On February 2, 2015, The Nachshon Project had the opportunity to meet with Michael Yakobi. Michael Yakobi served the Israel Defense Forces (IDF) in a very unique capacity. In the Spokesperson’s Unit, Yakobi was in charge of the IDF’s presence on social media. The different networks of social media that the Spokesperson’s Unit is in charge of includes, but is not limited to, their YouTube channel and Twitter handle.
It is clear that we live in a world where social media has a great impact on the spread of information and public opinion of major world events. So it would make sense that war and military action would not be very different. The Israel Defense Forces was the first military to revolutionize war through the use of YouTube and live twitter feeds.
It is no secret that the media skews the manner in which the Arab-Israeli conflict is portrayed to the public, so the IDF took measures into their own hands in attempts to get the word out about the real tactics and missions of the IDF. On their YouTube channel, the IDF posted videos of second hand explosions in Gaza that proved the schools and other civilian sites were being used to store military weaponry in recent war. However, the media did not accept this footage because it did not fit well into the image of Israel that they try to portray, so Israel found a way of showing it to the public and attempt to level the slanted playing field they have been given.
One of the most interesting parts of learning from Michael Yakobi was discovering a whole new purpose to social media. In today’s world, nearly anyone who owns a smart phone spends several hours a day checking social media. Whether it is Twitter, Instagram, Facebook, or LinkedIn, people are constantly displaying themselves on the Internet for others to see. It is remarkable to see that the IDF can use social media to achieve a goal much larger than showcasing a cool vacation. It will be interesting to see where the world is headed in terms of social media and military action, and it is amazing to think that Israel revolutionized this surprising area of warfare.
Written by Megan Brumer
Our longest lecture so far has been about how to teach Israel to others, given by Zeev Ben-Shachar.Through the span of ten hours, split into two, he taught an abridged version of what he would teach in an entire semester.
In the first block we focused on the physical dimension, the representation and presentation of Israel, and the fundamentals of advocacy, how to communicate what is happening in Israel.One of the points that he continually emphasized which stood out to me was that in order to really understand Israel, you need to zoom out and look at the bigger picture.If you only look at a snapshot of a photo, you can’t understand what the picture is actually staying.In the same way, if you only look at a small part of Israel, you don’t learn what is really happening.
During the second block, we learned about the historical dimension, the history, of Israel. We learned about what gives Israel the right to be a state, and about the issues with regards to refugees and occupation.At the end, he explained the steps to writing a good Israel program and there was one point that stuck out to me, “learn to fail or fail to learn.”In order to make a successful program, you have to learn from your mistakes.If you don’t learn from your mistakes, then you can’t make a fully successful program.
Overall, Zeev Ben-Shachar has given us a basis in order to teach Israel to the people at home, both at camp and at our college campuses.We can now use this information to further our Israel curricula and make sure that we teach Israel in the best way possible.
Written by Megan Zimmer
So far, being a Nachshon Fellow has been inspiring and getting us very excited for the summer to come. A few weeks ago, many of our camp directors came to Israel for the hiring process for many of the Israeli staff members that come to our camps each summer. Myself and many of the Nachshon Fellows got the chance to meet up with our camp directors and share our experience in Israel so far! Personally, I took this great opportunity to express how excited and motivated I am for this summer to come. It is every camp counselor’s dream to be able to talk camp every single day and that is what Nachshon provides for us, along with many other things.
When sitting down with my director, Geoff Menkowitz, we got a chance to just catch up and talk about the summer to come. Ramah Darom is beginning the most amazing and inspirational program this summer, our very own Tikvah Program: an inclusion program made specifically for children with autism, which was amazing to hear all about the future plans and what has been done so far in preparation for this summer. It was also great to have an advantage and hint to Geoff what we would like for a staff gift this summer, even though he might have not actually liked our ideas. All in all, it was amazing to see a familiar face and not have to start off a conversation with “At my camp, we do…”. We are all so passionate about our camp and it was great to be able to share that with our own director!
Written by Jesse Ryan Nagelberg
On Thursday, February 12th, after a morning of Ulpan, the 21 Nachshon Fellows boarded a bus and made our way towards Tel Aviv/Yafo for what would be an eye opening and thought provoking shabbaton that explored different expressions of Judaism in Israel. Our first stop on that journey was at Alma, a pluralistic educational institution that is dedicated to renewing Hebrew culture, where we spent a lovely afternoon immersed in text study.
We delved into the intricacies and meanings behind the opening lines of Parashat Lech Lecha, in which Abram is famously instructed: “Lecha Lecha m’artzecha, m’moladetecha, u m’beit avicha, el haartez asher arecha,” which translates to “Go forth from your native land and from your father’s house to the land that I will show you”. I quickly picked up on the fact that the 21 of us embarking on the Nachshon Project, most of us not knowing what to expect, bore a striking resemblance to the passage we were reading.
But almost a month and a half into being here, I admit that I have a pretty clear picture of what to expect from my participation in this program and my time in Israel. I no longer think of being a Nachshon fellow as walking into the unknown, instead I see another connection with Abraham. The journey that Abraham began after being instructed “Lech Lecha” by Hashem, lead to years of learning, growing, and transforming. I think that as Nachshon fellows, we too have embarked on a similar journey.
We learn all the time! Not just in the intense month of ulpan that is now behind us and in our courses that have just begun, but also in everything we do. Every session, every speaker, every experience we take part in, and even every time we share an idea with the group. It has become the custom among us to de-breif with each other after each session and each speaker. To hear what others liked and disliked, what angered them, and what puzzled them. I truly appreciate knowing that each one of us brings such different perspectives and points of views to the wide range of topics that we discuss. It makes learning about each other and from each other that much more interesting.
And from there we grow and transform. Our experience at Alma, all 21 of us actively engaging in learning together, is in my opinion the reason I am here. My time as a Nachshon Fellow so far has challenged me to embrace new ideas and has forced me to reconsider preconceived notions. I re-read the notes I take and think about the implications of ideas, notions, and theories on my life and my future. I see myself actively learning, actively growing, and actively transforming. For me, the Nachshon Project is part of my Lech Lecha journey, and even if I never find all of the answers I am looking for, I am really, truly, enjoying the process.
Written by Benjy Forester
Amidst a busy and exciting day of getting our head shots taken, attending a HaPoel Yeushalayim basketball game, and all 21 Fellows pounding through Ulpan homework in Rabbi Zeff’s living room, we all had the privilege of participating in a shiur (learning session) with Rabbi Tamar Elad-Appelbaum.
Rabbi Tamar shared with us her story of discovering liberal Judaism, which was much different from our upbringings in which we take our backgrounds for granted. Rabbi Tamar grew up in Jerusalem as a part of a traditional Moroccan family. During one Passover Seder when she was young, she noticed the marginalized participation of women, and she insisted that their seclusion in the kitchen end so that all could participate fully in the Seder. From that day, she realized a passion for Jewish text and wisdom that had never been made accessible to her, and she began a process of seeking out and immersing in all opportunities to engage with Jewish thinkers, texts, and ideas.
Hoping to spread her values and passion for knowledge, she figured she would accomplish her goals by being a teacher. However, a friend of hers who was about to begin his studies to become a rabbi told her that it is unjustifiable that he should become a rabbi and not her. She told him that he may be right, but this is the way it is. The friend encouraged her to come to America, where she knew liberal Judaism existed and flourished, and to study to become a rabbi. She and her husband came to New York with no roots or resources in America, and she began her studies at the Jewish Theological Seminary. She shared with us her immense appreciation for American Jewry that nuances and thinks critically about Jewish tradition.
Upon returning home to Israel, Rabbi Tamar was once more bothered despite its label as the Holy City for all Jews, and despite the diversity amongst its residents, it remained dramatically compartmentalized. Rather than perpetuate or be complacent with the “black and white” perception of Judaism in Jerusalem (where one is either considered religious [i.e. Orthodox] or secular), she decided to create a community based on the value of pluralism and celebration of people’s differences. She founded Zion, a congregation whose mission it is to Jews of different backgrounds, origins, observances, and traditions. She said that during a service, one should necessarily expect to know certain tunes and have never heard of others, and through that discomfort, learn to grow and appreciate the diversity of the Jewish people.
I found the message to be not only beautiful but truly crucial for ensuring the sanctity of Jerusalem, both abstractly and in terms of the actual lives of its residents. Our program has exposed us to many different types of Judaism, not to show us what we are not, but to expose us to different people who study the same Torah as we do, worship the same God, but diverge tremendously in terms of practice and ideology. Those experiences have been both uncomfortable and challenging, but through that discomfort, just like at Rabbi Tamar’s shul, we are able to gain a complete perspective on what it means to be Jewish, and how beautiful all the different Jewish voices can be. As emerging Jewish leaders, it has been tremendously powerful for our group, which is in itself diverse, to broaden our perspective and realize and appreciate the broad scope of Judaism. Only through openness, discomfort, and growth can we break down the walls between communities, remove labels, and foster a more conducive Jewish community.
Guest speaker Tamar Elad-Applebaum addresses the Fellows at Rabbi Zeff’s house
BBQ at Rabbi Zeff’s! The Fellows look like they’re well-fed and having fun
The Fellows cheer on HaPoel Yerushalayim!
Tony Gaffney and Tamir Goodman after the basketball game
Tamir Goodman speaks to the Fellows in the pressroom
The Nachshon Fellows with the URJ Camp Directors
Written by Naomi LeVine
As we pulled away from the kibbutz, the mutual feeling in the bus was one reminiscent of leaving our parents for our first year of college. The adventure ahead would be amazing, but we were leaving the comforts of the Rabbis, a familiar space, and each other. However, as we got nearer to Jerusalem, the bus began to buzz with excitement. My nose was glued to the window, ready to see my favorite city and new home.
We arrived to the campus, and in classic Nachshon style, everyone helped take bags off the bus. We received our rooming assignments, and the realization hit that we really weren’t all going to be together, yet people still helped carry each other’s bags to the rooms. It was the first time in a week that we hadn’t been constantly together. And yet, whatever we built that first week lasted. When we passed other fellows on the tour that first day, we frantically waved at each other. We sat in Nachshon clumps during orientation, rode the bus to buy supplies for our apartments together, and visited each other’s new spaces, walking in without feeling the need to knock. On the first day of Ulpan, seeing familiar faces in the halls and in classes gave me and the other fellows a huge sense of comfort in an otherwise overwhelming situation. It made me realize how grateful I am that I have these twenty people with whom to share this crazy journey.
Written by Preston Neimeiser
After a long but interesting day of learning about Israeli technological innovations we had worked up quite an appetite; thus, it seemed fitting to satiate ourselves with a prime example of Israeli Culinary innovation. Eretz Ir has all the feelings of a typical high-end burger bar, but what makes it unique is its presentation. Despite having arrived early for our reservation, Kobi, one of the amiable owners and founders of Eretz Ir, saw that twenty-one hungry fellows, two rabbis, and a lovely program coordinator were seated post-haste and attended to by the sweetest waitress in Tel Aviv who happened to speak impeccable English. After ordering drinks (Eretz Ir has over forty local Israeli beers) we had the opportunity to hear Kobi speak about his passion for good beer and good food. Kobi and his army buddies founded Eretz Ir intent on sharing their passion with the country and have done so remarkably well. The food was delicious and the beer crisp and perfectly poured. We dined on kosher roast beef sandwiches and burgers and sausages, stuffing our faces with fries and mashed potatoes and salad in between. Each beer came with a story and the music playing in the bar wasn’t too loud to enjoy each other’s company. Our trip also gave us the chance to reflect on all the companies we had spent time with that day. Each one of us seemed to come away with the same feeling of amazement with how ingenious Israelis have been in not only developing tech products, but also in the diversity of their marketing (make sure you look for Wix’s superbowl commercial).
Getting the chance to sit and eat and drink with together as fellows of the Nachshon project also inspired us to think of our own creative marketing schemes. How could we share our passions with the world most effectively? Could we not only create, but also inspire ideas that were innovative enough to disseminate the things we truly care about to people all over? Even after leaving the restaurant with very full bellies, we continued these conversations late into the night and got to know each other that much better. Being exposed to all those amazing, innovative companies made us want to be amazing and innovative too. Just like Kobi said, his eyes twinkling with what could only be intense devotion “When you find what you really care about, you’re only half way there. You’ve got to share that love and make other people love it too. Because when you make something good, you’re compelled to make it the best it can be. And that means getting everyone on board.”
Written by Aaron Spiro
Today I am checking in from Tel Aviv, where I am wrapping up this city and starting my adventure in Jerusalem! Over the last week I have been here with the 21 fellows in my Israeli program. I have made some amazing friends that I can’t wait to get to know even better over the semester. But, to be honest, that is not what I am going to talk about today. The real topic is: Snowball.
To elaborate, Snowball Studios is an animation company based in Tel Aviv. Today I had the chance to hear a presentation from none other than the CEO himself, Yoni Cohen. It wasn’t just a presentation about the start of the company, but a story of his life’s successes and challenges. It was amazing to hear his motivation throughout different stages of his life. Even as a thirteen year old, he knew he had a passion for animation. Seeing how he pushed and worked throughout his life made me want to strive for success each minute.
He started with local businesses. When he was in high school, he found success by asking what seemed to be the obvious question, yet, had no forward answer. Yoni realized the potential of 3-D digital modeling in production plants and capitalized on it. Just by going out to businesses and showing his skills, he found a bountiful supply of work during his high school career. Once he entered the Air Force, he knew that it wasn’t where he was meant to be. (He also got kicked out for spending too much time designing…) Once the Israeli Defense Forces saw the potential of his skills, they made a whole separate unit just for 3-D modeling and animation for uses from promotion to field technologies. Yoni talked about how great it was to be able to grow the new unit similar to starting a new business, but without having the personal risk involved. After the IDF Yoni started his own business.
Just like high school all over again, he took to the streets to find clients by making meetings to show his work. Thinking in the United States, I could never imagine success from this tactic. But Yoni knew that the uses of Animation were applicable in so many areas, and he did not have any competition in Israel. His business became and still is thriving with over 50 people now working under him. It really is true that Israel is the “Start-up” nation. I have never seen such drive to create new and revolutionary ideas from so many people in such a small place.
Over the next five months I cannot wait to learn even more about what makes Israeli start-ups so successful. Just by being with the Fellows I can tell that each one of them is just as passionate to learn and discover all that Israel has to offer. When I ask someone in the States what they think of when I say Israel, the answer usually results in tensions, or missiles, but they are missing so much more to the country. My hope is that through my travels I can share with everyone the amazing accomplishments that Israel has to offer, and not just the headline story of the week. Take Yoni for example, he never gave up, and look what he created: A success that will live on for days to come.
Written by Emily Rothstein
In my eyes, the most anticipated event of the orientation week had to be our visit to Google. Since I had arrived in Israel, I was counting down the days until we were going to Google. With that being said it very unclear as to how it had anything to do with learning how to become Jewish leaders, but throughout the visit and the high tech day as a whole, it all made sense.
We walked into Google headquarters in Tel Aviv and were immediately greeted with free soft drinks and coffee. The lobby area was oddly shaped with intricate floors; it just screamed Google. After being greeted by Avi Rosenchein, a programmer at Google, we were led into a conference to learn more about the technology and innovation of the company. The conference room itself, was on a floor that was themed like a Kibbutz. There were orange trees, carpeting that looked like wood, and a huge tractor. On the surface it seemed a bit crazy that this was in a work place but this is what helps the creative juices flowing. The uniqueness of the office is what makes Google so different. While listening to Avi, we learned about the four different sectors in Google, certain projects that Google TLV has done like live results for sports, weather, and flights, as well as putting museum artifacts online so that it is accessible to everyone. The project that stood out the most for me was the Campus TLV project.
Campus TLV brings in different startups to Google and gives them resources as well as provides them with training. Being that Google is a multibillion-dollar worldwide organization, it is safe to say they have some of the best resources for people trying to start a company. We spent a lot of the week talking about “The Start Up Nation” and conversed about why Israel, as small as it is, has some of the most successful startups in the world. Answers were based around values learned in the army as well as the fact that they cannot trade with their bordering countries, but after being at Google, the factor of community became my answer. The Jewish/Israeli community is beyond strong throughout the country. Having a common bond creates a community where everyone is there to help each other. Campus TLV is something that is unique to this Google branch and I think that directly reflects the community that is in Israel as opposed to those in other countries.
Bringing it back to why we went to Google, seeing the community in action is something that we can take to our future careers. With the knowledge that we will have and resources that Nachshon Project is providing us with, we can help train the future Jewish community the same way in which Google is helping training future entrepreneurs.
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