Seventy U.S. college student leaders met with Israeli political, cultural and community leaders from diverse backgrounds and faiths on the recent Jewish National Fund-USA Caravan for Democracy Student Leadership Mission to Israel, which aims to facilitate constructive dialogue about Israel and the Middle East on college campuses across America.

“Ahead of the trip, we each received a copy of Be Strong and of Good Courage from JNF,” said Ohio State University student Jake Horton. “The book talks about Israel’s history, and I became aware of how much I didn’t know about what existed there before 1948.”

On the 10-day mission, these non-Jewish student leaders, who had never before been to Israel, visited significant sites, including the Mount of the Beatitudes, the Western Wall, Masada, the Dead Sea and Yad Vashem, Israel’s memorial to the victims of the Holocaust.

“When we visited Yad Vashem, we realized the true meaning of how those who forget history are doomed to repeat it,” said George Washington University student Marvelouse Guerrier. “As I grow as a student leader, and as someone who wants to become involved in government, I have a responsibility to speak up for those who are marginalized. I knew this already; however, it really resonated with me during our visit to Yad Vashem.”

Supported by a lead gift from the JNF Boruchin Center, Caravan for Democracy participants represent a broad cross-section of students who hold leadership positions in university student organizations, including government, ethnic and minority groups; LGBTQ groups; women’s groups; service groups; and Greek life.

Caravan for Democracy college student leaders visit Masada, January 2020. Credit: JNF-USA.

“As a result of the mission, I want to work more with my local Hillel to spread positive information about Israel,” said Brian Huang, a U.S. Navy ROTC and student at Union College in Schenectady, N.Y. “Anti-Israel sentiment isn’t as prevalent on my campus, as it is on others, but it is important that we change the narrative in general.”

Cornell University student, John Dominguez knows the divisive and destructive nature of the anti-Israel movement all too well.

“Last year, the BDS resolution at Cornell served as a turning point in my life,” he said. “At the time, I was running for student body president, and I knew I had a responsibility to support efforts to block the bill. By organizing more people to come to the student government vote, we were able to defeat the bill.”

Such activism is a goal of the program. As Jewish National Fund CEO Russell F. Robinson said, “It’s important for college students to understand the positive impact Israel has had, and continues to have, on the world. We are showing students a side of Israel they may not see in the media, and we are doing it in a way where participants can form their own views.”

Click here  for more information on Caravan for Democracy or contact Nelson France at NFrance@jnf.org.

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