Leor Sinai
Iron like a lion in Zion.

StopBDS Conference — a missed opportunity

So I attended the StopBDS conference sponsored by Yedioth Achronot (a major Israeli newspaper) in Jerusalem yesterday.  Indeed it was well organized and there was an impressive lineup of speakers including government ministers and officials, university presidents, business professionals, organizational and community leaders, actors and cultural icons – even Roseanne Bar blessed us with her presence – where there was a lot of talk, but unfortunately little content.

It was made abundantly clear that BDS is a threat to Israel and the Jewish People in more ways than one.  Academic and business boycotts, initiating anti-Jewish and anti-Israel campaigns swarming through university campuses and governments with the goals of the State of Israel’s  delegitimization, and the poisoning of the next generation of political leaders, opinion and decision makers. So the threat is evident, however, the conference seemed more like a “BDS 101”, repeating that which we already know: “Houston we have a problem.”  It was discouraging to see that there was more verbal dancing around the issue rather than an actual “call to action”.

There was no talk of being proactive; I wasn’t moved nor taken on a journey imagining a better world, a better way for us moving forward.

No vision, nor hope, for tomorrow.

Instead there were calls: to “retake the narrative”, to teach our youth how to respond to ALL the misinformation out there, to put more students on the front line of this battle, to create a viral campaign, and many many more reactionary statements we have all heard before.  Reactionary because that is exactly what we are quick to do – react.

This conference was a missed opportunity.

I was excited to attend as I haven’t heard of any other gathering or conference of this kind take place, so kudos to Yediot Achronot for bringing everyone together.  But I must be critical over such an important topic and conference – impacting global Jewry, Israel, and the free world – to walk away feeling that nothing was achieved.  If I were a Jewish High School student attending this StopBDS conference I’d be scared, very scared and overwhelmed.  I’d be asking myself how in the world can we tackle this global movement?! It’s us against them!!  And then, I would consider residing to my own little corner of the world, forgetting about it all and feeling alone.  My hunch is that this is where an overwhelming number of our youth stand: not with Israel, but with themselves.

Some claim we are beginning to win the battle in certain arenas, but unless we are inspired and have a vision to inspire others for tomorrow, we will lose the war.

We cannot play by the BDS rules, we must forge our own.  We cannot react to each and every lie and campaign, it is impossible.  Instead – we must be proactive.  We must remember who we are and where we’ve come from. We must invest in Jewish-Israel education, but it must be an education backed by conviction, an education of Positively Israel, of confirming our place in the world.  We must engage our world, forge relationships with individuals and entities outside our comfort-zone and we must remember that ours is a story of redemption, a story that would make for an award winning film, it is a constant miracle in the making – despite it all.

So what is the game changer?  It is Israel. Unlike 70 years ago, today we have Israel.  An Israel that contributes to the world in so many ways, has influence in so many arenas, and as a result of her existence – makes the world a better place.  This must be branded on each and every piece of material coming out of the organized Jewish world, each and every advertisement from the State of Israel, and from each and every one of our mouths.  Invest in people to people campaigns and all the slogans will go awash.

Sure we cannot be silent; we have no right to be silent, but for freedom and justice to win, for Israel’s truth to be told – we must be honest with ourselves and others – these are our rules of engagement: BDS rules are BDS rules, not ours.  Jews worldwide need to get back to the root of our existence and people need to know that Israel makes the world better.

About the Author
Originally from New York, Rabbi Leor Sinai made Aliyah, moved with his family to Israel, in June 2011. Growing up he was involved in NYC's night life as a club producer and M.C., in 1995 that all changed while he spent the academic year abroad studying at Haifa University in Israel. It was when then Prime Minister Yitzchak Rabin was assassinated that Leor realized there were more important things to life. He changed his academic concentration and took a detour thereby challenging himself to focus on more important things. Since then Leor's professional resume includes experiences in the field of leadership development, organizational advancement and consulting. Leor was ordained in 2009 at The Jewish Theological Seminary and works passionately to build networks of individuals focused on making our world better. Leor began his tenure as co-CEO at the Alexander Muss Institute for Israel Education in October 2013. While diversity can become a source of divisiveness, it in fact should be a basis for unity. When we demonstrate compassion towards others, accountability for our actions, and availability for our community, we reveal the enlightening potential of our existence. It is imperative that the world I live in values and welcomes those who wish to be a part of it.
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