Eleven high school juniors from MetroWest returned from Israel last month with a greater understanding of the threats and challenges facing the country.
The students were participants in Write On for Israel, a program that trains young people to be advocates for Israel through journalism.
They spent from Feb. 19 to 27 exploring such issues as the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, the global campaign to delegitimize Israel, the Arab Spring, and the dangers of a nuclear Iran and attacks from Hamas and Hizbullah terrorists on Israel’s borders.
“The trip not only taught me a tremendous amount but also inspired me to take what I learned to apply it to college and Israel advocacy,” said Gaby Roth of North Caldwell, a student at West Essex Regional High School in North Caldwell.
The students met with military officials, journalists, and government spokespeople; visited Sderot and spoke to residents about the effects of the continual threat of rocket attacks from Gaza; and toured the West Bank city of Efrat, meeting with town officials to discuss the security fence and relations between Israeli Jews and Palestinians in the area.
At Israel’s Foreign Ministry, they met with the coordinator of Israel’s global response to the Boycott, Divest, and Sanctions movement, which operates on many college campuses.
In a Ma’ale Adumim synagogue, they took part in a ceremony dedicating a Torah scroll — bought by the students and their families — in memory of fallen IDF soldier Erez Deri.
“We started as strangers and returned as members of the extended Deri family,” said Daniella Greenbaum, a student at Ma’ayanot Yeshiva High School for Girls in Teaneck, and a leader in the fund-raising effort to acquire the scroll. “It was beyond exciting to see the joy that we brought to these parents and to affirm that we are all members of am Yisrael.”
The MetroWest participants posted comments on a blog on the home page of the United Jewish Communities of MetroWest website (www.ujcnj.org).
During their two years with Write On for Israel, which is sponsored by The New York Jewish Week, the MetroWest students also attend seminars at the Aidekman campus in Whippany and at Columbia University. The MetroWest component of the program is supported by the Community Relations Committee of MetroWest and Central NJ and The Partnership for Jewish Learning and Life, made possible by support from the Jewish Community Foundation of MetroWest, Milly Iris and family, and Barbara and Charlie Hirsch.