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November 8, 2016 1:00 pm

New Campus Initiative Aims to Counteract Anti-Israel Movement’s ‘Trite, One-Sided’ Rhetoric by Showing Jewish State’s ‘Human Face’

avatar by Lea Speyer

A mock Israeli checkpoint set up during "Israeli Apartheid Week" in May 2010 on the University of California, Los Angeles campus. Photo: AMCHA Initiative.

A mock Israeli checkpoint set up during “Israeli Apartheid Week” in May 2010 on the University of California, Los Angeles campus. Photo: AMCHA Initiative.

A new campaign to combat anti-Israel messaging on US campuses by showing the diversity of the Jewish state was launched on Monday, a spokesperson for a leading Israel advocacy campus organization told The Algemeiner.  

Chloé Valdary, director of partnerships and outreach for Jerusalem U, explained that the impetus for the 10-day happening — self-described as this year’s “biggest Israel events on campus” — is the “unfortunate reduction by Students for Justice in Palestine (SJP) and other organizations of complex issues into trite and one-sided talking points that fail to capture the nuances of the human experiences.” 

To counter the anti-Israel rhetoric to which American college students are regularly exposed and present them with what Valdary called the “diverse flavors of Israel and the human face of the Israeli people,” Jerusalem U will be screening its latest documentary — “Mekonen: The Journey of an African Jew” — on five US campuses. The film events will also feature hip-hop concerts by an Ethiopian-Israeli duo, Cafe Shahor Hazak (“Strong Black Coffee”).  

“The film follows the personal journey of Mekonen Abebe, a shepherd in Ethiopia who became an officer in the IDF,” Valdary told The Algemeiner. “His story of adversity and overcoming is our story. It connects us to each other as human beings, and it connects us to the people of Israel.”

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“By showing that Israelis have built something out of nothing for themselves, we demonstrate that our audience — especially millennials — can do the same,” she said, adding that this message “can resonate and inspire individuals of all backgrounds — black, white and otherwise — to meet their full potential.”

With US college campuses becoming increasingly hostile to pro-Israel and Jewish students, the message guiding the Jerusalem U event is now more important than ever, Valdary said.

“The threat these students are facing on most campuses is more about apathy than outright antisemitism. Most people haven’t been introduced to the true human face of the Israeli people,” she told The Algemeiner. What information they do know is “often through the lens of conflict, which is a rather limited way to view an entire country.”

“That’s why Jerusalem U is showing the diversity of Israeli society in order to educate, inspire and empower students to be engaged with Israel and its people in a real way,” she said.

The first Jerusalem U premiere event took place Monday evening at Boston University. The others are slated to take place at Penn State, New York University, Rutgers and UCLA through November 17. Events are co-sponsored by StandWithUs, Alpha Epsilon Pi, the Jewish National Fund, Hasbara Fellowships, CAMERA on Campus and Hillel International.

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