Binghamton students Ilana Ben-Ezra and Ethan Kassimir discuss the upcomiing Talk Israel initiative at Hillel's 2011 Engagement Institute.
In order to help students discuss critical issues in the Middle East in a civil atmosphere, 20 Hillels across North America will set up large tents in central locations on their campuses on September 21 and 22 as part of a new initiative, Talk Israel: Join the Conversation. The program was conceived and developed by Hillel's Center for Israel Engagement (CIE) and is funded by the Jim Joseph Foundation. Follow events on Facebook or Twitter at #TalkIsrael.
"At a time when civility is in rare supply in the public sphere, Hillel will contribute to a positive atmosphere on Talk Israel campuses," explains Hillel President Wayne L. Firestone. "Peaceful dialogue should be the only way to resolve conflicts on campus and in the Middle East."
CIE Director Sharon Ashley explains: "We want to give voice to students with questions and to provide a forum for those who don't even know what to ask. The Talk Israel tents will bring students inside to talk about a secure Israel even as the world ominously shifts around it."
The tents will feature educational materials, discussion facilitators and audio-visual equipment. On each campus, Jewish Agency for Israel Fellows will work closely with Hillel professionals and student leaders to stimulate and moderate discussions. A Facebook page enables participants and others to join the conversation. Each Hillel is adapting this model to its own campus needs, partnering with university departments, groups and coalitions to bring added meaning and significance to this day-long event.
The 20 Hillels participating in Talk Israel are: Brandeis University; University of Florida; Montreal - Concordia & McGill Universities; Binghamton University; University of Arizona; Towson University; George Washington University; Tufts University; Columbia/Barnard; Toronto; Princeton University; University of Vermont; Goucher University; Cornell University; UC Berkeley; University of Miami; University of Maryland, College Park; University of Delaware; Michigan State University; and the Jewish University Center of Pittsburgh. The Hillels of University of Michigan, Beach Orange County and others will participate in the Talk Israel event without the structure of a tent.
Hillel is the central address on college campuses for Israel engagement, education and advocacy. Hillel is steadfastly committed to the support of Israel as a Jewish and democratic state with secure and recognized borders and as a member of the family of free nations. Hillel provides the infrastructure for Israel travel, celebrations and fighting anti-Israel efforts. Working closely with the Israel on Campus Coalition, the Jewish Agency for Israel, Birthright Israel NEXT, MASA Israel Journey, AIPAC and other pro-Israel groups, Hillel helps students understand Israel and to defend her whenever necessary.