Libby is part of a delegation of British pre-campus students who intend to be active in leading pro-Israel activity when they get to university. In Israel with StandWithUs UK, they are engaging in an intensive week-long summit prior to beginning their studies when they return home.
This is a daily diary of their experiences in Israel:
Day 4 began with an exclusive visit to the Israeli Ministry of Foreign Affairs. We were hosted at the Ministry by Paul Hirschson, the Deputy Spokesman. During our meeting Paul invited us to bombard him with any and every question that could come to the mind of a young British Jewish university student. This experience enabled us to hear strong, passionate and detailed answers to questions that we felt most likely to be asked on campus. He filled in gaps in our knowledge and understanding of facts and political perspectives.
There were questions on every aspect of Israeli life and culture. Our hour and a half was over in a flash and I believe we emerged from that meeting with a confidence and zeal to participate in Israel related debates and discussions at University and a renewed motivation to immerse ourselves in the thriving Jewish life all around UK campuses.
Our group continued on in Jerusalem. A short coach journey brought us to the StandWithus Israel Office, where we met the diverse and committed staff. We were taught how to best express all the new information we had just gathered and were shown how to form a strong and structured argument, staying focused even in the face of a tough adversary.
A session with Communications Expert, Neil Lazarus, allowed us to practice our newly-acquired knowledge. This workshop was both extremely entertaining and essential to the much needed bank of skills we were developing, to be able to advocate for Israel.
Now we knew that we could go back to the UK not only with extended and developed knowledge, but also a way of expressing ourselves so that we would be able to educate others.
Our day continued with a unique geo-political tour of Jerusalem with renowned security and military expert, Miri Eisin, a retired colonel of the Israeli Army. Overlooking the Mount of Olives, we sat in awe taking in her vast knowledge as she educated us with an historic overview of Israel and details about the diverse religious claims over Jerusalem. We also learned that Jerusalem is the only city worldwide that holds holy sites for Judaism, Christianity and Islam. It became clear why Miri was responsible for escorting and briefing senior officials, politicians and journalists from around the world.
Miri travelled with us to our second stop, Abu Dis. Here we stood by Israel’s Security Fence. It was an unsettling moment where we felt too close for comfort to the friction between the Palestinians and Israelis. The fence was built as a result of the relentless acts of terrorism in 2000. Miri told us stories about how radical Palestinians would easily cross over into Jewish areas within Israel and plant bombs or carry out other horrific acts of terrorism and then make their way back to their own homes. There are still on-going debates and disagreements over the security fence with many Palestinians claiming it to be an unjust inconvenience. However, to many Israelis on the other side, the fence is a necessary reassurance.
Our intense day ended with an intimate dinner with the StandWithUs Israeli Fellowship Alumni, where we had an opportunity to share our experiences with our Israeli contemporaries. Over the course of the dinner we each had a chance to reflect, both personally and as a group, on what a spectacular week it had been so far; with only 2 days left, none of us wanted to go home.