reporters on the job.
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The Jerusalem Post news editor is on a trip to the United States to cover the United Jewish Communities General Assembly in Los Angeles.
Sunday evening in Chicago
I'm traveling with a group of distinguished Israeli journalists, and it has taken us 24 hours to get to Chicago because of flight delays and a broken down plane in Toronto. The group of journalists really let the CEO of El Al have it - we pretty much all had his cell-phone number. Some also called Rani Rahav, the big PR mogul, who does the PR for El Al. But despite the protexia, we still had to wait almost 8 hours in the Toronto airport for another flight to Chicago.
I'm traveling with Rina Matzliach [Channel 2 TV Political correspondent]' Keren Neubach [Channel 1 TV news presenter], Shlomi Peretz [Editor of The Marker], Shlomo Stein [Head of Content at Channel 10 TV], Yon Feder [Editor in Chief of Ynet and Ynetnews.com], and Aryeh Golan [famous Israel Radio early morning news presenter].
Consul General Barukh Binah and his deputy, Andy David, are responsible for Israel's political and public diplomacy efforts in eleven states: Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Kansas, Michigan, Minnesota, Missouri, Nebraska, North Dakota, South Dakota, and Wisconsin, with roughly 20 percent of the American population, and about 70 percent of America's Jews. Binah was very forthright and honest about the absurd lack of budget and staff that drastically hinders the consulate's work, but he says he's trying his best.
Binah says the next major focus of Israel's PR battle will be in the US universities. There is much pro-Palestinian PR happening there and not enough Israeli. Recently, the Consulate hosted a meeting inviting all the Hillel student activists at universities in Binah's 11-state fiefdom to discuss strategy [I wonder what ever came of this meeting?].
Somebody here says, off-the-record and in a very hush-hush tone [because there are Jewish donors at this dinner], that a big problem at the universities lies in the mindset of the Jewish community and its donors: instead of being like the Saudis who sponsor a Chair of Middle East history professorship, a Jewish donor will want to immortalize his or her name by donating or paying for a building.
I ask David a question I find myself asking more and more Israeli officials, Jewish Agency officials, UJC people, and American Jews: What do the American Jews want in return for the money they give to Israel? Do they want some payback? Some say in what the Knesset and the government of Israel decide on Israel's foreign and domestic policy. Do they want respect? Admiration?
Both [UJC Israel Director] Nachman Shai and Andy David have so far told me the same thing: American Jews don't want anything in return for their philanthropy to Israel. The stronger Israel is, the better they feel. The better Israel looks in the eyes of the world, the better they feel. Is this truly a free lunch, something my father, rather adamantly, said didn't exist?
As one Israeli government official recently put it to me: before the establishment of the State of Israel, American Jews walked around with their heads bowed; since then they are proud. Israel is a religion for them, he said.
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