5th Annual Bringing Israel Home

by | Sep 5, 2014 | Other News

Attendees of 2014 Bringing Israel Home.

Attendees of 2014 Bringing Israel Home.

by Laine M. Rutherford and Robin Mancoll


The military actions Israel has taken to defend its people. Palestinian civilian deaths. Feelings of teens entering the Israel Defense Forces. Life. All are very complicated.

Speaking to 50 local Jewish college students at Azar’s Restaurant at Hilltop on Thursday, August 14, Matt Weisbaum used the word repeatedly to describe the current situation in Israel, and to emphasize the importance of knowing how to speak to others about Israel.

Weisbaum, managing director of Jerusalem U, was the guest speaker at Bringing Israel Home, an annual event the Community Relations Council of the United Jewish Federation of Tidewater hosts.

Organized by and for college students to strengthen Jewish identity and impart effective Israel advocacy skills, Bringing Israel Home featured Weisbaum in dual roles: Israel advocate and leader of a focus group for a Jerusalem U film now in its final stages of production: Beneath the Helmet: From High School to the Home Front.

“You all are among the first 1,000 people to see this film, out of what we expect to be 10 million who will see it,” Weisbaum said. “You are the target audience and the feedback that you give us will determine how we edit this film.”

Jerusalem U creates original feature films, such as Israel Inside and the Step Up for Israel film-based classes and courses (both have been presented locally by the CRC), and interactive learning, all of which are designed to inspire a new generation about Judaism and Israel.

Before beginning the film, and after students had a chance to socialize and enjoy Azar’s stocked pita bar, along with delicious food from the new Kosher restaurant in Norfolk, Hummus Express, Weisbaum led a discussion about what students may find themselves facing as fall semesters begin.

“Because of the situation going on in Israel and Gaza, it’s important to know that as you head back to your campuses, you will be having conversations,” Weisbaum said. “Education is not only about facts, but putting this situation into context as well.”

Wiesbaum offered talking points that students could use, if needed.

• Israel is not perfect as a democracy, but it takes responsibility for its actions.

• Ask people, ‘What would you have Israel do? More than 3,560 rockets have fallen on Israel in the past five weeks.’ Let them answer. Don’t let them NOT answer.

• Ask people, ‘We shouldn’t have Israelis run down to bomb shelters? Or disable Iron Dome to make it proportionate?’

• Emphasize that Israel is doing everything within it’s power to avoid civilian casualties—giving warnings by dropping leaflets, sending text messages, letting international organizations know—more than any other country in the world ever has or is expected to do.

Weisbaum ended the conversation as he started it. He said, “Like I said, it’s complicated, but at the end of the day, Israel does everything it can do to protect civilian lives.”

Attending the event for the second year, Isabel Shocket, Hillel at Virginia Tech’s coordinator of engagement and initiatives, says, “I have seen times when a student has had a transformational experience on a Taglit-Birthright trip, but when faced with verbal or written political attacks against Israel, they are not confident in their Israel knowledge enough to respond.” She applauds the efforts of the planning committee and the CRC.

“By offering college students the opportunity to learn with their peers I believe they are able to go to campus feeling empowered,” says Shocket.

“Advocating for Israel will be a bit easier this year thanks to this great program,” says Arielle Flax, a senior at George Mason. “I feel better prepared to take on any anti-Israel groups on my college campus.”

Students left with a bag containing materials that will help them on campus including Mitchell Bard’s Myths & Facts: A Guide to the Arab-Israeli Conflict, Gil Troy’s Moynihan’s Moment: America’s Fight Against Zionism as Racism, informational pamphlets from Stand With Us and the American Israel Public Affairs Committee along with a sheet that includes links to all of the best resources online when it comes to advocating for and defending Israel on campus, which can be found on the CRC’s website at www.JewishVA.org/CRCIsraelAdvocacy.

All Tidewater college students will be invited over Winter Break to screen the edited version of Beneath the Helmet and begin discussion as to what they’d like to see as the topic of the 6th Annual Bringing Israel home event to take place in Summer 2015.

For more information on this or other CRC initiatives, contact RMancoll@ujft.org or visit JewishVA.org/CRC.