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January 27, 2017 7:18 am

Head of Ireland’s Only Campus Israel Society at University With No Jews Aims to ‘Spread Truth That Doesn’t Make It Into the News’

avatar by Rachel Frommer

Interview
Maynooth University. Photo: Wikipedia.

Maynooth University. Photo: Wikipedia.

The founder of Ireland’s only campus Israel Society – at a school with virtually no Jewish students — told The Algemeiner that he decided to establish the group to “spread the truth” about the Middle East state that “doesn’t make it into the news.”

Alan Lyne, who created the organization at Maynooth University, located in County Kildare, said he was spurred to do so after visiting Israel and being “blown away by how peacefully everyone got along.”

His trip was a prize he received for winning an essay-writing competition on “What Israel Means to Me,” sponsored by advocacy organization Irish4Israel. Lyne said that when he returned, he felt the need to introduce his peers to the version of Israel they rarely hear about. He launched the endeavor on September 28, 2016, the day of Israeli statesman Shimon Peres’s death.

Today, the group holds cultural events surrounding film or food, and even offers Hebrew lessons. Lyne said he will be inviting guest speakers from Israel, to talk about education, technology and other aspects of life in the Jewish state, and hopes eventually to organize trips and exchange programs for students in both countries.

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Lyne said the group “tries its best to stay apolitical, though sometimes we must defend ourselves” from bullying, death threats and social media trolling some members have sustained from anti-Israel organizations like Irish Palestinian Solidarity Campaign (IPSC) and Sinn Fein, Ireland’s oldest left-wing nationalist group.

Enya Harrison, the Israel Society’s secretary, told The Algemeiner, “As a moderator for the group’s Facebook page, I was honestly shocked by some of the vitriol that was aimed at us,  like ‘Zionist Scum.’ But because we never really responded, the provocations have stopped.”

“Thankfully,” Lyne noted, the school’s Students’ Union and the country’s pro-Israel groups and Jewish communities “have all been very supportive and helpful” from the start.

The Israel Society has had high enrollment — 120 students on the first day — and collaborates with diverse partners, including Maynooth’s Islamic Society. The students pay for most of the events out of their own pockets.

A spokesperson from the Israeli Embassy in Dublin called the group’s activity “a hopeful indication of things to come.” He told The Algemeiner that it “provides great opportunities for cross-cultural cooperation.”

His statement comes on the heels of a controversy surrounding an upcoming conference — scheduled to be held at Ireland’s University College Cork (UCC) — exploring the legitimacy and legality of the Jewish state. As The Algemeiner reported earlier this month, UCC announced that it is still weighing whether to open its doors to the event, over security concerns.

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