European Students’ Union Visits Israel Despite Boycott Calls
JNS.org – The European Students’ Union (ESU) began its biannual seminar on Monday in Jerusalem, with 120 student representatives from 37 countries arriving for a week-long visit.
Despite political opposition and calls to boycott Israel, student unions from the European campus umbrella group’s member countries provided enough votes for the seminar to be hosted in the Jewish state.
During their visit, the guests are meeting with public figures, touring the country and speaking with local professionals. Following a tour of Jerusalem on Monday night, the students visited Tel Aviv-Jaffa on Tuesday and met with the LGBTQ community in those cities. Tel Aviv is considered one of the most gay-friendly cities in the world.
Israeli Strategic Affairs Minister Gilad Erdan, whose ministry is responsible for fighting the anti-Israel BDS movement, praised the National Union of Israeli Students, which he said “managed to bring to Israel … student leaders from all of Europe to experience a flourishing Israel, the opposite of the picture painted on campuses around Europe. Unfortunately, boycott and delegitimization organizations against Israel have turned many campuses into vehemently anti-Israel environments in recent years, and I hope that this visit by student union leaders from around Europe and Israel will have a positive influence on the issue.”
Ram Shefa, head of the National Union of Israeli Students, said, “The student leaders of today are those who will stand in senior public positions later. I see being a part of this global organization as a real mission for our public diplomacy.”
“We are friends, we are neighbors,” said Andres Sauna, a computer science student from Cyprus visiting Israel for the conference. “This is my first time in Israel, and I plan on coming much more.”
The ESU is comprised of 45 national student unions from 37 European countries as well as the National Union of Israeli Students. It represents more than 15 million students.