Published in Israel Campus BeatDecember 6, 2012
By Jaime Sloane, ICB Reporter
While Jewish college students are offered a myriad of options for free or reduced-price educational Israel trips, the rest of the student population hasn’t been so lucky - until now. Next month, The David Project will launch a new educational travel experience called Israel Uncovered: Campus Leaders Mission.
Israel Uncovered is not your average Birthright journey. The trip uniquely invites both Israel leaders and non-Israel leaders on the adventure. From January 1-11, 36 student leaders from 12 campuses will participate in Israel Uncovered. Each campus has selected three delegates to attend; one active Israel leader and two leaders from other student groups such as Student Government, College Democrats, Black Student Union and more.
“What better way is there to engage students than sending them to Israel to experience it for themselves?” David Project Senior Campus Coordinator Avital Kranz said. “We want to truly impact campus discourse on Israel and this is a great first step to relationship building.”
Israel Uncovered will prepare students to return to their schools and spearhead joint programming with other campus organizations in order to expand Israel-on-campus awareness and reach a larger audience. The trip will also open new channels of discussion regarding Israel between Israel groups and other campus groups, allowing for a better understanding of Israel and a more efficient campus education environment where students from many backgrounds can explain and comprehend the country’s complexities.
“The David Project has never hosted a student trip to Israel because we had no reason to compete with or try to replicate existing trips,” David Project Campus Team Manager Phillip Brodsky said. “If we were going to do a trip, we wanted it to be something really special. We are presenting Israel as it is; complicated, nuanced and an amazing place that we love and are excited to share.”
Organizers said the trip will take an educational approach to Israel by teaching leaders about Israel’s history, religious diversity and relative place in the modern world.
Students will learn about the country by meeting with various Israelis including workers in Tel Aviv’s booming technology startup sector, basketball players and artists. Likewise, leaders will have the opportunity to hear from refugees, Israeli soldiers, Palestinians and social activists to gain a better understanding of Israel’s complicated demographic makeup. Students will taste traditional foods, tour historic landmarks and immerse themselves in Israeli life.
“We’re scratching the surface of all that Israel is,” Kranz said. “We know the conflict in Israel isn’t easy to understand and that there are a wide range of opinions regarding the situation, so we want to provide students with as many viewpoints as possible so they can make informed opinions and relay their understandings to their peers.”
University of Florida (UF) sophomore Alyssa Baron is the Israel leader attending Israel Uncovered from her campus and she couldn’t be more excited about opening the door for more campus organization relationship building. As one of the chairpeople for the Florida Loves Israel conference and the director of recruitment for Gators For Israel, she looks forward to working closely with Student Government Senators Dylan Fisher and Joey Michaels, the other two participants from UF.
“It's been three years since I've been to Israel and I've been waiting for an opportunity to go back,” Baron said. “I am so grateful for the unique opportunity to travel to Israel on the trip where I, a Jewish student, am the minority amongst the other students on the trip who will simultaneously be the minority within the country. I’m mostly excited to get a first-hand feel for the experiences that connect my non-Jewish friends to the state of Israel.”
Boston University junior Justin Jones will represent Brothers United, a black students' organization, as a delegate on the trip. He’s looking forward to experiencing Israeli culture and becoming more knowledgeable about the area’s conflict.
“Prior to this year I was pretty ignorant about the reality of the Middle East,” Jones said. “I know this trip will help me develop an informed opinion about the region and I’m looking forward to taking that knowledge back to campus where I can shed light on the situation to confused students. As a campus leader, I’ll try to let as many people as possible understand what’s going on and hold intense, deep conversations about the conflict.”