When Vero Beach, Florida, native Catherine Gunsalus is asked what she wants to
be when she grows up, she says, “A political leader in the US government and an
advocate for Israel.”
To prepare for the future leadership role she
desires, Gunsalus is majoring in political science at the University of Kansas.
For her Israel advocacy training, Gunsalus came to Israel this week on the
Israel Experience College Scholarship Program.
The program seeks to bring
the best and brightest Christian US college students to Israel for a three-week
intensive educational experience where these prospective future leaders of
government, business, law and journalism are given the knowledge they need to
combat anti-Semitism and anti-Israel rhetoric on their campus, while instilling
a love for Israel and its people.
“I find it crucial to have true
information regarding Israel and I wanted to experience the reality here
firsthand,” Gunsalus said on a visit to the Knesset on Tuesday. “I wanted to
gain an experiential understanding of what Israelis experience on a daily basis
and bring it back to my campus.”
Besides the Knesset, the 12 students on
the program visited the Foreign Ministry, Yad Vashem and holy sites in Jerusalem
and the Galilee. They met with Kadima MK Yoel Hasson and Deputy Minister in the
Prime Minister’s Office Gila Gamliel and are spending Shabbat with Jewish and
Arab students at Jezreel College in the North.
Now in its ninth year, the
program is organized by Eagles’ Wings Ministries near Buffalo, New York
Nigerian-born Tochukwu “Chuka” Ikpeze, who is studying biology at St. John
Fisher College in Rochester, New York, said he became interested in Israel’s
spiritual underpinnings growing up in church. From his studies of the mind and
its behavior, he learned the impact of anti-Israel news reports on perceptions
of the Jewish state.
“People get a false sense of what goes on here from
the media,” Ikpeze said. “This trip gives me an opportunity to learn from the
people of Israel how to effectively advocate for them.”
Ikpeze said he
was surprised by how much Israel helps the Palestinians compared to what he
perceived from American news reports.
When a participant asked Hasson how
to defend Israel on her campus, he said she should tell Israel’s story,
unconnected to the Palestinian issue, focusing on the country’s science and
Knesset Christian Allies Caucus director Josh Reinstein, who
organized the meetings with Hasson and Gamliel, said that by the time the
students leave Israel, they will be equipped to defend the Jewish state on
campuses, which he said are tough battlegrounds for Israel.