“In Their Own Words” ZOA Student Mission to Israel

This morning we were privileged to hear from Itamar Marcus of the Palestinian Media Watch (PMW), an organization that monitors official Palestinian media for incitement. We often wonder, why are children of age 13 and older leaving their houses to go and stab Jews in the streets of Israel. The answer lies in the education they receive: they are indoctrinated from birth to hate Jews.

Terrorists are glorified as martyrs; we saw schools and and sporting events named for Palestinians whose only claim to fame was their act of killing Jews, the more the better. On nationally sponsored television directed at young children, actors teach children that all of Israel belongs to the Palestinian people and heroism is best achieved by terrorism. When interviewed, students and teachers speak of murderers as role models to emulate. Why is there no solution to the conflict?

Peace cannot be achieved when the future generations are being taught to hate and kill, where normalization with Israel is a sin and the only path to true Palestinian justice is to wipe Israel off the map. We learn from this that the hatred among Palestinians is rooted in the children. In order for the situation to improve, the education system must change to preach peace and coexistence, and only then will the violence end and a solution to the conflict be on the horizon. On campus we often face SJP and other student groups who disguise their hatred for Israel with a slogan for Palestinian rights. We must expose their lies and the incitement and show that the true path to peace can only come from education for peace.

After the session this morning, we continued to Har Herzl, the mountain of Israel’s national and military cemetery and other educational facilities. We went to the Herzl museum, an interactive museum showing the life of Herzl through a film of a man reenacting many of his speeches, namely the conferences at the World’s Zionist Congress. Throughout Herzl’s life, he faced opposition and barriers to his efforts, such as lack of funding and international support Throughout all of his hardships, he continued to stay strong for his goals, and ultimately merited to be the father of political Zionism.

Just like Herzl didn’t give up when things got rough, we as Israel activists on campus cannot give up, especially when things get rough and seemingly everyone else is against us. As history shows, overnight success is highly unlikely, but remaining hopeful and persevering is the key to achieving great things.

After the museum, we went for a tour of the military cemetery, led by our beloved tour guide Daniel. One topic we discussed was the victory of Chana Senesh, a young girl who escaped the Nazis and came to Israel, only to go back into Europe to fight for her Jewish brethren. She fought for the State of Israel and the Jewish people and, ultimately, gave her life for the cause.  We spoke of the idea that throughout Jewish history the Jewish nation has faced many enemies, and yet we still stand strong. A message we can take from this is that it is okay to have enemies, but we must always remember that they will not succeed in destroying the Jewish nation. This even applies for the enemies we face on campus.

We also spoke about soldiers who died as martyrs for this country. They died so we can have a thriving Jewish state in our homeland. They died as strong people and role models to us, and we must take with us their dedication to Israel. The died for the State of Israel and now we must live for Israel to keep their legacy alive.

Our last stop today was our visit to the Knesset (Israel’s government body) where we heard from Members of Knesset (MKs) Anat Berko and Amir Ohane, who shed some light about the current situation in Israel. We learned about a country that is both striving for equality for its citizens while battling threats of terrorism. Anat Berko, from the Likud party, is the leading expert in female terrorism, and spoke about naming the problem – radical Islamic terror – as the first step to combating the problem. Her closing words was advice for us to take with us to campus, “Stay strong and fight back.”

Amir Ohane, also from Likud, is the first openly gay member of Knesset. Israel is one of the leading countries in LGBTQ rights. Amir came out when he was fifteen and has since served in the army, the Shin Bet (the FBI of Israel), and the Knesset. He shared with us his opinion on “Pinkwashing”, a phenomena that is used on campus to try to show Israel in a bad light.

Overall, we had a meaningful and educational day.