Student Thoughts: Relating to Israeli Leaders

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Michal Slowik, Brooklyn College, Bus 6 The following are notes on some influential Israeli leaders I learned about while on Israel Uncovered. I found that I related to them based on the qualities of authenticity and simplicity.

1. David Ben-Gurion Ben-Gurion's authenticity is the means by which I relate to this Israeli leader. He was a man with the vision to forge a self-sufficient entity despite opposition and criticism. Although the Zionist movement was heavily influenced by 19th century European nationalist notions, in learning about Ben-Gurion I think he proved to be a down-to-earth, authentic human being. A perfect example of this (and also a fun fact) is that he had a library of foreign novels and he preferred to read them in their original languages. He spoke eleven languages fluently! Languages are a strength of mine also; I prefer to watch foreign films in their original language and strive to be more culturally aware by learning multiple foreign languages. From standing on his head everyday for at least ten minutes, to preferring to live a simple lifestyle on a farm, Israel's first Prime Minister exemplified authenticity and couldn't be bought by power like some of his political counterparts. To control one's hubris when undertaking a task such as forging a state from scratch is, in my opinion, an incredible feat. Sometimes simplicity and modesty is the best approach.

2. Yitzhak Sokoloff This presenter is probably my favorite from all the speakers we saw throughout the entire Israel Uncovered trip. Growing up in Boston, Massachusetts, at around my age (19), Sokoloff believed that he received a calling to go back to Israel. I feel the same way - the need to go back to my own country, Poland and show the world its assets. Unlike most sons and daughters of immigrants, I chose not to assimilate into the “American” culture completely. Sometimes I faltered, but by the time I went to college, I felt the same immense pride in my Polish heritage that Israelis feel about Israel. The Jewish community on my campus sparked the flame of my pride and meeting Keshet's founder sealed the deal. I realized that I too have a personal calling inside of me to return to the homeland. Like Israel, Poland is often depicted in a bad light on television - a backwards and xenophobic country full of bigots seems to be the most popular depiction. The reality of Poland is far from this and I want the world to know. Being polish and living in America gives me the opportunity to see both viewpoints of my country and thus I feel qualified to take up the challenge. Hey, maybe I can start my own tourist agency like the founder of Keshet did in Israel!

3. Ruth Calderon Returning to the themes of authenticity and simplicity, this presenter surprised me like none other. I am an upcoming politician, and I am often discouraged by the complexity of everyday politics and the lack of a “human face” to this line of work. But Ms. Calderon wielded metaphors that put a smile on my face and made me realize that I can reuse them for my own personal journey into American politics. My favorite was probably: “I wanted pizza, but the family wanted macaroni and cheese”; she used this line to describe why the different sects in Israeli politics (parliament is called the “Knesset”) can never execute good initiatives. So much of what I do daily can relate to that quote. As a member of Brooklyn College's student government and the executive board for my fraternity I am constantly juggling different wants and needs. Sometimes the thought that politics and effective communication with others isn't my thing, crosses my mind, but seeing Ruth Calderon changed my mind and I think now I am able to view politics in a more simple and effective way.

Michal Slowik is a sophomore majoring in political science and law at Brooklyn College. He has served the campus community through his membership in the Italian Culture Club,the swimming & diving team , CLAS Student Government (chair of student affairs; media outreach & engagement) as well as being a brother of Sigma Lambda Beta International Fraternity Incorporated, in which he holds several key positions such as the Greek Council representative and secretary. Michal also participates in community service programs such as TRIO tutoring for low income students, the Information Booth and volunteers for all the new/transfer student orientations in the fall and spring semesters. Upon returning from Israel Uncovered, Michal joined the David Project's internship team at Brooklyn College.