It’s hard to get the real news about Israel simply from reading newspapers or watching network news. The only way to be sure about what’s happening is to come to Israel in person and meet with the people making news.
That’s why a group of 21 people from across the world came to see some of the hot spots in person through HonestReporting’s 2013 Mission to Israel.
During their briefing on the security situation in Syria, Commander ‘N’ from unit 334 told the mission participants that their advocacy work on behalf of Israel was also vital to Israel’s security. “We are proud to keep our borders safe, knowing that you guys are there defending our name,” she said.
The group also toured Israel’s border with Gaza and spent an afternoon in Sderot with the town’s mayor, David Buskila, who explained Sderot’s unique challenge thanks to its proximity to the Gaza Strip.
Protecting Israel’s citizens, he said, often looks bad on television and has a negative effect on Israel’s image abroad. “You can be strong, or you can be popular,” he told the group, referring to Israel’s dilemma. “If I’m weak I don’t get another chance. So I prefer to be strong.
“So the poor kid in Gaza remains the media hero. Our defensive measures won’t compete with that. But in time they’ll see we weren’t the bad guys,” he said.
Turning to newsmakers working to change Israeli society, mission participants heard from recently elected MK, Dov Lipman from the Yesh Atid party, who shared his vision of a unified Israel where every citizen plays a role in Israel’s future.
“We live in a magical world and we have to believe that unity in Israel is possible,” he said, in response to a question about whether it’s possible to overcome the divisions in Israeli society.
HonestReporting CEO Joe Hyams gave several talks about the importance of effective media monitoring. “Think not about what you want to say but what you want to see happen,” he told the group, echoing a maxim he learned during his days at Saatchi and Saatchi.
Other speakers included Avital Leibovich of the IDF’s Spokesman’s unit, Itamar Marcus of Palestinian Media Watch, and Palestinian journalist Khaled Abu Toameh. The itinerary also included a visit to Hebron.
Mission participant Sylvia Simko, who came with her husband Paul, said the mission was inspiring.
“We went from Metulah to Hebron, and we hope people felt some support knowing we stand behind them,” she said.
“The pen is still more powerful than the sword,” she added, and we all have to resolve in our minds to be fighters and combat the bad press Israel receives unfairly.”
For more information on the next Mission in November, contact Suzanne Lieberman at firstname.lastname@example.org.