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Adele Raemer
Life on the Border with the Gaza Strip

We are Israel, and Israel is Us

Photo credit Rafi Ben Hakoom
רפי בן חקון , לע"מ
Israeli Ministry of Foreign Affairs

The stately Jerusalem stone building stands like a proud sentinel, not far from the entrance to Jerusalem. It houses the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and served as my destination every week for eight Thursdays. Eighteen of us, hand picked from among hundreds of applicants from around Israel and abroad, were slated to be the first class of the Voices of Israel project, initiated by Deputy Foreign Minister Idan Roll. Weekly on Thursdays, we arrived from locations all around Israel, laboriously chugging through Israel’s worsening traffic to learn about the background of the Israel-Palestine conflict, how to interact with journalists, the best methods to use to clearly get our messages across and how to read between the lines of others’ messages. 

The #VoicesofIsrael Photo credit: David Weil דוד וויל

We discovered a little about what really goes on in those maze-like halls (although we were NOT free to roam them unaccompanied).  We were taught how to best harness social media and were even gifted a ring light to help get us started ;-). We networked and team worked and, through the process, evolved into a group able to  rely on one another. We have each other’s backs while sharing our own individual areas of expertise. 

In the opening session, the spokesperson of the Foreign Ministry, Lior Haiat explained to us  that during last May’s Operation Guardian of the Walls, the people at the MFA noticed that Israelis who were interviewed in the foreign media were mostly suits: politicians or government and military officials giving government approved statements. The Gazans on the other hand, were just the average citizen found on the street providing  their own personal story. 

How to give an interview
Photo credit: My own

This realization inspired our Ministry to dream up a program that would harness the capabilities of Israeli citizens from different parts of the country, including a wide cross-section of the population. Hence, they started the ball rolling with a call for applicants, sorting through an assortment of candidates who applied, then finally choosing the team for the first “Nivcheret Hadovrim”- The Voices of Israel. We are an eclectic mix of observant and secular Jews, Muslim Bedouin, Druze and olim chadashim (new immigrants) just off the plane: plain old Israelis! Among us are residents of the different urban centers and towns, villages in the heart of the country as well as border communities  and speakers of different languages. We are kibbutzniks, hi-tech workers, criminal profilers and dance teachers, lawyers, university professors,  IDF civil officers (res.) – even a trained medical clown. 

All these outstanding Israeli citizens have been brought together for one purpose. We were gathered together not to be taught WHAT to say, but rather to learn how to tell our personal stories – the truths of Israel- in order to help balance out the many untruths and inaccuracies that the world hears and reads in international media both traditional and social. We, you see, are citizens with boots-on-the-ground, in the field living the beauty as well as the conflict, and only we can tell the story of our lives, far better than anyone else. 

Selfie

We’ve already begun our work, including  all the developments that occured during our period of training – starting with the invasion of the Ukraine, and the terror attacks happening around the country, the violence taking place on the Temple Mount and most recently, the rocket attacks from Gaza. We are tweeting and Tiktoking, advising, encouraging and empowering one another. We stand, shoulder to shoulder, boosting our colleagues’ voices for the good of us all; for the good of Israel so very close to all of our hearts.  Keep your eyes peeled for us. We are the #Voicesofisrael. We have just begun, and we are just the beginning!

First graduating class of #VoicesofIsrael
at the end of the 8 week program
Photo credit: Rafi Ben Hakoon
רפי בן חקון , לע”מ 
About the Author
The writer (aka "Zioness on the Border" on social media) is a mother and a grandmother who since 1975 has been living and raising her family on Kibbutz Nirim along the usually paradisiacal, sometimes hellishly volatile border with the Gaza Strip. She founded and moderates a 13K-strong Facebook group named "Life on the Border with Gaza". The writer blogs about the dreams and dramas that are part of border kibbutznik life. Until recently, she could often be found photographing her beloved region, which is exactly what she had planned to do at sunrise, October 7th. Fortunately, she did not go out that morning. As a result, she survived the murderous terror infiltrations of that tragic day, hunkering down in her safe room with her 33-year-old son for 11 terrifying hours. So many of her friends and neighbors, though, were not so lucky. More than she can even count. Adele was an educator for 38 years in her regional school, and has been one of the go-to voices of the Western Negev when escalations on the southern border have journalists looking for people on the ground. On October 7, her 95% Heaven transformed into 100% Hell. Since then she has given a multitude of interviews. She has gone on four missions abroad in support of Israel and as an advocate for her people. In addition to fighting the current wave of lies and blood libels about the Jewish state, she is raising money to help restore their Paradise so that members of her kibbutz can return to their homes on the border, where they can begin to heal. If you wish to learn more about how you can help her and her community return home, please feel free to drop her a line.
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