By Erez Agami, new UJS Developing J-Soc Officer and participant of the UJS Chazon Israel Trip, summer 2014
It is always hard to condense a week’s worth of training and activities in Israel into a few paragraphs, especially this particular trip; occurring as it did during a time of tension and upheaval in Israel.
In addition, I embarked on the trip a mere six days after starting my new job with UJS and only four days after my graduation!
Usually, my trips to Israel consist of: visits to my family in Haifa, time spent sunning myself in Tel Aviv and visits to various tourist attractions such as Masada and the Dead Sea.
This trip, however, was very different; from the beginning we plunged into deep discussions on the biggest issues in Israeli society.
Whether it was learning in a secular yeshiva, discussing the Israeli-Palestinian conflict in Rabin Square or engaging with disability issues in Jaffa with a ‘Dinner in the Dark’; the whole team threw themselves into it with passion and an eagerness to take these conversations back with us to campuses across the UK and Ireland.
Some parts of the trip to Israel brought a smile to everyone’s face; such as seeing the fantastic work that Save a Child’s Heart (SACH) are doing, or experiencing a cross-communal, pre-Shabbat, music festival in Jerusalem. This was especially important for the team and myself given how popular Friday night dinners and social action campaigns are to so many Jewish students.
The rising tensions with Gaza during our time in Israel also brought home for me the importance of UJS as a place where Jewish students can come together and express their Jewish identity and engage with Israel, whatever the prevailing political situation and atmosphere on campus.
It was great to hear so many diverse perspectives, ranging from those of left-wing students at the Hebrew University to perspectives of settler leaders in the West Bank. Engaging with these viewpoints can only help us with our own Israel engagement.
For me, this trip to Israel has reminded me why I got involved with my J-Soc in the first place and what drove me to work with UJS.
As cheesy as it sounds, I feel re-inspired to start the year, meet as many students as I can and help support the fantastic work that Jewish students are doing across the country.
I am confident that this team, which I got to know so well over this trip, can do great things this year and I look forward to working with the fantastic Jewish student community. See you all soon!