If you told me that I would be sitting in the Maccabee Academy in Vegas engaging in a conversation about Israel ten years ago, I would have thought that you had a pretty wild imagination. When I finished my two years of service in the IDF, all I wanted was to buy the cheapest ticket to the farthest place I could find. Skip forward a few years and here I am; working with The Maccabee Task Force as the president of Spartans for Israel, an intern at Hillel and The David Project, and a Hasbara Fellow. I couldn’t stay away from Israel even when, physically, I was thousands of miles away.
In my first semester at San Jose State, I found myself fighting BDS on my campus. I skipped classes, wrote speeches, and frantically sent out emails until late at night. BDS passed. That was when I realized that we have a problem. In fact, we have many problems, and what better place to discuss the holiest country than in Sin City!
Leave it to Vegas to make people want to take risks and get tempted by the game of chance. When talking about our pro-Israel community, one has to realize that we like sticking with the status quo. It seems safer, less vulnerable, and we don’t want to put ourselves on the line. The problem is that things have stayed the same and we have missed out on potential gains. On the other hand, our community is a representation of the unique mosaic that is our society.
Have you encountered a community with more contrasting opinions and ideologies than a pro-Israeli one? It is made of people that hold different religious, political, and social ideas. Yet, there is one thing that is the glue that holds the many pieces of this mosaic together; we all care about Israel.
This conference was another reminder of our unique situation. You can’t get more diverse than hearing from a Jewish Rabbi about Israeli issues on campuses, and soon after engage in a meaningful discussion about the challenges and threats on our campuses with Kasim Hafeez, a British Muslim and a pro-Israel activist. Whether we like it or not, we are different, and we should embrace it, rather than fear it.
Look at it as the Wisdom of the Crowd. Diverse groups make better decisions; take it from Aristotle. “The many” judge issues better than individuals or small groups who are alike. Every conference of this kind creates a unique environment, which challenges us to listen to people who we do not always agree with. This allows us to think critically, and potentially reach better decisions as a coherent whole. Our unusual situation provides us with a unique opportunity and advantage… If we use it right.
The Maccabee Task Force is a great example of people from different backgrounds working together to combat anti-Israel activity through education. When I first met their team, I got to know a group of determined young professionals with a new and refreshing approach to Israel advocacy. Their passion was contagious. The team worked closely with Spartans for Israel, and helped us create meaningful events on campus, and plan educational trips to Israel. This conference, unlike many out there, provided me with powerful tools I can put to use. From social media workshops to building campus action plans, I felt every minute of the conference was geared towards our success.
Often, we focus on our differences and try to make other people think like us, when we can benefit more by being around people who think differently. Let us always remember that we are diverse, not divided. In order to do so, we should embrace our differences and be mindful of our common good. We share a mutual goal, which is our love for Israel. The Maccabee Academy provides us the tools and opportunity to come together and form a strong united front. Just as the Maccabees united and defeated Antiochus, we too can work together to protect our values, our people, and our freedoms.