only is this wrong, but that it does more harm than help to the state of Israel. Rather, the world should love and criticize Israel lovingly, in hopes of making it a better state.

Granted, the video,created by Dennis Prager of Prager University, is beautifully put together. It strategically evades Israel's questionable actions in the past, and instead navigates through the sea of pro-Israel arguments. As propaganda, the video is perfect. In fact, if I were to show it to the 70%* of people in the world that simply have no opinion about Israel, it would be an incredibly easy way to make them think they knew everything there is to know about the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. After 5 minutes, they would have a one-sided, but very pro-Israel viewpoint.

The video drastically fails, however, to discuss the issues in Israel which until this day remain controversial. Not once did the video mention the controversial Israeli settlements which exist and grow within the borders of the West Bank. The video also failed to mention the reality that there were massive Arab populations living in British Palestine before it became the Jewish state, and that those Arabs became refugees who saw the establishment of Israel as a forceful invasion of Jews into their land.

Again, I am an advocate of Israel who supports Israel and will continue to do so until my heart stops beating. Still, there is something absurd not only about the video, but about the blind devotion of the modern pro-Israel advocating community. How can we hope to improve a country if we never recognize it's flaws? How can Israel even begin to repair its issues if they are not being brought up in pro-Israel conversations around the world?

-Roee Landesman

*One of my favorite concepts about pro-Israel advocacy is the idea that the world's population is split into three groups: 15% of the global population who will forever hate Israel, regardless of how convincing the statistics or arguments are, 2) The group that I identify with, the 15% who support Israel, and can never be convinced otherwise. 3) 70% of people who are innocently ignorant about Israel, and have no strong opinion about the country or it's politics. (As taught by Jonathan Carey, Israel advocate and teacher, during a Write on for Israel meeting)

Monday, July 14, 2014

Presence is everything

I don't think one can fully comprehend what is going on in Israel today, if he is not in the state of Israel currently. I believe this is because you cannot empathize with someone if you do not observe with your own eyes the pain, suffering, and perseverance of those whose home is Israel.
Three weeks. That's how long it has taken me to understand certain aspects of Israel that prior to this trip I did not understand. In about 4 hours, I will be leaving the kibbutz I have been staying at for the past 5 days. I will soon be on the bus on my way to the Ben Gurion airport in Tel Aviv. Sitting down now in the reception room at noon, I am very emotional.
Whether it be the murder of the three teenage boys, the hundreds of missiles sent from the Gaza Strip daily, the IDF who are tirelessly defending the state of Israel from terror, and all those residing in Israel who are courageously combating terror, I am distraught. Being in Israel currently has certainly changed me. As the situation in Israel escalates, so does my frustration and confusion. Why does Hamas send hundreds of missiles a day, sending thousands of Israelis sprinting to the nearest bomb shelters? Why does defending the state of Israel negatively reflect upon the IDF? Why does Hamas use Palestinian civilians as human shields? And on a happier note, how is the iron dome so miraculously effective in intercepting hundreds of rockets over Israel? It is apparent that these questions have been swimming inside of my head, and have been struggling to find an answer. Throughout the entirety of I Speak Israel, something has been bothering me. Initially, I could not quite grasp what the itching thing was, but as I depart Israel in a couple of hours I have acknowledged the hardest part of leaving. Israeli citizens must endure through this difficult period. Those especially who reside in southern communities, must remain in bomb shelters throughout the day. They must accept this reality currently.

 Their summer, their vacations have been interfered with. Even though I hold an Israeli citizenship, I currently do not live in Israel. I know that I can leave the state of Israel and return to America. The millions of Jews who live in Israel, on the other hand cannot. This pains me. I know I have a way out, while they do not. Though, many citizens do not mind this. It still continues to amaze me the way the atmosphere of the state has not changed entirely for the worse. Malls, boutiques, yogurt shops remain open with vibrant customers entering throughout the day. If I could take away one thing from the several experiences and encounters I had on I Speak Israel, I would say that one cannot advocate for Israel, criticize Israel, and make decisions for Israel without ever paying a visit to the special country. That is the lesson I learned. I believe it is imperative for Jews in the Diaspora and leading politicians of the world to come to Israel. Only then, can one truly observe the courage all Israelis have in the face of terror. Israel- remain strong and know that in the future, peace is possible and will be achieved.
---Ilana Stein

Questions Without Answers

 Day one - a group of twelve strangers are laughing on a bus and asking the person on their left to remind them of their name.  Day two - a group of twelve friends are touring Israel seeing and experiencing things together that will last them a life time. It did not take long for our quirky group of teens from around the world to create something special.  Each personality, each wildly outrageous and inappropriate remark, each honest to god moment, each breakdown, each complaint, and each friendship has helped to create something unlike anything else, honest and true friendships.  I always like to think I know everything there is to know but the truth is I learnt a lifetimes worth of knowledge from my eleven peers over these past three weeks.  I learnt to keep the flame of curiosity and innocence alive, I learnt to inquire, to communicate, to hold my head up high when the goings get rough, I learnt to walk a mile in someone else's shoes, I learnt to question, to live, and to love.

In the past week Israel has become the hottest headline of every news source. Rockets, missiles, death, and destruction are the completely un-peaceful words describing the land that has brought me the most peace of mind I have ever experienced. My personal thoughts on everything that has been happening are plain and simple - I don't know. My experience in Israel has showed me that I don't have to know everything that it is okay to say," I don't know, let me learn."  In this current situation I don't know what to think or how to feel, but I do know that when I go to bed at night scared to hear a siren, scared that my sister who is somewhere in Israel is not safe, something is wrong and it is in my nature to want to try and fix it.

A common question that has been asked in our group is, "is this a war or is this just another round?" Personally when trying to find clarity on the situation at hand I asked myself this same question. To have  a clear cut answer on what is happening would definitely settle my mind because once we know what is happening then we can began to fix it.  I invalidate this question for two reasons. One, I do not believe we can wage a war against a people that do not even have their own army, because then how are we any better than the Nazi party who waged a war against a helpless and trembling people, my ancestors. That being said I am not ignorant to the fact that the people we are waging "war" against are very different from the Jews, and are certainly not helpless when it comes to weaponry and a strong killing spirit. The second reason I believe this question is not valid is because war and  destruction are synonymous. The opposite of war is not peace it is creation, and I refuse to believe that anyone, especially our Jewish state, would purposefully choose to destruct instead of to create.  The second anyone says Israel has entered war what that means to me is that we have hit our self destruct button. War is not progressive, but on the contrary it is depressive. War depresses the lives of millions of people who get caught in the crossfire, and I am confident that Israel does not want that.

Like I said before,  I really don't know what to think. The various speakers that Young Judea had brought in for us to listen to have provided me with a small sense of clarity and perspective but most of all they have confused me further. There are so many things to take into account when forming an opinion on the matters at hand and it is overwhelming and frustrating.  I have tried to sift through all the perspectives and information, and years of history that make the situation today so much more complicated but I keep coming up with only one thought, sometimes things have to fix themselves. I keep looking for a question so that I can find an answer, so that I can fix whatever this is, but what I have learnt from all of this is to keep learning and questioning. That sometimes it's okay not to know, that sometimes there cannot be an answer.

Currently I am sitting in the lobby of Kibbutz Almog, the place we have not left for three days because of rockets and fear. It is the last day of this remarkable journey in Israel, and I am holding back tears while looking at all of our packed bags. In comparison to all of time,  three weeks seems infinitesimal, but the impact these three weeks have had on my life are infinite. I am so thankful for the opportunity to find new friends, find a stronger bond with my old friends, but mostly to find myself. I have not always known who I am but being here with this unique group of people I have found my strongest values, my spiritual side, my nature girl side, and my emotional capabilities. I will forever cherish every moment and memory created in these three weeks and will carry the personal growth and knowledge I have achieved with me wherever life takes me.

Thank you parents, friends, opportunities, life, and god for getting me to where I am today. Thank you.

--Sarah Eylon

A Multitude of Views

Out of everyone in our group, I was the least informed on the Palestinian-Israeli conflict prior to going to Israel. The extent to my knowledge was that the Palestinians were the bad guys and the Israeli Jews were the good guys. I came to Israel hoping for a clearer view of how we (Israeli Jews) should solve the Palestine conflict with Israel.

Unfortunately after staying in Israel for three weeks I have learned there is no clear, right answer. In fact my views are as conflicted as they were before even going to Israel.

My views became even more conflicting today when an actress showed us four different perspectives of four different people. She acted as an Orthodox Israeli Jew, an Australian, a stereotypical Republican American, and an Arab.

However funny it was this presentation still didn't shy away from the fact that there are so many different views on the Palestinian Israel conflict. The actress's goal at the end of the presentation was to confuse us, and she succeed.

After the presentation I was confused about the Israeli conflict, but I was also confused as to why she wanted us to be confused.

But I've figured it out.

We need to be confused because in this case there is no right answer, no black or white. Now that understand every perspective I can proudly say that I'm confused. I'm confused as to what we (Israel) needs to do. I'm confused just thinking about what's going on and who is right or wrong.

Despite being confused upon the present situation in Israel, I am not confused on the future. We will always rise to see another day. Israel: my second home, the place of my people,

----Johnny Scher

Sunday, July 13, 2014

L'Ultimo Capitolo

Siamo giunti alla fine del nostro viaggio, sono già passate tre settimane.
Questa non è la mia prima visita in Israele infatti vengo qui ogni anno, praticamente sono un vero israeliano. Però fino a questa gita non avevo visitato tutte le bellezze di questa nazione. Perciò vi consiglio di non limitarvi a Tel Aviv e Gerusalemme, ci sono centinaia di altre attrazioni.

Nonostante tutti i pericoli, ogni volta che torno qui mi pare di tornare a casa e ogni volta voglio sempre di più trasferirmi in Israele.
In questo viaggio ho conosciuto tutti gli aspetti di Israele, alcuni che non conoscevo come le minoranze nel paese e i nuovi progetti finanziati dallo Stato. Ma soprattutto ho assistito in prima persona al conflitto arabo-israeliano. Fortunatamente ero fuori dal raggio dei missili di Gaza, ma comunque ho sempre avuto un po' paura.

Inoltre nella visita alla Knesset, il parlamento israeliano (di soli 120 componenti!) ho compreso a pieno la politica israeliana. Sulla carta è quasi uguale a quella italiana, c'è un governo di coalizione, il sistema di assegnazione dei seggi è proporzionale e il presidente della repubblica è solo di figura e l'unico potere che ha è la grazia ai colpevoli. Alcuni parlamentari sono arabi e all'opposizione. Ma questa è una vera Democrazia.

La cosa che mi ha più di tutte sconvolto però è questa: la tassazione. Pensavate che in Italia le tasse sono esageratamente alte? Bene allora significa che non conoscete Israele! Il 60% dei ricavi va allo Stato e la benzina costa più che in Italia.

Il costo della vita è maggiore, però al contrario dell'Italia in Israele non esiste l'evasione fiscale e tutti non sono tristi di pagare le tasse. Perchè? Ovvio, perchè qui sanno che i soldi vanno in buone mani e vengono utilizzati nella maniera migliore.

La situazione attuale è già difficile da risolvere, in più per qualsiasi azione di Israele quasi tutti i media e istituzioni del mondo ci condannano!

Il fatto più sconcertante è che l'Egitto che teoricamente è un sostenitore dei palestinesi ha chiuso i confini con Gaza, mentre Israele ha i confini aperti e per giunta manda energia, cibo e combustibile.
La UE fa pressione su israele e Israele regala ferro e cemento con cui loro costruiscono i tunnels per passare sotto il confine con l'Egitto e far entrare le armi con cui ci attaccano!

Secondo me bisogna prima di tutto interrompere gli aiuti ai civili di Gaza e secondo invadere la striscia e riconquistarla. Il mondo considera i civili palestinesi innocenti, ma per me non lo sono! Nascondere un terrorista in casa o tenere armi illegali o agire da scudi umani significa essere complici del terrorista! Nella striscia vivono 1.500.000 persone di cui 20.000 terroristi. Se la popolazione non terrorista fosse veramente onesta e giusta o saboterebbe i terroristi o si arruolerebbe con Israele per sconfiggere i terroristi!

Questo non è un discorso razzista e non voglio nemmeno dire che tutti i palestinesi sono colpevoli e devono essere arrestati ma non capisco come un palestinese possa pensare che la propria causa sia giusta.
Dopo tutto questa situazione presente anche in Italia, però invece di Hamas c'è l'Ndrangheta. La vera mafia è la netta minoranza, ma la popolazione dipende da essa e soccombe senza protestare.
La vera differenza è che qui si sta parlando di due Stati diversi, anzi no, di uno Stato e di un'entità terroristica!!

Israele è un Stato giusto ed equale, tutti hanno il diritto di voto e libertá di culto, pensiero e opinione. Mentre nei regimi arabi per ogni persona che prova ad essere diversa dal resto del gregge viene uccisa immediatamente.

Posso quindi concedere che molti palestinesi per paura non reagiscono e hanno votato Hamas.
Perciò consiglio di visitare Israele, a prescindere dalla religione, dagli ideali o dai valori che abbiate, perché Israele è una nazione libera e vuole condividere questa libertá con voi.

David Fiorentini

Closing Statements

It's impossible to wrap my head around the fact that in 24 hours I will be on a plane home to San Diego. I obviously don't want to leave this beautiful place, even as it erupts into conflict and violence. Israel has truly become my second home over the last 3 weeks, as cliche as that sounds. I got much more out of this trip than I expected to. I expected to learn academically, to gain intellectual experience and knowledge about Israel. I definitely did not expect to gain new perspectives about life and about what matters to me, or to make the friendships and relationships with people that I did. I come from a superficial place. Southern California is all about being the best, physically, academically-- you need to compete with other people. It's about the image you project to the world, not the substance behind it. It was a completely new experience to come to a place and not do anything to try and prove myself to others, and have people love and accept me regardless. Being here has taught me about appreciation and love. It's taught me how to appreciate air conditioning and how to be annoyed about bug bites but not let small things like that ruin your day. It's also taught me to appreciate the beautiful friendships I've made here, instead of be extremely sad that the situation that created the friendships is ending.

During our last activity it hit me that I will never be in the same room with the same people ever again. I have no doubt that I will see some of the people on the trip again, but never all together in the same circumstances. It's a sad feeling, but at the same time I'm learning to adapt to the situations. If there's one thing I've learned from this trip is that outside circumstances do not have to dictate your internal experience. I can take the friendships and personal revelations out of this trip and back to California with me. Some of the revelations are specific to Israel, but their messages are universal.

I send my best wishes, love, and prayers to all the Israelis and my fellow Jews who are here during this time of conflict. I know I have had a truly unique experience here, watching both my groups' dynamic and the national dynamic grow, change, and explode over the course of three weeks. It's a trip that has left it's mark on my heart and soul.

- Lily Greenberg Call, 16, San Diego

Stuck in the grey -The final day

     Sitting here with the impossible task of summing up not only my physical trip, but also my relationship with Israel, I am forced to be blunt: This is simply unattainable. Not because I am limited on time, or because I'm sweating like crazy (I NEED MORE AIR CONDITIONING), but because I myself have not yet come to a sound conclusion about my thoughts on the topic. In fact, over the course of the trip my political view has swung from both sides of the spectrum, and my historical knowledge of Israel has been revolutionized. 

     Despite these clashing thoughts and opinions, I did manage to come out with a single, concrete view: The world is seriously complicated.

     In the most candid scenario, a phone conversation with my worried Jewish mother, I learned the truth. Humans; whether Palestinian or Israeli, women or man, Muslim or Jewish are all hypnotized by the false reality that every problem in the world has a black or white answer. 

        In a spark of absolute genius, my mom gave me a treasure of a quote, "As a child you had the luxury of believing that every issue, regardless of size, could be fixed with a simple black and white answer. As you grow older however you will begin to realize that those answers don't exist, and that an answer, if one exists, will always be in the dreadful gray zone".

     As an Israeli advocate and journalist, I guess it is possible to call my mission a failure. I don't, and possibly never will have the answer to any aspect of the Israeli-palestinian conflict. However, this trip has not been a failure to me by any means. Using my new found knowledge, I can now not only speak for Israel on a whole new level, but also understand it in a deeper sense.

    At the end of the day however, this trip gave me an opportunity like no other. It forced me, sometimes in the most brutal way, to critically think about Israel. The trip refused to allow me to become ignorant; which today is the biggest issue facing the small but mighty state of Israel. 

     Opportunities like this cannot be bypassed. I fully intend to continue supporting and simultaneously criticizing Israel, in order to advocate for it in the strongest way possible. In addition, I want to take this space to truly appreciate everything and everyone who allowed me to get to this point. No present is more meaningful than a gift of experience, and goddamn, this has been one hell of a ride.

Signing off, but definitely not for the last time
-Roee Landesman
Israel advocate and Journalist

More than Meets the Eye

The Group
I have learned that the world isn’t black and white. You get handed to you how to advocate for Israel. You won’t get handed to you what your views should be about Israel. If you want the easy way out you can hide behind others but if you really want to have an impact on the world it’s going to take work.

In the past three weeks we have traveled all over. We’ve been to some touristic sites but also to historical places and informational sites. At all these places we would listen to lectures either by the professional in that department or by our tour guide. But all we learnt was factual.  And half way through the trip I was getting upset that I wasn’t being given something to be able to go back home and advocate for Israel for.

Then when having a conversation with people from different groups in Israel I realized that at times the factual things are what people need to hear. Even though the fact that Israel has a community building mud houses won’t solve the issues in the Middle East, it will enlighten people that Israel is more than just a war zone. Israel has so many great things happening that don’t have to do with the fighting at all. Being in Israel during a conflict as big as what is happening now has really shown me that. In America when listening to the news all you hear it how many missiles have been shot today and how many people have died. No one takes a step back to see the whole country, to see people are still going to work and are still living their lives.
This trip to Israel has been a trip completely different than any one I have ever taken or will ever take. I was with 12 kids, each with completely different backgrounds and knowledge of Israel. We visited places I would have never visited with my family or with a tourist group. We had conversations that made me think outside of the box and I hope I gave insight to other people’s thoughts. Overall I learnt a lot about Israel and I believe that I can go home and teach people that Israel is more than just a disputed land.

Coming into this program, I didn't know really what to expect. I thought we would be making a documentary and didn’t actually think we would be doing a blog. I thought it would be lots of lectures about how to advocate for Israel and for the organization to shove their view down our throats. Yet these past three weeks have been completely different then what I expected.
   --Hadas Ben-David

Black and White

As our trip comes to a close it is time for reflection. Today had a speaker who showed ISI a plethora amount of perspectives about the current situation in Israel. To be blunt- I am extremely confused about my opinions towards Israel.

When I travel back to Corn Land Indiana- I am preparing myself for questions about the bombs, terrorism, and violence. Though I am not going to talk about my life, I am going to talk about the four million Israelis who are constantly in danger. I am leaving here, but they are not. It is time that I stop thinking about myself.

I wish I could relieve the minds of my friends and family about the situation of war in Israel- but I cannot- no one can. I came to Israel to help clarify my thoughts and opinions towards the Israeli and Palestinian conflict. On the contrary, the lenses that were once blurry, are now legally blind. Though I think this is good. My skepticism towards the possibility of peace have now turned into melancholy, there will never be peace. I am a human who is constantly changing my opinions. The changing of opinions is a side-effect of life, there are no white and black answers.

I apologize if I didn't write what you wanted to hear. I could have told you that this is just an episode and one day Israel and Palestine will be one. But the past and present tell us differently. Thank you Israel for giving me the opportunity to think for myself.

-Dana Brown
South Bend, Indiana

Different Opinions with the Same End Goal

       As a group, I didn’t realize how different our views on what I thought to be a simple topic would be. I Speak Israel was having their typical 4 pm Shabbat activity when the question, “How important is it to marry another Jew?” was posed. Immediately the rapid fire of passionate responses began.

     “As long as the final outcome of the child is a child that has a strong connection with Judaism, it shouldn’t matter.”

     “Parents should not force religion upon their children, everyone has a choice and if someone doesn’t want to be involved they shouldn’t have to be.”

     “If two Jewish people get married, but they have no connection to the religion and Israel, isn’t that worse than marrying a non-Jew but still having more of a connection with Israel and Judaism?”

      “While the way that the children come out is incredibly important. It’s also important to recognize that Jews relate and identify with other Jews in a far more effective way than non-Jews. There is more of an immediate connection.”

     The conversation went on and everyone started to bring up specific examples of parents, and aunts and uncles in their families in which the marriage between a Jew and non-Jew have and have not worked. Coming from a family with very specific values on this issue, I was very surprised when I heard that most people did not believe that everyone should marry a Jew. I believe that it is the duty of the Jewish people to stick together and develop more of a community. I believe that in most cases of intermarriage by the time two generations pass, all sense of religion will disappear. After discussing the issue, however, I was able to realize that not one single opinion is correct. Many members in the group actually believe that the way in which one marries does not matter as long as the Jewish community lives on and flourishes as a group of strong people. And that’s the beautiful thing about being Jewish. We have the freedom to think and feel the way we want, but in the end we are one community with the same end goal.

--- Sydney Sussman

Saturday, July 12, 2014

The Negev, a world of sand

The Negev, the desert that occupies nearly two-thirds of Israel, is a world to explore. Today we know it well but still not enough.

The Negev was of fundamental importance from the war of independence of 1948. Indeed strategic points that were tormenting Ben Gurion were Jerusalem and the Negev. One of several measures to protect the second was the construction of the international port of Eilat. This servants to protect the state from unauthorized landings on the coast of the Red Sea.

In 1953, when Ben-Gurion resigned as head of state, moved to a small village in the middle of the desert, Sde Boker, and contributed to his edification.Like this was trying to set an example to young people and to encourage them to populate the desert.

Today, the inhabitants of these small villages are motivated by a common desire to colonize the desert to get away from the densely populated metropolis. To make you realize how busy the metropolis are, I tell you that Israel si the sixth most densely populated nation in the world. But given that in two-thirds of the nation live only 10,000 people you can understand how drastic the situation is.

Six million people live in a space equal to the province of Siena!

Ben Gurion in addition to populate the desert wanted to defend it. The Army is moving the largest bases in the desert and use the ample space available for major exercises.

In addition, several organizations, such as the KKL, are trying to preserve the environment and to stop desertification

The desert is also where the major projects, Made in Israel, are developed . First, the exploitation of the water, then the development of photovoltaic and solar then wind turbine blades.

Most of the efforts are directed to agriculture. In fact, the goal is to be able to easily grow crops and veggies in the desert.

In addition Israelis invented a new method of construction whereby instead of using cement and bricks it uses sand, straw and mud. The price is almost the same because the low cost of materials si increased by the high cost of labor.

Not only Israelis live in the desert, in fact since centuries centuries was populated by the Bedouins. The Bedouins are a peaceful and hospitable people. Their economy is based on farming, are raised :sheep, goats and camels . Until that technology has taken over even on them, the Bedouins were a nomadic people who migrated to better pasture every season. They are real kings of the desert, for example they are able to find an amount of water equal to the an Olympic pool digging in the right places. Today they are all Israeli citizens and they all join the IDF.

Returning to Israel, even just reading this blog you are literally taking part in the dream of David Ben-Gurion, founder of the State of Israel, who dreamed of a future in which the development of the desert is a subject alive and active.

Personally, if I had not almost all of my family in Galilee right on the border with Lebanon, I would go to live in a desert town.

The hours of heat are less than those of the cold, the climate is dry and the day is accompanied by a pleasant breeze. The problem is that in the hot hours, it's really hot! Not the usual 30-35 degrees that there are in Italy, here you can reach 40 degrees Celsius as nothing!

But for the rest is a very nice place , you just have to get used to the heat, have an initiative spirit to build new cities and then everything is OK.

In conclusion, if Ben Gurion was still alive he would be proud of all of us that we are making, even in our small, the Negev a better place.

David Fiorentini

Friday, July 11, 2014

An Email to a Friend

The following is the text of an email that I sent to my friend Aviva yesterday. It's a very pure expression of my feelings towards the violence and tension in Israel right now. I hope that the IDF is successful and efficient, so that for my sake and for the sakes of my friends and family in the States, the conflict ends soon and relative peace returns to Israel.

Dear Aviva:

I'm not gonna lie. I miss you like crazy, and I'm scared.

Since the IDF Operation started, over 365 rockets have been fired into Israel. There was an alarm at the Kibbutz where I'm staying. We were in Jerusalem today, and rockets were fired at the city literally minutes after we left. Some were aimed at the Knesset building, which we visited this morning. My friends and I could have been hit, and honestly, it was a miracle that we were as safe as we ended up being.

Right now, there are 10,000 IDF troops in Gaza, and 40,000 reserves ready to be deployed. A lot of my friends have older siblings in the IDF right now. My cousin just finished his army service a few months ago, and he's still living in Israel, so he could be called to fight any minute. As closely connected as we are to Israel, military conflicts are never scary until someone you truly care about is risking their life. It's not even that they're trying to save Israel, they're fighting to keep me safe. Me. Personally. And that's terrifying as hell.

I've never been homesick before. But the fact that I've been away from everyone for so long is really getting to me. I know that you guys are all worried about me, and that gets me worried, because you can't always get in touch with me to make sure that I'm safe. I just want to be able to see you and talk to you in person, partially because I'm selfish and want comfort, but mostly because I miss you. I want to be able to share my summer with you, both the exciting and the frightening parts. Honestly, I'm not sure how to deal with my fear and anxiety without constantly having you there.

All of the people who are in charge of the trip try to tell our group that everything is under control, and that all of the alarm is just precautionary. I really do appreciate their efforts to comfort us. Deep down, I know that they're probably right, but it just makes me more scared. Things must be really bad if they have to solace and reassure a group of high schoolers.

I really don't mean to scare you. I just need to talk about the fear and homesickness that I'm feeling, because I've never experienced it before. I miss you. I wish that you could be here with me, but I can't wait to go home and be with you.

Give everyone my best, and I'll see you soon.
- Kim

Thursday, July 10, 2014


As the trip winds down, it's impossible not to start thinking about the changing reality I face. I've never been very good at dealing with the end of trips or camps, losing people and going back to life at home. I'd love to say that as I've gotten older and more mature I'm better at handling the change, but I'm not sure that this is true.

Change is so constant in the human life. In an hour, our group plans can change because Hamas decides to send more rockets towards Israel. In 3 days I leave the country and go back to the American existence. Yet there are so many things on the planet that don't change, at least at a pace that the human eye can see. At Masada, I stumbled into the old synagogue that I was bat mitzvahed in 4 years ago. It was eerily the same, and the very same Rabbi that had done my service was there folding up a tallit from a service that had just taken place. Judaism has evolved, but essentially remained the same for nearly five thousand years. The desert landscape of the Ramon Crater that I saw perched on a mass of rock at 5 am Sunday morning looks the same way it did two thousand years ago. It boggles my mind that in my day to day and month to month life there can be so much change, yet my life overlaps with forces that remain constant. The sun always rises in the east, every single morning. Even though we are so small, we are such a part of things so large in comparison to us.

Change can shift your perspective almost instantaneously. The last few days have been a whirlwind. Not necessarily because of jam packed itineraries-- not at all, actually. We've been doing a plethora of random activities, some scheduled and some the backup plans that have been messily thrown together after areas were deemed unsafe because of rocket threats. It's a scary new reality that I'm experiencing-- actually living the "Israeli reality" instead of seeing it inside a TV screen. The past days have been full of new perspectives like this one. I've seen conflict in Israel from an Israeli mindset, watched the world wake up sitting high above an ancient desert crater, and sat for hours in a Dead Sea spa surrounded by Russians covered in mud. That's a first, let me tell you.

There's been so much change in my life in the past week, and the juxtaposition of this and the ancient, unchanging places and landscapes I've been to has forced me out of the bubble perspective I've grown up in.
I've been trying to come up with a deep and profound closing for this, but I don't have a revelation just yet. I'll let you know when I do.

- Lily Greenberg Call, 16, San Diego