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(photo credit: Ariel Jerozolimski)
A group of 28 influential young Jewish leaders from around the world last week completed a Foreign Ministry seminar designed to train the next generation of Jewish leadership.
The men and women, aged 26 to 36, concluded a two-week program during which they learned about Israel and prepared to return to their communities better informed, as well as better prepared to advocate on behalf of Israel.
"We were looking for people with great leadership potential, not necessarily those who were already active in the community," said program director Akiva Tor.
"We think of them as people who are going places and see the seminar as an investment for the long term," said Tor.
During their stay, the participants, who hailed from over 20 countries, visited Jerusalem, Tel Aviv, Haifa, Acre and the Golan Heights. They also received a tour of the Lebanese border and Israel's security barrier.
"Programs like this can help," former foreign minister Shlomo Ben-Ami told The Jerusalem Post.
"Clearly, the number of hasbara (advocacy) missions that exist today are well beyond what Israel alone can engage in. At the highest levels there is no replacement for formal foreign ministry representatives, programs such as these may be helpful provided that the participants stay on message," said former ambassador to the UN Dore Gold."
"The key to effective hasbara is clarity and repetition," Gold added.
The participants waxed enthusiastic. "It was a very intense couple of weeks, and the caliber of the speakers was phenomenal," said Australian Jewish activist Francine Bergman. "The highlight of the trip was when Danny Terza took us on a tour of the [security] barrier and explained... the process that was involved in putting it up and the reasoning behind its location."
"It was the most helpful program I've ever been on," said Rafael Zoldan, who made his way to the seminar from Ecuador, a country whose Jewish community consists of only 500 people.
"The program gave me a lot of knowledge and motivation to either go back home and return to activity in the community or else stay in Israel and make aliya."