College students receive pep talk about Israel

This is a republication of an original article written by Nadav Weinberg in the Cleveland Jewish News on Thursday, October 27, 2011.

On April 11, 2010, I was on a standard patrol in the southern Hebron hills of the West Bank. While on patrol, my team was notified of a Palestinian herder whose sheep had wandered into a Jewish settlement. Arriving on the scene, my two friends and I approached the gentleman and politely asked him to move his sheep back 10 feet to where the settlement’s border was. The herder agreed, although grudgingly, and we began to help him move his herd.

a smiling young man with a goatee and hair styled into a slight mohawk looks forward

Nadav Weinberg

Out of nowhere, one Israeli and four Americans, all Jewish as I would find out later, ran toward us and began shouting, “Show me a map that this isn’t the herder’s land.” Three of the protesters shoved cameras in our faces, six inches away from my nose, and began to berate me in broken Hebrew and English. As we had been trained, none of us reacted to the protesters. The herder, who had had no real problem moving his sheep, suddenly started screaming at us in Arabic, flailing his hands wildly.

At that moment, a loud, piercing siren was heard across the valley; the unmistakable siren of Yom Hashoah (Holocaust Remembrance Day). Israeli tradition is to immediately stop and remember the millions of Jews who lost their lives. As the siren blasted, a wrinkled, 60-year-old Jewish-American shoved a camera three inches from my face and screamed, “This is how you are remembering the Holocaust? You are no better than the Nazis.”

I was in complete shock. I watched as the protesters took pictures of us dressed in combat uniforms, helmets, large bulletproof vests, and holding M4 assault rifles. I watched as they cropped their pictures to isolate the Palestinian man’s red face and flailing arms.

Motivated by the protester’s hate speech, I began a tour of American college campuses, speaking on the issue of the ethical conduct of the Israel Defense Forces. At Arizona State University, I was met with 70 anti-Israeli protesters. Although I remained calm and addressed the protesters’ questions, rebutting each loaded question with factual answers, I watched as the Arizona State Israel advocacy group was caught completely off-guard, never expecting to be met with protesters in Phoenix, and worse yet, not knowing how to respond.

I realized how unprepared young Jewish adults are in refuting anti-Israel sentiment, and I decided to help educate college-bound high-school students through my work at Camp Tel Yehudah, Young Judea’s senior leadership camp.

In June 2011, I arrived as a counselor, determined to educate 16-year-olds about the Israeli-Palestinian “battle” waging on college campuses. In that effort, I helped mold these high-schoolers into an Israel advocacy group that presented Israel’s case to three members of Congress, lobbying for continued aid to Israel.

When I started, I asked a bright-eyed girl if she supported Israel and if so, why. She smiled shyly and said, “Of course, because I love laying on the beach in Tel Aviv.” I knew then that we had our work cut out for us.

For the next two weeks we read articles, argued politics, and finally put together a speech that the campers presented to their U.S. representative. The evening before we lobbied the three members of Congress, I asked the girl the same question. She looked at me and said confidently, “Yes, I support Israel. Since 1995, Israeli doctors have saved over 2,300 children through Save a Child’s Heart organization. Of the 2,300 children, over half were Palestinian, Jordanian and Iraqi. In addition, Israeli scientists wanted to make a tomato into a snack, so they genetically designed cherry tomatoes. How cool is that?”

Despite spending the last two years arresting Hamas and Fatah terrorists in the West Bank, I realized the most important fight for Israel’s legitimacy depends on our ability to demystify Palestinian myths by knowing the facts. That requires that we focus on being educated and knowledgeable so that we can promote Israel’s legitimacy in the Diaspora.

About the Author

Nadav Weinberg is a 2004 graduate of Shaker Heights High School and 2008 graduate of Case Western Reserve University. He served in the Orev Special Forces of the IDF’s Nachal Brigade. He is touring the United States and speaking about the “Ethics of the IDF” on college campuses.