“Caravan for Democracy” Students Share Their Israel Story
By JD Krebs
A growing number of college students beyond the Jewish faith are seeking to better understand Israel, her people, diverse culture in the face of ongoing misinformation spread by Israel's detractors throughout the U.S.
This week, Jewish National Fund-USA’s (JNF-USA) Caravan for Democracy Student Leadership Mission to Israel brought 40 student leaders to Israel to see the country with their own eyes. Funded by JNF-USA’s Boruchin Center and other major philanthropists, the 10-day, fully subsidized educational program for student leaders beyond the Jewish faith who have never been to Israel before.
The mission provides students with the opportunity to explore the Jewish and democratic country of Israel through meetings with political, cultural, and community leaders from diverse backgrounds and faiths.
Despite a jampacked schedule, two students from Caravan for Democracy, Miguel Acosta Loza and Lexi Doidge managed to join ILTV’s Eran Poris to talk about their first impressions of Israel.
Miguel, a student at Gonzaga University in Washington, noted the impressive diversity within the various Israeli communities.
“Israel is a rainbow nation. Every person can be themselves,” he said.
Lexi, a student at Regis University in Colorado, admitted that Israel’s reality did not reflect the negative things she heard back in America.
“I had heard some not great conceptions when I was home, especially lately in the news, but that’s not at all what I’ve seen here. Everyone’s happy and thriving, and it’s really truly beautiful here,” she said.
For Lexi, a Christian, seeing holy sites crucial to her faith was something she would never forget. “Seeing the Christian holy sites is something that I’ve really cherished, and just getting to come and deepen my faith here in that way and be in the places I read about in scriptures, it’s really special for me,” she said.
Miguel pointed out that Caravan for Democracy showed a glimpse into daily Israeli life usually ignored on college campuses. “I took a class on the Arab-Israeli conflict, and we never got into food, we never got into culture, we never got into what the daily Israeli life looks like, and this is what we’re getting to see now,” he said.
The JNF-USA program also taught him about Israel’s contributions to the world. “Learning more about accessibility in Israel, sustainability, it’s amazing how technology has evolved so much in this part of the world,” he said.
Caravan for Democracy’s goal is to facilitate constructive dialogue about Israel and the Middle East on college campuses across America. This mission demonstrates to participants Israel's unique contributions to the world, its vibrant democracy, and its commitment to peace in the region.
Both students look forward to returning to campus and sharing their experiences with peers.
“It’s a story that I’ll be able to tell about my own experience,” said Miguel. “Of course, I came with JNF-USA, but we are not told what to think. We come to our own conclusions.”
Lexi hopes she can share the truth about Israel with as many people as possible. “Just being able to go home and go back to our campuses and friends and when we hear things on the news we can say, ‘well, maybe that’s not what I saw,’” she said.
Click here to learn more about JNF-USA’s Caravan for Democracy.