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Brandeis University's Community Newspaper — Waltham, Mass.

Hasbara sends Brandeisians to Israel

Published: January 21, 2011
Section: Features

From Dec. 19 through Jan. 4, Brandeis Students Dana Kandel ’14, Amber Kornreich ’12, Avi Fuld ’14, Zahava Horowitz ’14 and Emily Mandel ’12, along with 105 other college students from more that 60 universities nationwide, had the incredible opportunity to travel to Israel with the Hasbara Fellowship.

The fellowship was created in 2001 as a joint initiative between the Foreign Ministry of Israel and Aish International, an organization devoted to developing Jewish education and leadership training programs.

The fellowship is “an intensive two-week program with the goal of educating, training and motivating students to become pro-Israel activists on their campuses to combat the wide-ranging anti-Israel propaganda prevalent on campuses.”

Fellows “receive support from professional Hasbara staff to help facilitate pro-Israel programs,” and they “become highly trained Israel activists leading pro-Israel activities back on campus.”

In the program’s short lifespan, they have managed to send nearly 2,000 participants to Israel in the hope of preparing them to “learn how to communicate effectively for Israel, answer difficult questions and run successful programming upon returning to campus.”

According to Emily Mandel, program participants “spent two weeks traveling all over Israel, hearing from fascinating journalists, politicians, historians and citizens. [They] visited areas of the country that have recently been in the news like Sderot and the West Bank.” Mandel says that the program really “provides its participants with views from multiple angles across political and social spectrums and, as a result, we are better equipped to advocate for Israel.”

In past years, program participants have had the opportunity to hear a series of speakers including “historians, journalists, military personnel, politicians and academics” as well as participate in “strategic tours of Sderot, Hebron, and Israeli borders of Syria and Lebanon.” The fellowship was enhanced this year, however, and as a new part of the program, participants got to meet with an “Israeli member of Knesset, receive top briefings at the Knesset and the Israeli Foreign Ministry, and go to Project Better Place in Tel Aviv to learn about Israel’s advancements in alternative energy” in addition to hearing speakers and traveling.

Being a part of such a unique and intensive program was unquestionably a meaningful experience; however, according to participant Fuld, the most significant part of the program “wasn’t hearing world class journalists or brilliant historians but talking to average, Israeli citizens about their perspectives on Israeli life and occasionally on the conflict. While speaking to a bartender in Jerusalem, he recounted to me and my friends from Hasbara about his army service more than 15 years ago (since there is a mandatory draft in Israel). He warily told us that he just wants peace already.”

Fuld came back from the 17-day experience excited to have returned “from Hasbara with the tools to help educate the Brandeis campus about Israel.” Mandel agreed, explaining that “it is vital that before people form any opinions, that they do everything they can to educate themselves. Hasbara provides its participants with views from multiple angles across political and social spectrums.”