The Israel Experience

April 26, 2012 by Joshua Cole
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They came to Israel out of both curiosity and love. For most of them, their love has only increased as they have known Israel through multiple experiences by volunteering, studying, learning, meeting new people, talking Hebrew, eating, and, for 58 young Australians, becoming advocates to speak in support of Israel in a world that many many fear is becoming increasingly vitriolic toward the Jewish homeland.

The group meets Mark Regev

On 15-17 April, 58 participants from shnat underwent the first part of “Israel in Focus-Australia,” an advocacy seminar sponsored and organised by StandWithUs, Zionist Federation of Australia (ZFA) and Australasian Zionist Youth Council (AZYC). The 58 participants came from the long-term gap year programs Israel by Choice, AUJS Aviv and Australian Zionist youth movement shnat programs (Betar, Bnei Akiva, Habonim Dror, Hineni and Netzer).

“I don’t think that even the most optimistic of us expected such a great success,” said ZFA Israel Programs Director Yigal Sela. “We were very fortunate for the quality, dedication and hard work not only from the organisations and speakers who planned and led the seminars, but also from the participants. This wouldn’t have been possible without so many people, most especially the leadership of Michelle Rojas-Tal from StandWithUs and Reuben Bolaffi of AZYC in supporting the ZFA. Moreover, we couldn’t have asked for a better calibre of young advocates: They have unbelievable enthusiasm, energy, thoughtfulness and intelligence, all of which augurs well for the Australian Jewish community. Coming from different groups, they compose a cosmopolitan force to defend Israel in different places and for different audiences.”

In all, 12 expert speakers informed the participants about a wide range of issues, including a brief history of Israel territory and maps, multiple inside views of Palestinian society, a geo-strategic tour of Jerusalem, international legal issues. Speakers included McGill University Professor Gil Troy; Ministry of Foreign Affairs legal expert Sarah Weiss-Maudi; former Israeli spokeswoman and retired Col. Miri Eisin; and Prime Minister’s Spokesman Mark Regev, who is originally from Australia.

“We’re really excited about this seminar because it is an important part of their time in Israel and a very important part when they come back to Australia as well,” said AZYC Chairperson Reuben Bolaffi. “The skills and knowledge they are learning on this seminar are invaluable as bogrim of the movement: Being in a youth movement and having ideologies, they know what it’s like to believe in something and stand up for what they believe. When they come back to Australia they will be confronted by the BDS [Boycott and Divestment Sanctions] and de-legitimisation of Israel. The seminar really gives them an opportunity to learn how to respond, and we’re very proud and excited for them to learn.”

During the second round of “Israel in Focus-Australia,” which is scheduled for May (IBC and Aviv) and September (AZYC), the young advocates will be trained to respond to specific types of groups and claims made about Israel.

“We are delighted to partner with the Zionist Federation of Australia and the Australasian Zionist Youth Council to bring this seminar to the Australian community,” said Michelle Rojas-Tal, StandWithUs’s Director of Diaspora Education. “My greatest passion for teaching comes from the overwhelming emotion I receive when I am able to teach, learn and share with a new group of talented and dedicated young adults, and it was a pleasure getting to know all of the participants over the three days they were here, and I look forward to continuing my work with them in the next seminar.”


One Response to “The Israel Experience”
  1. Lynne Newington says:

    A wonderful bonding opportunity.
    I recall my youngest daughter, a beautiful sensitive child always wanting to spend time in a Kibbutz, not being Jewish, I never followed it through.
    I recall, I was never permitted to clean her hairbrush in front of the fire……

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