NSWJBD-Honest Reporting Advocacy Mission – Day 5

December 3, 2012 by  
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Twenty people – mostly members of Sydney’s Jewish community, plus a number of West Australians and Americans  – are currently participating in the inaugural NSW Jewish Board of Deputies-HonestReporting Advocacy Mission in Israel – Day Five from Paul Mortley.

The tour so far has been both challenging and rewarding, and today was no exception. The day started with a lazy morning and ended with some intriguing guess speakers.

Shabbat in Israel is an experience to be had. From the start to the finish, participating in the traditions and feeling the change with the city of Jerusalem, has been such an education. Within the group there is a variety religious and nonreligious, and interfaith. While some went to synagogue, others visited with friends or family, I started my day by heading to Mt Scopus where my church is located. At the completion I walked back to Jerusalem to join back with the group to share lunch.

The first speaker to address us today was Khaled Abu Toameh. Khaled is an Israeli Arab who works as the West Bank and Gaza correspondent for the Jerusalem Post and the US News and World News. Khaled gave us a good insight into the thinking and understandings of Arab peoples in the region. This analysis covered topics on Palestinian citizenship, elections and the comparison of the situation of Israeli Arabs and Palestinian Arabs, within the confines of Israel/West Bank and Gaza, and that within other Arab nations.

The topic of Arab citizenship and elections covered the idea that when Israel annexed East Jerusalem the Palestinians would have automatic Israeli citizenship forced upon them, thus they would be prevented from entering any Islamic country or attending Islamic universities. The decision was made by the Israeli Government that they would be permanent residents with the opportunity to take Israeli citizenship if they desired, which many did. The election topic was also brought up, many people using it as an argument against Israel. Khaled’s response was that Israel is not stopping Israeli Arabs from voting in Israel, neither are they stopped from voting in the West Bank and Gaza, where they also have their own parliament.

Khaled also compared the situation of refugees in Lebanon and Kuwait to that of Israel/ West Bank. Where Israel has offered citizenship, education through Jewish or Palestinian based schools, plus home ownership and many other benefits, Lebanon and Kuwait and many other Arab nations have left the refugees in refugee camps and not offered them any of the benefits Israel offers.

The next speaker was Catherine Bodenstein, who works with the Christ Church and is a conduit between Christians, Jews, media and government. She works on a voluntary basis and has been doing this for around four years. Catherine’s insightful talk helped give an understanding of what other faiths are doing to promote and educate about Israel. Catherine also shared a moving story about two of her friends who were involved in an anti-Israeli attack, sadly resulting in one of her friends dying from injuries.

The third speaker was Professor Gerald M. Steinberg, President, NGO Monitor and Political Science Department, Bar IIan University.  This was a very interesting talk on NGOs, human rights and the campaign to demonise Israel. Professor Steinberg identifies where the money that is used to fund anti-Israeli campaigns comes from and then works to stop or educate those funding these groups.

We participated in a Havdalah ceremony, a wonderful cultural insight. This was a relaxing, insightful and educational day. There is always so much work put into everything that we participate in on this tour, I am looking forward to the upcoming days.

Paul Mortley is from Perth. He studied International Politics at Murdoch University and majored in Security, Terrorism and Counter-terrorism. He currently works in Youth Justice. He describes himself as a Zionist-leaning Christian.

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