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Photo by: Marc Israel Sellem
My own Israeli rock stars
By LAURA KELLY
05/03/2012
Attending ‘The Jerusalem Post’ Conference reveals a new set of heroes one New Yorker can look up to.
 
NEW YORK – I went to The Jerusalem Post Conference in New York City this past Sunday because I wanted to break into journalism by being a force of nature. Unfortunately, my impact was negligible.

However, I was surprised how the people and the conference, in turn, impacted me.

Despite the early call time, it was exciting to be traversing through an empty, almost ghostly Times Square.

Sleepy protesters were preparing to hunker down outside for a long day and the lobby of the Times Square Marriott was filled with an excited energy that was electric.

I had stars in my eyes and butterflies in my stomach.

I made my way to the kosher breakfast, steeling myself to make an impression on influential people.

Walking around, I noticed that each person gave exactly two looks in the direction of the other person. First, it was at the name tag to see if a prestigious newspaper or organization was listed under the name. Second, it was at the person to see if they looked important enough to start a conversation. I would catch glances from people who, after deciding I wasn’t important, were still curious to see my face. When they would see me catch them stare, they would quickly avert their eyes and walk away.

It was a long day – 11 hours, 11 speakers, 3 panels and some really uncomfortable questions from the audience. I came away from the whole thing a bit disheartened and jaded. By the end, I was fed up with the inciting remarks, the repeated rhetoric and the never ending monologues touting the speakers agenda.

One of my high points was when a man mistook me for an Israeli and addressed me in Hebrew. I maintained a posture that was both bored and pissed off while also extremely observant and critical of my surroundings. It had been that kind of day.

Upon reflection and a little distance from the days events, I realized what I took away from the conference were a couple of new heroes in the dialogue of Israel in the world arena – people I wasn’t aware of before, but now, can never forget.

Smooth, calm, the velvety cadence of his voice drifting over the crowd – Ron Prosor, the Israeli ambassador to the UN, took to the stage following some pretty tough acts. When Mr. Prosor stood on the podium, he did so with dignity, modesty and a touch of cheekiness. He made me feel like I was sitting with a favorite uncle, listening to the lessons of life next to a cozy fireplace at a family gathering. He appeared an incredibly warm and empathetic person, recounting anecdotes from the UN to explain that “beyond and under the radar screen, is a show of respect” for Israel. He spoke up and he spoke clearly. He didn’t attack the audience and he was well received with rapt attention and applause.

Out of an overwhelming roster of men, Caroline B. Glick was one of two women who spoke at the conference.

Ms. Glick exudes the type of nonchalance and quiet certainty that would make her a perfect character in a film noir. There is a rule in screenwriting that a writer cannot tell an audience who a character is, but must show them. I never heard of Ms. Glick before this conference, but within mere seconds she had convinced me of her expertise.

She showcased her knowledge and command of the issues while also having the incredible talent to deliver it in an orderly and realistic dialogue. She spoke matterof- fact and her list of grievances garnered whoops and cheers from the crowd. She used her knowledge of past events to affirm the frustrations and worries of the Israeli masses and to call politicians out on their contradicting stances. If ever there was a journalist rock star, Caroline B. Glick is it.

I expected myself to get starstruck at the obvious big shots at the conference. Former heads of state and influential academics bulked up the sense of importance of the program. The audience thinned throughout the day, coffee cups and plates littered the floor, once orderly and neat rows of chairs had turned into casual seating of one’s own personal space.

Enthusiasm was waning and attention was short. It was not a promising start to the third and final panel, but this is where I found my last rock star.

David Suissa took his chance to speak and immediately fed on the present atmosphere of the room.

“Thou shalt not bore,” he said as response to combatting the delegitimization of Israel in the media. From his background in advertising and media, Mr. Suissa wasn’t going to speak along the lines of political debate; he understands the strength of a positive image and not alienating the crowd. In his few minutes on the stage, Mr. Suissa took the rhetoric used all day and flipped it.

Instead of calling against radicalization and extremism, he said that Jews need to embrace this passion and use it in a fruitful manner.

He called for Israel to not defend itself again and again, but offer its help and support to the Arab Spring.

He called for a Zionist Spring to reach out to Israel’s neighbors and give knowledge and guidance instead of threats and ultimatums. During Mr. Suissa’s speech I felt myself being knocked out of my stupor, enthusiastically agreeing and using my applause to lend support.

It was an exhausting and challenging day. I went into the conference with a naive sense of optimism that was dispelled shortly into the first speech. But with some distance and reflection, I find I did gain something positive. I now have new voices that I can put my trust into. I have my new rock stars to look up to.
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