When Avram Sand tells people where he’s going for winter break, the most common response he gets is “Where?” “Then they ask, ‘why?’ ” said Sand, a senior at Yeshiva University High School in New York City.On Jan. 9, to show hakarat hatov, or appreciation and recognition, for the country’s support of Israel, Sand and nine of his classmates will travel to the Republic of Palau. The island group is home to about 20,000 people and some of the world’s most precious coral reefs.
YU High School’s Israel Club has scheduled a 10-day mission to the nation in the North Pacific. Palau is one of three countries, which, in addition to the United States, vote consistently in favor of Israel when the United Nations votes to condemn the Jewish state. The other nations voting alongside Israel are the Federated States of Micronesia and the Marshall Islands, both located near Palau, due southeast of the Philippines. “Israel faces a very challenging reality in the U.N.,” said Daniel Schuval, the Israel Club’s faculty advisor, who will chaperone the mission. “We wanted to know, ‘Who are these people who are so supportive?’ … The trip is symbolic of the bond between the people of the North Pacific and the Jewish people.”
Just why is Palau so loyal? The nation boasts a large Christian population with strong ideological ties to Israel, Schuval said. He also cited Israel’s support of Palauan admission to the United Nations, after the island group gained independence in 1994.In Palau, YU’s young diplomats will tour the country, giving presentations about Judaism and Israel at schools and hospitals, and in tribal villages. The group will also meet with President Tommy Remengesau Jr. in the capital city of Koror.“We want to make a good impression about who Jews are, and what we’re all about,” said Sand, president of The Israel Club.Private donors, including the Heyman Merrin Foundation, are footing the bill for the $25,000 voyage. The Palauan government will provide free housing and transportation.Stuart Beck, the American ambassador to Palau’s mission to the UN, recently called the forthcoming trip “a mitzvah.” Students arrive in Palau, by way of Hawaii and Guam, on Jan.10.