Spring semester is usually when BDS efforts on campuses heat up. Pro-Israel students usually find themselves on the defensive, doing their utmost to fight off the lies and distortions thrown at them.
Recent anti-Israel activity on campuses have raised the stakes even higher as Israel haters have worked diligently to reach beyond their own base. They have successfully built relationships and created allies with “marginalized” minority groups who have proven easy prey for the anti-Israel propagandists’ false self-description of being the marginalized, the oppressed, the victim.
This leaves Israel supporters on campus in a unenviable position. Not only do they have to defend Israel from the false claims made against it, but they often have to do it on their own, facing a coalition of minority groups who have banded together against Israel.
Separately, many pro-Israel students on campus will tell you that their primary obstacle on campus is not anti-Israel propaganda. The bigger challenge they face is apathy and lack of interest in anything related to Israel. Your average University student doesn’t see Israel as being relevant to them – how does it fit into their academic studies, their social life or their career goals?
With these 2 major challenges in mind – i.e. the building of coalitions against Israel and the greater obstacle of apathy – it is imperative that we creatively find ideas and initiatives that can help build our own relationships, and engage those totally unengaged with anything Israel related.
Israel Ideas and Hasbara Fellowships are excited to re-launch an initiative that aims to do just this. This semester “Start Up Nation Technology Fairs” (www.startupnationtechfair.org) will be organized on 10 Universities across the United States, including at Princeton, Yale, University of Pennsylvania, NYU and University of Connecticut.
Each Start Up Nation Tech Fair will host 12-15 Israeli start-up companies, each sharing their technology and products with University students in a trade show format. Each Fair will also offer internship opportunities with the Israeli companies. Finally, at certain Fairs additional programming will be added including “Shark Tank” events, and panels with the Israeli CEO’s
Maybe most exciting, is that every event is being co-sponsored by Business schools, Engineering schools, and/or student business clubs. The co-sponsors are not Israel related, but they are interested in not only attending, but helping sponsor these Fairs.
The goal of these Startup Nation Tech Fairs is to engage students in the area that they already show interest. The Fairs target students studying business or engineering, and those interested in creating their own start up company after graduation. Instead of trying to engage students on “our terms” – i.e. come learn about Israeli history, politics, security, culture, etc – let’s engage them on “their terms” – i.e. their areas of study and interest.
The goal is that we will engage new students, and that tomorrow’s business leaders will become our present and future allies. Israeli technology is literally changing the world – not just Israel. If today we can engage tomorrow’s business leaders about this Israeli technological impact, we can create the relationships and partnerships that will ensure Israel’s future.