Israel Awareness Month: An Important Addition to the Calendar

Autism Awareness Month, Domestic Violence Awareness Month, Breast Cancer Awareness Month, LBGT Pride Month and National Safety Month. These are but a handful of initiatives that call our attention to important causes or occasions. It became apparent to the Bnai Zion Foundation that, as a society, we could also benefit from Israel Awareness Month.

Everyone is aware of Israel, you might say. But with the right focus, a designated awareness month can lead to action. Our idea for Israel Awareness Month is to motivate those who believe in Israel, to work on initiatives to help strengthen, unify and enrich the country. This thinking is the reason for our organization’s existence. On a daily basis we demonstrate our commitment to the residents of Israel with capital projects that address the needs of all its people.

Raising awareness can be powerful as a first step in advocating for change. Attitudes about violence against women, for example, have changed as a result of National Domestic Violence Month and the activities that take place around it. A public discussion can lead to an exploration of solutions, once awareness and education take hold. It could be of great benefit, particularly to college students, who have been highly critical of Israel without accurate facts, or a full understanding within a historical context.

One important thing to understand about Israel is that its citizens live under a terror threat experienced by few other nations. According to the Global Terrorism Database (GTD) 95 percent of terrorist attacks occur in the Middle East. With the per capita death rate from terrorism exceedingly high, the threat is acutely felt throughout the country — surrounded by those who deny their right to exist from the moment Israel became a state.

Since last year there’s been a surge of violence and terrorism resulting in 1,119 rocket and mortar shell hits in Israeli territory, the highest annual number in the past ten years. Yet despite adversity, the citizens of Israel – Muslim, Christian and Jewish alike – still enjoy a greater degree of individual liberty than the residents of other Middle Eastern states.

Another aspect of Israel that many don’t realize is its status as the “Startup Nation.” It has earned the nickname for good reason. With a population of around 8.5 million, it has the largest number of startups per capita in the world – around one startup per 1,400 people. The country’s adversity-driven culture has contributed to an inspiring “yes-we-can” attitude. Israel’s technology talent has never been in higher demand, with the Israeli tech sector enjoying consistent growth over the decades.

So how is it that Israel can flourish and be the most stable democracy in the Middle East when it’s under constant siege? How many Americans are aware of Israel’s history as a way to understand what the country experiences, and why we grow stronger despite challenges?

America remains committed to Israel, even in the face of criticism from key allies and the painful economic retaliation from the BDS movement. Yes, it is important to label a tweet anti-Semitic or expose the dangers of the BDS, but it is not enough. To be truly aware, we must revisit the facts to make historic information available at all levels. We can create partnerships with like-minded organizations, hold media forums, encourage voices to be heard through opinion bylines, debate and art. We can join together to build a think tank, visit a university, even meet with government representatives and officials.

Israel was declared a nation on May 14th, 1948, making May the perfect month to celebrate International Israel Awareness Month. This coming spring, let’s make May of 2020 the first official International Israel Awareness Month. Consider taking action in your schools and communities by organizing local celebrations, hosting performances and lectures, building parades and more.

Those who feel strongly about Israel’s continued success and prosperity should be heard in the months leading up to May of 2020, include voting in the 2020 Zionist Elections, happening between January 21 and March 11, 2020, starting Jewish history clubs in schools, creating local meetups in your area, etc. These are just some of the ways to build up momentum in the interim.

We must rally, so like the pink ribbon of Breast Cancer Awareness, we wear one of blue to show our solidarity with Israel. It is imperative to teach the lessons of the past in order to make better choices for the future. It will surely take longer than a month, but an entire Month dedicated to raising positive Israel Awareness is certainly a good place to start.

About the Author
CEO of the Bnai Zion Foundation, Cheryl Bier has spent more than 20 years working for Jewish non-profit organizations. She believes in the power of culture to bring together disparate elements of the Jewish community.
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