Changing your campus environment happens one conversation and one relationship at a time!
Personal advocacy is the cornerstone of The David Project’s strategic approach to campus. Our approach to advocacy is relationship-driven and involves building relationships with diverse campus leaders and groups to enhance students’ understanding of and appreciation for Israel. The David Project believes that building support for Israel on campus happens in the most natural way possible – through conversations in coffee shops, dorm rooms, and on the quad.
The 10 Habits of Highly Effective Israel Advocates
1. Go on a listening campaign.
Engage influential individuals over a cup of coffee. Always end your meetings by asking who else you should talk to.
- Conversation idea: “Who are three more people I should talk to next?”
2. Seek partners with shared goals.
When strategizing about long-term engagements with others organization, consider not only the influence and following of the group or individual, but also the potential for reciprocity and shared interests moving forward. It’s much easier to maintain a relationship when you can support aspects of their agenda as well.
- Conversation idea: “Seems like our groups have a lot in common and that we should look into working together. Should we add a few more people to this conversation from both of our groups?”
3. Do your homework.
Prepare for the meeting by doing a little background research over the internet on the people and groups you are meeting with, but don’t make assumptions about or stereotype them.
- Conversation idea: “I read that your organization supports immigrant rights. Tell me about that…”
4. Listen before speaking.
Listen first, but know when it’s time to drive the conversation. Good date analogy: Listen 60 percent, talk 40 percent. Ask questions about the person and his or her group. Your goal is to find out their motivating values-what makes them tick.
- Conversation idea: “I don’t know a lot about you or your group, but I feel like I should…
5. Be open and real.
Be open and share so that the person you are meeting with will do the same.
- Conversation idea: “I’ve been meeting with campus leaders and at first I was nervous but it’s actually been a lot easier than I thought and really fun getting to know new people…”
6. Introduce Israel in terms of your own values.
Speak first about Israel in terms of your own journey, narrative, and values, rather than beginning with arguments or messages. Practice articulating your personal narrative about Israel.
- Conversation idea: I spent six weeks in Israel last summer, which was an amazing experience. Being Jewish, I felt it was important to spend some time there and see for myself. I really learned a lot about Israel, which is such a complicated but dynamic place. I found Israelis to be really warm people but very diverse…”
7. Connect with their values.
Link your values—and Israel—to theirs. Show that even though you come from different backgrounds, you bring similar values to different challenges. Seek ultimately to frame Israel in terms of their worldview and values. If the discussion is centered on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, express your compassion for Palestinian suffering.
- Conversation idea: “It seems that the immigration challenge in the US is similar but not identical to Israel. When I was in Israel, I visited a immigration center, where many new immigrants first come to help them get settled. There were new Israelis from literally every part of the globe experiencing many of the same challenges of learning a new language, fitting in but still maintaining ties to their country of birth…”
- Conversation idea: I appreciate your concern for the plight of Palestinians. I also relate to the fact that Palestinians feel a sense of despair, and that it’s important that both parties seek peaceful ways to solve the conflict.”
8. Be transparent about your goals.
Don’t hide the fact that you’re an Israel advocate and are interested in moving the discussion about Israel in a more positive direction.
- Conversation idea: “My organization is reaching out to other campus groups, trying to get to know the campus community better and to build ties and partnerships with other campus groups…”
9. Present Israel as a complicated but decent country.
It’s ok and potentially even effective to express misgivings about specific Israeli policies. Because pro-Israel students have different views about Israeli actions, recognize that some pro-Israel students may be better than others in speaking to specific individuals or groups.
- Conversation idea: “The issue of Israeli Arabs is a complicated one. From what I’ve seen Israeli Arabs are treated equally under the law but haven’t experienced full equality. There’s still some discrimination. All the conflict between Israel and the Arab world has created suspicion on both sides. There are groups in Israel pushing for equality of minority groups, and there have been some positive changes in recent years….”
10. Humanize Israelis.
Show that Israelis are real people and not just soldiers. Speak more about Israelis than Israel. Be a character witness.
- Conversation idea: “Sometimes when I watch the news showing Israel in a conflict situation, I almost don’t recognize the country. You would think the country is always in a war. Israelis are a really diverse and interesting people. Most everyone I met wants nothing more than to live in peace with the Palestinians and Arab countries…”