Friday, November 23, 2012

Op-Ed


Below is an Op-Ed I plan to submit to BU's newspaper in hopes of giving Israel some positive attention during such a difficult time. Keep in mind it has to be 500 words or less - I could honestly write endlessly about this topic, so I tried to keep it short and sweet.  

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Last week I was overcome with anxiety. As hundreds of rockets descended into civilian populations in southern and central Israel, I lay restlessly in my safe bed in Stuvi 2 – 6,000 miles away from physical danger. Yet, my country was under attack, and the pain felt very near. Each rocket fired was a personal attack on my family in Tel Aviv; on my dozens of friends serving in the IDF; on the Jewish people.

What was I to do but support my country in its acts of self-defense? I stuck an Israeli flag in my backpack and walked down Com Ave. I attended Students for Justice in Palestine’s rally to dance and sing and show the world that Israel’s spirit will never die.

To my shock, some people called me a “racist.” I suppose they believed I was singing and dancing to support apartheid, ethnic cleansing, and the genocide of the Palestinian people. But the opposite is true.

My dream is to see two sovereign states  - an Israeli and Palestinian state - exist side by side, separated not by fences but by backyards. I believe that all human lives are equal.

Yet the harsh reality is that Hamas, the elected governing body in Gaza, is dedicated to the destruction of the Jewish state – and will even put its own civilians in harms way to do so. These are the facts.

In the context of this conflict, though, I am not writing as a critic, but as a person who has seen so much goodness sprout from the tiny, misunderstood country of Israel.

Before matriculating at BU, I volunteered, studied, and traveled in Israel for nine months. During the first trimester, I worked at a foster home in a small town in Israel’s desert. It was there that I met and befriended two Palestinian children from Gaza. The two Israelis who owned the home took in these children for no other reason than to give them a safe home.

Such acts of kindness are not rarities. They are seen throughout Israel—in Hadassah hospital, in the integrated school Yad B’Yad, and in various other Israeli institutions. Unfortunately, these hopeful stories don’t make it through to mainstream media. When there’s no conflict, no blood – the world is silent.  

And so nobody knows about Save A Child’s Heart, an Israeli nonprofit that performs free open-heart surgery to Israelis, Palestinian, and African children. But I’ve played with these recovering children. I’ve seen their parents weep tears of gratitude together.

Perhaps the world needs to see these tears to wake up and realize that Israel is so much more than a war zone. It is a vibrant democracy in which Israeli-Arabs serve in the parliament, on the Supreme Court, and in the foreign ministry. It is the only country in the Middle East that provides legal, anti-discrimination protection for its homosexual citizens. It is the brain behind cell phone technology; a spiritual hub for three monotheistic religions; and it is the homeland and refuge for the continuously persecuted Jewish people.

So whether my future places me in Israel or Boston, New York or San Francisco, I will continue to support Israel with justice, morality, and faith as my guiding lights.












Wednesday, July 4, 2012

Two Decades



This past Friday I arrived at a milestone. Well, at least I consider it one. I have officially been a living, breathing, human being for two decades on this earth! I keep repeating to myself, twenty…twenty…twenty. It hasn’t stuck yet, and I think I know why. There seems to be a pink elephant of a question in the room preventing me from internalizing my new age: do I have to be a real person now? A real adult person?
  
Though my boss seems think I’m the youngest person alive, and I don’t necessary feel older (no wrinkles yet…phewf), I do feel new sense of responsibility now that I’m in my “twenties.” Are the reckless teenage years really behind me? Perhaps not the reckless bit, but definitely the teenage part. I like to think I left that part behind and replaced it with a classy edge I had lacked throughout my lowly teenage years! How exciting!

In the spirit of emerging classiness, I celebrated the big 2-0 dancing like a crazy person to an overly energized Israeli rock band at a street party in Tel Aviv. The event: “White Night”. The attire: white. The significance: all night rave/dance/beach party with all walks of life from around the country.

Certainly, the birthday fun did not die with the rising Jerusalem sun. By the time I made it back in a Sheirut (shared Taxi) to my apartment, my birthday had only just begun. Sleep took over my world until about eleven-thirty am when I awoke to phone call from a gap year friend, Josh, who was in town for a few weeks. We caught up over iced coffee and chocolate croissants, shared our first-year college stories, and talked as though no time had elapsed since May 2011. As I said in a previous blog post, coming back to Israel is like entering an alternate world that simply picks up where it left off, no matter what happened in between.

My birthday dinner, which coincided rather perfectly with Shabbat, might as well have been a snapshot from my gap year. Ingredients from the bustling marketplace? Check. An overly-ambitious recipe? Check. Enthusiastic potluck participants? Check. A quaint park to place a blanket, candles, and gourmet food? Check, check, check. We had it all…and I must say, it was perfect. Over wine and Italian food we (new friends on the program) shared childhood embarrassing stories and expressed gratitude for life’s simple pleasures.

Soon after I cozied up with a few friends under a blanket and put on a movie, which lasted a grand total of five minutes. The sleep deprivation of the weekend had kicked in and I was out cold before I saw a single character in the movie Everything Is Illuminated.

My birthday weekend is just one of many adventures I have had so far during my time here. I wish I could describe every one in vivid detail, but unfortunately I must live in the moment. Instead, I will let you stare at some magnificent photos that I did not take myself! It’s a good thing I have friends with the motivation to take photos, because I otherwise would have none. So thank you dearest friends for capturing some beautiful onlyinisrael moments! 

Scavenger hunt in the first week! The three confused boys are random Israelis we had to pose with. 

A Shuk delicacy...mmmm

With my cousin, Shaked, at a pasta restaurant in the marketplace

Picking cherries like a champ

Cute Jerusalem alleyway 


A view in Jerusalem, taken with itouch



Tuesday, June 12, 2012

It's Good To Be Back


Mmmm…the smell of falafel is in the air, and thankfully it’s not from Boston University’s late night pita joint adjacent to my freshman dorm. It’s coming from the epicenter of culture, the city beloved by three religions, and the place I called home for three months – Jerusalem.

Yup, I’m back again! And it feels great. I’ve been at the hotel Lev Yerushalayim (the heart of Jerusalem) for just over a week and I already feel so acclimated to life here. Myself, along with twenty-five students from the Boston area, are participants on a seven-week program based in Jerusalem. Though I have done many Israel programs in the past, this is the first career-oriented trip that aims to introduce its participants to the Israeli workplace and to provide hands on internship experience.

I was placed at the online newspaper The Media Line, a nonprofit that combines my two majors, and quite auspiciously, my two passions – international relations and communications. This organization’s aim is to provide unbiased, accurate coverage of Middle East news – check it out! http://www.themedialine.org/index.asp (shameless plug).

When I first met my boss, Felice, I was excited, intimidated, and a bit apprehensive all at once. I was excited to explore the journalism field (as I have never actually delved into it), intimidated by my boss’s resume, and apprehensive about working for a news source that feeds stories to the Palestinian paper Al-Quds as well as the very left wing Al Jazeera. In fact, when I told my boss that I had worked with the advocacy organization StandWithUs, she was quick to point out the discrepancy between advocacy and journalism.

It was during this conversation with my boss that I had an epiphany: during my seven weeks in Israel, my goal will not be advocacy. After all, to whom would I preach? I’m pretty sure everyone who lives here knows about Israeli culture, the Oslo Accords, and Israeli innovation. Indeed, the advocacy field works to provide insight to indifferent Americans on college campuses, and it seems to stop there.

So, I was forced to ask myself – what goals do have for my time in Israel? Or perhaps even lifelong goals? My thoughts took me back to summer of 2008. I am in tears, hugging a Palestinian Bedouin girl at her school in the desert. We communicate in Hebrew, broken on both ends, yet somehow understanding each another. Since this visit, fostering communication between the Israeli and Palestinian communities has become a passion of mine. Though this passion lay dormant while in America, I am reminded of the severity of the issue every time I return to Israel.

The Media Line has a wonderful program called “The Middle East Press Club” which does exactly that – it brings Palestinian and Israeli journalists together to share stories and help further communication between their people. Though I will not directly be working for this cause, I will be conducting research for stories that may be fed to Palestinian and Israeli newspapers. Additionally, I am currently researching foundations to fund Felice’s second initiative, which is to help advance women in the Middle East professionally.

Aside from research, I will attend conferences, conduct interviews, and help formulate stories for the organization. I have already attended one conference and schmoozed with some ambassadors – looks like I’m off to a good start!