HomeMarch 2014Varying Degrees

Varying Degrees

As the shaliach (ambassador) for Israel on Orange County college campuses, Lihi Gordon has a message to impart: “People don’t know Israel until they go.  It’s not just what they see on the news. Beyond the media hype, beyond the politics and wars, Israelis lead very normal lives.”
Gordon thinks that the best way to show people what Israel is about is through culture. She hosts events at her apartment where college students from all over the county can watch Israeli films. “Besides being a democratic place in every other way, Israel gives its filmmakers the freedom to criticize the government and the society,” she said.
She also helped students with handing out roses at UCI during Valentine’s Day week with the message, “from Israel with love.” It was all part of the “Israel Loves You” campaign to show the many sides of Israel to Jewish students and anyone else who might be listening. At the event, which was held on February 11, the group handed out 50 roses and a postcard as well. The event was broadcast on Google Hangouts and Live on YouTube and was a collaboration of the shlichim at York University, Toronto; Arizona State University; Towson University, Baltimore; Brooklyn College, New-York; Portland State University, Portland and UCI. The initiative was created by Shaliach Matan Evrany at York University, Toronto.
Now all of the major campuses in Orange County have Israel clubs. They hope to show the cultural side of Israel at every opportunity.
Sharon Shaoulian, vice president of Anteaters For Israel (AFI), Israel’s pro Israel, student-run club, said, “I am proud to say that UC Irvine is on track to encourage Zionism on campus. Finding a balance between the promotion of culture and the discussion of politics, AFI offers students a better understanding of Israel through opening the lines of dialogue.”
Shaoulian added that the group hosts weekly “Pizza, Politics and Parasha” sessions, brings speakers from various backgrounds and tables on campus for Israeli philanthropies. “A number of us also attended the AIPAC Policy Conference to better our skills in advocacy,” she said. “But whether it’s through inviting prominent speakers from Sderot or embracing our beautiful culture through a weeklong campus celebration of Israel in May, AFI is a strong organization that lets UCI know that everybody can relate to the Israeli narrative.”
At Chapman Mai Gattenyo founded a new club called Panthers For Israel. The club, which is new on campus this semester, aims to educate the Chapman population about Israel.
According to Gattenyo, “I found that at Chapman, there isn’t so much a problem with anti-Israel sentiment but rather with ignorance. The average Chapman student knows little to nothing about Israel and the problems currently in the Middle East. Panthers For Israel is thus important because it is the campus’s sole access point to receiving Israel education.
Panthers For Israel aims to bring Israel closer to the students at Chapman, “so that it is no longer a foreign nation that students occasionally hear about in the news, but rather a nation that students can connect to,” Gattenyo said. “In the coming semester, I aim to start programs with other groups on campus to bring Israel closer to them. For instance, I am working on seeing if Dodge School of Film is interested in doing an Israeli movie night as an access point to Israel for students. Panthers For Israel aims to bring an Israel presence and Israel education to the Chapman community and is consequently important for opening the dialogue about Israel with Chapman students.”
Cal State Fullerton is starting Titans for Israel. Gordon hopes to get local community college students involved as well.

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