Zichron Yaakov, Israel — They came to learn about moving to Israel — and immediately got a lesson in the harsh realities of Israeli life.
Conversation here among the students on the Jewish Agency for Israel’s Aliyah Pilot Trip has been dominated by talk of the Gaza flotilla crisis.
Nine Turkish activists were killed in the Israeli raid last Monday. The following day, more than 30 North American college and graduate students gathered at Ben Gurion Airport, starting the trip that would take them from Tel Aviv to the Galilee to Jerusalem.
On a visit to Kibbutz Maagan Michael, a secular kibbutz in the northern Israeli town of Zichron Yaakov, Ulpan director Mike Flax decided to turn his session into a forum on the recent Gaza incident.
“I’m really curious as to how you guys feel as young Jews,” he said, asking them what they thought the atmosphere will be like when they return to their respective campuses.
“I go to Barnard,” answered Dvora Toren, 20, a Boston native who just finished her sophomore year. “It’s a very liberal institution.
“I’m surrounded by intelligent, educated people who are convinced that in order to remain liberal, they have to support the Palestinian cause.”
Flax asked Toren if she thought those people were pro-Palestinian or anti-Israeli.
“Pro-Palestinian,” she responded. “I don’t think it’s anti-Semitism, although I’m sure some people would disagree with me.
“In this case, I think it’s just support for the underdog, and they have a misunderstanding as to who the underdog really is.”
Brooke Katz disagreed. “People really just hate Israel,” she said.
Originally from Syosset, L.I., the Johns Hopkins graduate — who is moving to Israel in August — said she saw ignorance on campus as the root cause of the problem.
“They don’t even know where Israel is on a map,” said Katz, 20. “It’s trendy to wear a keffiyeh.”
“It’s trendy to work against the dominant power,” chimed in Harry Samuels, 19, a Roslyn, L.I. native who’s about to start his sophomore year at Brown.
“I think it’s our job to be educated enough to retaliate,” said Jasmine Einalhori, 21, a senior at New York University. “I’m not educated enough. I just get angry and upset.”
Back on the bus, Baruch Lane, 21, called the raid “upsetting,” but added, “I think the world jumped to conclusions way too quickly.”
The Queens College junior from Monsey said the events reflect the tough reality of living in Israel.
“I’m glad I came right after it happened, because that way I could actually see how the Israelis reacted to it, said Lane. “That’s one thing I’m going to have to be dealing with when I make aliyah.”
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