Today, students come to study in Israel for many reasons, including professional advancement, academic requirements, personal growth, international experience, an alternative to the classroom and, of course, a connection to their Jewish heritage.
Many campus Israel groups have brought Israeli soldiers to speak at their schools in recent years because they value the insights and perspectives IDF veterans bring to the campus Israel dialogue. But some people who have had life-changing experiences serving in the Israel Defense Forces later earn their college degree in the United States. These students offer a unique view on Israel, based on their experience, and their advocacy on campus conveys that.
In past years, students turned to the people they knew for advice or strived to build creative plans on their own. While these approaches can yield strong results, imagine what could be achieved with a nationally networked resource that provides the best of all worlds -- tested, proven programming ideas and step-by-step details of best practices for impacting the campus environment.
The American Jewish community is rightly concerned about Israel’s standing among college students, especially among college students who identify as Jews. Community leaders reason that the attitudes towards Israel that develop among college students today will shape the way America and the American Jewish community relate to Israel tomorrow.
A careful look at the BDS movement shows not legitimate criticism but a movement that is racist and anti-Semitic. Why? BDS clearly targets Israel. Its stated goals vary but all include the "right of return" for Palestinian "refugees." The effort is cloaked to give the impression that ending specific Israeli policies would also end efforts to ostracize Israel. Yet their maximalist demand -- a flood of refugees, which would spell the end of Israel as a Jewish state -- is carefully hidden.
Though still a minority, many women are changing the landscape and breaking new ground for future female leaders. Pro-Israel organizations StandWithUs and The Israel Project both were established by females.
As they look back at the recently completed academic year, many campus Israel activists can point to examples of apartheid walls and walkouts, but these instances do little to ruffle their optimism. As they look ahead to the upcoming academic year, they focus on improving the campus Israel environment and building a stronger community commitment to peace and coexistence.
If campus Israel activists spend much of the school year planning activities, building coalitions and spreading information, summer offers the chance to step back from the tactical realities of daily activism and take a longer, more strategic view of the situation.
Summer break brings countless ways to become a more skilled advocate for Israel. Many organizations, including The David Project, StandWithUs, Hasbara Fellowships, the Israel on Campus Coalition and others offer students opportunities to learn how to strengthen their skills on campus.
UN vote reactions. BDS efforts. Anti-Israel Conferences. Gilad Shalit’s release. Social media advocacy. Failed and successful collaborations.
As college seniors approach graduation and questions about their "next step," they are faced with the difficult reality of a tight job market and a slow economic recovery. These facts have prompted a small but significant number of students to explore the professional benefits, as well as the Zionist fulfillment, that might flow from life in Israel.