NEAR EAST REPORT AIPAC'S BIWEEKLY ON AMERICAN MIDDLE EAST POLICY

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Students were exposed to the intricate mosaic that defines Israeli society.
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Students learned about Israel firsthand through conversations, tours and lectures.

Campus Political Leaders Return From Trip Eager to Strengthen the U.S.-Israel Relationship

Forty student activists and young political leaders from across the United States recently returned from a ten-day trip to Israel aimed at helping them develop a deeper understanding of the U.S.-Israel relationship. Since 2005, the American Israel Education Foundation, a supporting organization of AIPAC, has facilitated a dozen similar trips that have had a profound impact on hundreds of outstanding students.

Trip participants are selected based on demonstrated campus activism and interest in political affairs. This year’s group included leaders of College Democrats, College Republicans, and various student government presidents and representatives.

“The AIPAC Campus Allies Mission sounded like a great opportunity to learn more about the U.S.-Israel relationship,” said Elsie Raymer, president of College Democrats of New York and program director for College Democrats of America. “The amount of communication between the two governments is unique, and I was interested to visit and see this personally.”

Learning about Israel

By touring over 25 sites from north to south, visiting religious holy sites and exploring the diverse landscape and communities of the country, students learned about the intricate mosaic that defines Israeli society. The itinerary for the twelve-day trip included a diverse range of educational programming, such as a visit to the Yad Vashem Holocaust memorial and museum and a strategic tour of the Golan Heights.

The trip exposed participants to the vibrant, multidenominational character of Israeli religious life. Students visited the Western Wall for Shabbat services on Friday night, toured the Druze village of Ussfiyah and traveled to Capernaum, the center of Jesus’ ministry in the Galilee. The mission touched on issues related to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict: a lecture by the official spokesperson of Nazareth informed the student activists about the delicacy of the peace process, and a trip to Abu Gosh, an Arab village surrounded by Jewish towns, showcased an ideal model of peaceful coexistence.

“It was important for me to see Arab and Jewish communities living right next to each other in peace, like in the Old City of Jerusalem, which is something not depicted in the news,” explained Alexis Crews, a rising senior at Spelman College. Crews has been actively involved in AIPAC for two years and is currently participating in the AIPAC Diamond Summer Internship Program.

Perhaps the most unique feature of the trip were the lectures and discussions facilitated by experts. Throughout the trip, the AIPAC Campus Allies Mission participants met with leading scholars to discuss topics relevant to the U.S.-Israel relationship.

Joe Perlov, CEO and Founder of Israel Experts, spoke to the students about the challenges of the Arab-Israeli conflict, and Herzliya Interdisciplinary Center (IDC) fellow Yaniv Ofek discussed the threat Iran poses to Israel, the region and the international community. The campus allies also received communications training from a premier international communications consulting firm, Headline Media, and took part in an exclusive briefing at the U.S. Embassy in Tel Aviv.

“The discussions exposed us to so many different issues and put our experience into perspective,” said Alexandra Smith, chairman of the College Republicans at Catholic University. “Each conversation honed our knowledge, and gave us a great basis to learn more.”

Returning with a Narrative

“Visiting Israel made my personal narrative and reasons behind working with AIPAC much stronger. I can now engage in conversations with people who do not know very much about Israel, and talk to them about my experience,” commented participant Alexis Crews.

Meeting with field-based experts led the students to new conclusions about the value of the U.S.-Israel relationship. Elsie Raymer reflected, “In many ways, we [the U.S.] benefit from our relationship with Israel – for example, in defense projects such as the Iron Dome.”

For some of the participants, the Campus Allies Mission is just a part of their engagement in the pro-Israel political community. Several students who visited Israel last month are currently attending the AIPAC Summer Seminar Series lectures held in Washington, D.C., and many others will be participating in the Saban Leadership Seminar at the end of July.

“As I delve further into the political world, AIPAC will always be a friend. I always want to be there to support the great U.S.-Israel relationship, and I will work to communicate this message in every way I can,” said Alexandra Smith.

For many students, the trip to Israel is another key step in deepening their involvement with AIPAC and emerging as strong, informed advocates of America’s ties to the Jewish state. “The countries depend on each other. In Israel, security is the number one priority, and through U.S. support of Israel, we ensure our own welfare and safety,” said Crews. “It is a mutually beneficial relationship.” BACK TO TOP