Editor's note: The following information is a press release from Rutgers Hillel.
Thirty-five student leaders from several campuses, including four from Rutgers University, were hosted in Israel in January by The David Project for a unique experience entitled Israel Uncovered: Campus Leaders Mission. The trip was the first of its kind, in which pro-Israel student advocates invited key leaders of non-Jewish campus organizations to join them in seeing and experiencing Israel first-hand. The mission allows the participants from each campus to return to their schools prepared to undertake joint projects and share their Israel experience with their peers.
“This initiative will ultimately open up new channels of conversation about Israel,” said Jordana Ornstein, Rutgers Class of 2009, now Northeast Region Campus Coordinator for The David Project, “As well as establish new friendships which will lead to a greater understanding of Israel in all its complexities.”
The Rutgers students, Laura Faiwiszewski of West Orange; Taylor Barger of Sickerville; Matthew Mednick of Freehold, and Alesandra Lipari of Toms River, will now partner with the Rutgers Hillel Center for Israel Engagement (RHCIE) to create and inform pro-Israel voices at Rutgers. “I look forward to working with the participants of Israel Uncovered, and am confident they will bring a fresh perspective on Israel to the Rutgers campus,” said Tzvi Raviv, RHCIE Director. Raviv added that he is happy that the partnership between the David Project and RHCIE provides non-Jewish pro-Israel student leaders the opportunity to experience Israel first hand.
The goal of this unique trip was to explore the Jewish connection to Israel, the diversity of its peoples and opinions of the country, and Israel’s place in the modern world. The mission was constructed as an educational experience rather than advocacy, according to Phillip Brodsky, Campus Team Manager. “For us, ‘uncovering’ Israel meant introducing the multitude of people, beliefs, cultures and ideas that co-exist in the Jewish State,” Brodsky said. “We met with Israelis representing diverse populations that comprise Israeli society including leaders in Tel Aviv's tech sector, Palestinian-Israelis, artists, doctors, students and social activists.”
Highlights of the itinerary included visiting the YMCA of Jerusalem, where the students were able to speak with Forsan Hussein, a Palestinian-Israeli who runs the YMCA, about his life growing up in Israel, and his thoughts on the future of the country. Another highlight of the trip was visiting Beit HaGefen, a Jewish-Christian-Muslim co-existence center based in Haifa. Here, the students were able to listen and speak to a Jewish-Israeli and Arab-Israeli about their efforts to bring together students from the three main religions of the country.
Representatives of The David Project will now work with the Rutgers Hillel Center for Israel Advocacy to develop ways and means to share the Israel they encountered on the trip with their peers on campus.