Tuvia Book
Author, educator, Tour-Guide, artist

“Write On for Israel” 2016

This week I just finished guiding a mission to Israel for “Write On for Israel.” This program for American high school juniors and seniors from the Tri-State area is a highly regarded two-year Israel advocacy course, sponsored by the Jewish Week of New York, aimed at preparing the participants for the anti-Israel battleground that is the North American college world.

The participants come from many different backgrounds of religious affiliation, political beliefs and schooling. The common factor in this pluralistic group is the students’ love of Israel and desire to receive the knowledge and tools to be effective advocates for the Jewish State. The culmination of the program is a weeklong mission to Israel. In addition to touring, the group gets to meet diverse presenters from across the religious and political spectrum including key journalists, IDF officers and soldiers, Israeli and Palestinian Arabs and Israelis from all walks of life. The intense itinerary focuses on Israel as a modern dynamic society full of rich diversity and invites the participants to both grapple with the issues facing Israel and celebrate Israel’s achievements.

Write On 2016 TA
Write on for Israel 2016,  Photo © T. Book

This year we started by learning the importance of leadership through sheep herding in the Naot Kedumim nature reserve surrounded by a carpet of wildflowers. We then travelled to the Rabin Center in Tel Aviv to learn about the life and legacy of Rabin and were privileged to hear from Lt. Col. Peter Lerner, the head IDF spokesman, on how his team is working around the clock to portray the IDF as the humane army it is.

Lt Col Lerner addresses Write On 2016 TA
Lt. Col Peter Lerner presenting to Write On students. Photo © T. Book, 2016

The following day we ascended the Golan Heights where we witnessed firsthand the strategic importance of the Golan and literally observed the devastating civil war in what is left of Syria. That evening were honoured to visit the base of an elite IDF unit where we were present as the soldiers marked the completion of over a year of basic training with a grueling march. To show our appreciation for their service we partnered with Lone Soldier Center in Memory of Michael Levin to provide a barbeque dinner for these young warriors where the American participants were able to mingle with their Israeli peers in a “mini Mifgash.” In addition to the native born Israelis, there were “Lone Soldiers” from Australia, India, New Zealand, South Africa, UK and the USA serving in the unit. Hearing from the faces “beneath the helmet,” and learning from them how much care is taken to avoid civilian casualties and about the high moral standards of the IDF, deeply moved the students. Not only did it humanise these young defenders of our land, it broke stereotypes of the bloodthirsty Israeli soldier propagated on North American college campuses and throughout Europe.

We heard from Lt. Colonel (reserve) David Benjamin, who is an officer in the IDF’s legal corps, how the IDF doesn’t just have the right but the obligation to protect the citizens of Israel, as that is its raison d’etre. The lines get blurred when the munitions and terrorists are embedded in a civilian population. Nevertheless, the IDF has to sometimes make hard decisions, based on international law and deep moral and ethical considerations, and are indeed obligated and entitled to protect the citizens of Israel. Benjamin reminded us of the observation by Colonel Richard Kemp, former commanding officer of the British forces in Afghanistan:

The Israeli army have taken greater steps then any other army in the history of warfare to minimize the harm to innocent civilians in a combat zone.”

Another stereotype was shattered during our visit to “Save a Child’s Heart” (SACH) at the Wolfson Medical Centre in Holon. The Save a Child’s Heart organisation provides life-saving cardiac surgery and other life saving procedures for children from developing countries free of charge. Our group met with an Israeli Jewish surgeon and an Israeli Arab social worker who work side by side. According to the mission statement on its website is,

An Israeli-based international humanitarian project, whose mission is to improve the quality of pediatric cardiac care for children from developing countries who suffer from heart disease and to create centers of competence in these countries. SACH is totally dedicated to the idea that every child deserves the best medical treatment available, regardless of the child’s nationality, religion, colour, gender or financial situation.”

Many of the group were deeply moved and asked why there is so little awareness and appreciation in the outside world for all the good that Israel does for the world.  Dr. Daniel Gordis, who also addressed our group, succinctly summed it up when he stated that, in addition to striving for the benefit our own citizens:

This country has become a country, with all of its imperfections, that sees as part of its purpose as looking out for other people.”

SACH with WO 2016
Save a Child’s Heart.  Photo © T. Book, 2016

David Horowitz, the articulate and affable founding editor of the Times of Israel met the group at its concluding dinner and effectively explained the realities facing Israel — that it is surrounded by enemies on all sides, and that army service is done out of necessity, not choice. Israelis dream about peace, and given the realistic choice, they would gladly trade in their guns for plowshares. He also the added following gem to the students,

 If you had a moment of clarity during your visit about the Middle East, you’re delusional, the reality is far more complicated.”

David Horowitz WO 2016
David Horowitz addresses Write On students.  Photo © T. Book, 2016

These bright young teens with their different backgrounds, religiously and politically, many of whom are about to enter prestigious colleges across the USA, witnessed first hand that Zionism is not a monolithic movement that brokers no argument. Rather it is multi-faceted and dynamic, with factions on the left and right, religious and secular, and is a living movement whose uniting link is love for Israel. The “Write On for Israel” participants will be able to take with them to the university campus the magic of their visit to Israel and will be able to make the case for Israel using the three rules for advocacy; knowledge, passion and delivery.

About the Author
Dr. Tuvia Book was born in London and raised in both the UK and South Africa. After making Aliya at the age of 17 and studying in Yeshiva he volunteered for the IDF, where he served in an elite combat unit. Upon his discharge he completed his BA at Bar-Ilan University, as well as certification in graphic design. He then served as the Information Officer at the Israeli Consulate of Philadelphia, while earning a graduate degree in Jewish Studies. Upon his return to Israel, Dr. Book graduated from a course of study with the Israeli Ministry of Tourism, and is a licensed tour guide. Tuvia has been working in the field of Jewish Education, both formal and informal, for many years. He has guided and taught Jewish students and educators from around the English-speaking world for some of Israel’s premier educational institutions and programs. Tuvia has been guiding groups for Birthright Israel since its inception and, in addition, has lectured throughout North America, Australia, Europe and South Africa. Tuvia served as a Shaliach (emissary) for the Jewish Agency for Israel as the Director of Israel and Zionist Education at the Board of Jewish Education of Greater New York (Jewish Education Project). He was a lecturer/educational guide at the Alexander Muss Institute for Israel Education (AMIIE) in Israel for a decade. Tuvia has lectured at both Bar Ilan University and Hebrew University. He is the author (and illustrator) of the internationally acclaimed Zionism curriculum; “For the Sake of Zion; A Curriculum of Israel Education” (fifth edition, 2017, Koren) and is at present working on his next book, a history of the Jewish people. Tuvia has a doctorate in Israel education. His dissertation title is: “Through the Soldiers’ Eyes: Exploring the Influence of a Birthright Mifgash on the Israeli Soldier Participants.”
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