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 technology.

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.

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