It is only natural that pro-Israel students would spend most of their time talking about the issues of war and peace, and learning to respond to Israel detractors and deniers. I don’t want to quash their idealism, but the truth is that students are not going to resolve the conflict between Israel and its neighbors. This does not mean they should abandon their idealism or discussions of the big issues, but it does suggest that students could do more for Israel if they gave their time and energy to activities that they can positively impact.
Students can do a number of things to help Israel in constructive ways that, by themselves, may not make a large difference but, collectively, will shape the future of the Jewish people. Here are a few examples:
- · Running for student government. This has become the main campus battleground where Israel deniers are focusing their efforts to win propaganda victories by proposing that universities divest from Israel.
- · Writing for the school newspaper. This is a great way to publicize information about Israel of interest to students and, if you're an editor, you have the opportunity to exercise your judgment to prevent the publication of inappropriate articles (i.e., the type the New York Times would never publish).
- · Educating and supporting local, state and national political candidates who, if elected, will have an impact on U.S.-Israel relations.
- · Traveling or going to school in Israel to get a first-hand look at the country and its people. Ideally, students should visit Israel before going to college so they can develop an attachment and acquire greater knowledge and understanding of their homeland.
- · Making aliyah and participating in the development of Israel, and exercising the democratic right to vote for candidates who share your beliefs about Israel’s future.
- · Sharing your knowledge, commitment and passion with your peers.
- · Donating or helping to raise money for Israeli charities and/or American nonprofits that are involved in supporting Israel.
- · Volunteering to work with one of the many organizations in Israel addressing the range of domestic issues, such as poverty, homelessness, domestic abuse, and environmental protection.
- · Joining the IDF or volunteering for a program that works with the army.
- · Interning with the MDA, Israel’s Red Cross, and working beside Israelis saving lives.
- · Investing in Israel, for example, by buying stock in Israeli companies, many of which are traded on U.S. exchanges, or purchasing Israeli bonds.
- · Going on a Birthright trip, then sharing your experience with others and, if you have the resources, donating money to give others the opportunity to visit Israel.
- · Studying in an Israeli institution of Jewish learning to strengthen your knowledge of Judaism and connection to the Jewish people.
- · Buying Israeli goods. At a time when Israel deniers are promoting a boycott of Israel, you can fight back by investing in the companies they want universities to divest from and by purchasing goods from Israeli vendors.
- · Inviting Israelis to speak on campus about their fields of expertise and experience living in Israel.
- · Organizing a cultural event, such as an Israeli film, music or art festival.
- · Interning for a company in Israel, a U.S. company doing business in Israel or a nonprofit organization dedicated to helping Israel.
These are a small sample of ideas off the top of my head. I’m sure that students can be even more creative in finding ways to connect with Israel and contribute to improving its image, educating peers, intensifying their connection to their homeland and directly helping Israelis through charity, service and face-to-face contact.
Settlements, Jerusalem, borders, refugees, security, terrorism and all the rest of the political issues are not going away anytime soon. They will remain hot-button issues on many campuses and require the commitment of students to educate themselves about them and learn how to advocate for Israel. Students should feel passionate about the future of Israel and its relationship with its neighbors, but the citizens of Israel and their leaders will ultimately be the ones to decide what must be done to bring the country peace with security. In the meantime, students have a lot of opportunities to help make Israel a better place.
Dr. Mitchell Bard is the author/editor of 24 books including The Arab Lobby and Death to the Infidels: Radical Islam’s War Against the Jews.