What We Teach When We Teach Israel Advocacy
August has been an especially crazy month. This month, The David Project facilitated advocacy sessions with students from campuses all over the country. We were in Phoenix at Israel Amplified working with Greek-affiliated students, we were at Harvard University for Israel on Demand: Advanced Strategy for Campus Advocates, and most recently we led a session for TAMID Investment Group in our office. In each of these trainings, two of our main messages were as follows:
Programs are a means not an end!
Don’t just bring falafel to the campus quad and hope people come. Don’t see events you organize as an ‘end’, see them as a ‘means’ to an ‘end’ - and the end is your goal for your campus work. As a pro-Israel student on campus, we hope your goal is to broaden the discussion around Israel so that people understand that the country is both a complex and amazing place that deserves to be seen in a positive light. In order to achieve your goals, talk to people before your events, talk to people during events, talk to people after events. Use your voice to convey your perception of Israel and thereby build a new “brand” for Israel on campus.
Make Israel personal!
Israel is not just the conflict – though this is a major dynamic we can’t hide. Israel is not just the Kotel – though it is a major component of this complex country. Israel is not just Tel Aviv – though the city’s modern vibe is a major draw to the country. Israel is so much of all of these and more. If you want to really rebrand Israel and do justice to the feeling you get when you are there, only your voice and the perspective you offer can influence others to give Israel a chance and see it for the multidimensional place that it is. We call this type of Israel advocacy Personal Advocacy because it relies on stories and relationships to shift perceptions on Israel.
This type of Israel advocacy isn’t always easy. The David Project has found that giving our students a chance to explore their own “Israel story” during these Israel advocacy trainings helps them reconnect to why they are doing Israel advocacy and makes them more effective and passionate advocates for Israel. Therefore, in each of our trainings, we worked with students on their personal narrative. Personal narrative and story-telling are a major component of our personal advocacy approach. We use the narrative in Israel advocacy because sharing a piece of yourself with others is an amazing way to connect with whoever you are talking to about Israel. Also, and perhaps more importantly, Personal Narrative exercises provide a chance for our students to hear themselves and be self-inspired about the work they are doing.