Australian Advocates on HR Mission

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Lt. Col. Avital Leibovich

Lt. Col. Avital Leibovich

HonestReporting’s 19th Mission to Israel saw the second successful linkup with Australia’s New South Wales Jewish Board of Deputies (NSWJBD). Twenty participants experienced a week of high-level speakers, exclusive visits to the places in the news all topped off with fine cuisine and luxury accommodation.

Participants were welcomed by Brigadier General (res.) Yossi Kuperwasser, the Director General of the Israeli Ministry of Strategic Affairs, who gave a detailed overview of Israel’s current situation vis a vis the region and the Palestinians. He reiterated that the real issue is the refusal of the Palestinians to accept a Jewish state in the Middle East.

Lt. Col. Avital Leibovich explained the IDF’s impressive social media strategy on Facebook, YouTube and other platforms before the group took an exclusive tour of Israel’s security fence and got to see for themselves Palestinian foot traffic crossing a checkpoint into the West Bank city of Qalqilya courtesy of the IDF Lt. Col. responsible for the area.

“This is the best trip I’ve ever done – logistically excellent; well prepared.” – Ghita

Day 2 saw highlights including former government spokesperson Miri Eisin, an alternative view of the settlement issue from a representative of Peace Now and a passion-filled tour of Jerusalem’s Old City.

One of the most fraught issues within Israel today is that of the Bedouins of the Negev and the Israeli government plan to resettle them in purpose-built towns. This topic was seen from all sides during a trip on Day 3 to the northern Negev, meeting with Bedouins in an “unrecognized” town and representatives from NGOs opposed to the government’s plans. The group then heard from a government representative responsible for implementing the relocation plan. The group left with an understanding that such a complex issue is not as black and white as it would appear in some of the international media.

 

Continuing on their travels, the group headed to the Erez Terminal that handles pedestrian traffic crossing to and from Gaza and received a briefing from an IDF Lt. Col. on how Israel and Gaza interact.

As if that wasn’t enough, the group spent the next day visiting Hebron and the Tomb of the Patriarchs getting a first-hand account of the remarkable Jewish history of the city and what it is like to live there today in one of the region’s most contested and controversial flash-points.

“The best trip I have ever had to Israel and I’ve been on about 10 trips” – Alan

One can only get a full understanding of the complexities of the situation by hearing as well from the Arab side. Mission participants were afforded the opportunity to find out the Arab perspective through a series of talks, including a former Palestinian terrorist turned peacemaker and the award-winning Israeli-Arab journalist Khaled Abu Toameh.

With the Middle East experiencing enormous upheaval, Israel is not immune. So where better to learn more about the strategic threats and realities than a visit to the Golan Heights overlooking Syria. The group even had the opportunity to speak with an Israeli doctor treating Syrian casualties of the civil war in Israeli hospitals – a truly remarkable story that highlights Israel’s humanitarian spirit.

On-the-roof-of-Spoons

By the end of the Mission, the participants had also heard from a variety of other speakers, including Professor Gerald Steinberg on the role of non-g0vernmental organizations in the conflict, Nitsana Darshan-Leitner on taking terrorists to the courts and Gil Hoffman, the political editor of the Jerusalem Post. And of course, HonestReporting’s own staff talking about media bias.

“Programming, logistics, food and people were all terrific and exceeded my expectations. I feel privileged to have been included in this mission. Thank you for all of your hard work in this mission and your daily efforts to fight media misinformation and bias towards Israel.” – Cathy

You can read the experiences of the participants themselves through a series of blog posts written for the J-Wire site here:

“My first trip to Israel and due to such a wonderful experience, definitely not my last.” – Linda

If you would like to find out more about our next Mission in May 2014 (open to all wherever you are from), see here or email Suzanne Lieberman – suzanne@honestreporting.com.


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