Yeshiva University Sends Student Solidarity Mission to Israel
On January 16, 2016 a group of twenty motivated students of Yeshiva University set out on a weeklong Solidarity Mission to Israel. The purpose of the Mission was to show support of the State of Israel and to become educated on the salient topics and questions that members of Israeli society are dealing with today. Throughout the duration of their time in Israel, the students heard from a number of speakers, participated in chessed efforts, received training in Israel advocacy and were exposed to multiple sides of the heated conflict between Arabs and Jews, which has escalated over the past few months in the form of stabbings and other terrorist attacks.
The trip began with shiurim lead by the esteemed Rav Dovid Miller, Rosh Yeshiva of Gruss Kollel at Yeshiva University, and by the renowned Rav Shlomo Riskin, founder and Chief Rabbi of Efrat and the Israel Chancellor and Rosh Yeshiva of Ohr Torah Stone Institutions. The topics of discussion included the halachik (religious guideline) ramifications of various acts of war, the ancient and modern historical backgrounds of the complex relationship between Muslims and Jews and a personal view on how best to resolve the tension in that relationship today.
The students also visited the Jerusalem headquarters of OneFamily, an organization built to aid the emotional, financial and legal rehabilitation of victims of terror. After hearing from a victim of terror who was affected by a suicide bombing and who was subsequently forced to re-identify his role in Israeli society, the students worked alongside the victim to fashion Magen David necklaces, which were then donated to children orphaned by acts of terror.
On the second day of the Solidarity Mission, the YU students travelled to the Judea-West Bank territory and took part in a workshop lead by Noam Bedein, a photographer who dedicated a decade of his life to photojournalism in order to document the lives of Jews in Sderot. Through his photography, Noam Bedein aimed to capture the many conflicts and clashes faced by those living in Israel today. He taught participants of the Mission about the longstanding history of a Jewish presence in this territory, marked by the Herodion, King Herod’s summer palace and final resting place. As they stood before the Herodion, the students took note of the stark contrast between the monument representing Jewish life in Israel dating back thousands of years and the glaring red signs demarcating Arab land, legally prohibiting Jews from entering the very same land upon which that monument stands. Following the unique experience of Noam Bedein’s personal mission to use photography as a tool for national expression, the students heard from a representative of the Friends of Roots Organization. This group promotes co-existence and works to bridge the gap between Jews and Arabs through peaceful relationships and mutual recognition of each people’s connection to the Land.
Other powerful moments of the Mission include a shiva call to the Meir family in Otniel who lost a mother of six, Dafna, when terrorists attacked her in her own home; a meeting with Rabbanit Chana Henkin, who’s son and daughter-in-law were killed in a terror attack this past October, leaving behind four children all under the age of ten; a tour of Yad b’Yad, a unique Arab-Israeli day school; a visit to the Ma’aleh Film School, during which the complexities behind checkpoints and forced evacuation of land were brought to life via short films; and an empowering session with the Stand With Us organization. The students spent Shabbat in Yishuv Yad Binyamin, and heard from various members of the community who discussed the theme of life before, during and after the disengagement of Gush Katif.
Students of the 2016 Solidarity Mission to Israel shared a tremendous experience. They spent seven days of heightened emotion, education, exposure and activism in Israel as an expression of their dedication to its cause. These students plan to take what they have gathered collectively and personally from their experiences and to build a program of Israel awareness both on the Yeshiva University campuses as well as on campuses of schools nearby. Alumni of this trip have returned from Israel equipped with the information and knowledge necessary to help students at other universities fight BDS and other anti-Israel sentiments expressed in American campuses today, and they plan to take action in the most effective ways that they can.