Joseph Socarras is a third year student at University of Miami and a recent participant on Israel Uncovered, The David Project's first Israel mission. Below, he talks about his experience on the trip and how it has motivated him to get involved back on campus. It’s been nearly three months since I’ve returned from my first trip to Israel, yet I still find myself talking about the country every day.
It turns out Israel is more relevant to my life than I could have possibly imagined. Before the trip, I only identified Israel with religion. While I am religious (though not Jewish), religion only makes up one part of my life, so my connection to Israel was limited to just one part of the country. Now, when I talk with others about Israel we discuss topics such as technology, history, social issues, and culture. And these topics come up naturally. I’m talking about Israel as often as I am because I genuinely came to identify with it on several different levels while on the trip.
While in Israel, I became particularly interested in its startup culture. We visited Tel Aviv's Microsoft Accelerator and had the chance to meet with the companies present. Having that experience and making those connections has enabled me to help start the technology branch of the University of Miami’s TAMID chapter, giving engineering, computer-science, and tech-minded students the opportunity to work with Israeli startups. And to think—this began simply because I had the chance to visit Israel and experience something that I could bring back home. Although the technology branch is less than a semester old, it has already begun to attract many non-Jewish students, which is in and of itself a form of advocacy.
One of the most important things I’ve learned from The David Project is the importance of communicating our “personal narratives,” or, in other words, why it is that we love and connect with Israel. The David Project gave me the chance to fall in love with Israel for a variety of reasons, and I’ve communicated those reasons to others.
Consequently, many non-Jewish friends of mine have begun asking me how they could get involved with Israel-related activities. To put a number on it, around ten people have already asked me how they can go to Israel—almost none of them Jewish and all of them serious about wanting to go. So far, one of my friends is already going to Israel this summer for a seven week fellowship even though he knows little to nothing about Israeli culture. He simply identifies with Israel’s reputation as the “Startup Nation.” This group interested in visiting Israel is part of a larger number of students beginning to talk about different aspects of Israel with their friends, resulting in a growing pro-Israeli sentiment. In my four semesters of college life, it’s clear that this has by far been the most effective form of advocacy.
What The David Project has been able to do is to get both Jewish and non-Jewish students excited about Israel in a way that is peaceful and non-controversial, something not commonly achieved within Israeli advocacy circles. I think it would be wise for others to begin emulating The David Project's advocacy methodology.