Conflict & Hope: Day 2, Speakers 2 and 3

After hearing Ms. Harrow we boarded back onto our armored bus and made our way to a place where we listened to two speakers, both of which have asked to have their names and job positions kept confidential. Due to that, and that they told us some of what they said is “off the record,” I am limited to what I will post. I want to add that these people are very respectable and I really valued their input and felt I learned a lot from them. They were very admirable for the work they do, and it inspired me to want to do something similar. In fact one of the speakers gave us some great advice which I’ll forever cherish, “Embrace it, enrich yourself, there is a lot to learn here.” Don’t worry, I am learning, I am learning every day.

The first speaker touched upon the subject of “Israel through the Eyes of the World.” The first question asked was, “How do you function with one message when your political system is so varied?” Though Israel is a democracy, the people living here come from 120 different nations, the majority of which are not democratic. For example, 1/3 of Israeli Jews are Russian and from the Soviet Union.

We then talked about the regions surrounding Israel, focusing a lot on the instability of Lebanon, the power of Hezbollah, and the proximity of Iran and Syria. Oddly enough, it was mentioned how some current moderate countries were Jordan and Egypt. Funny how things can change so rapidly.

We then went into further detail of the Arab world. Today there are 21 states and around 300 million people, 60% of which are under the age of 25. At this point nothing major had happened, but the topic was brought up of the beginning of the revolution by the young in Tunisia. It was also said how in Syria the younger generation was really turning out due to there being no job development, no innovation, no resources for creation, and quite simply, “people have nothing to do.” Again, it’s funny how things can change so rapidly.

We then compared the surrounding areas to Israel and learned just how good it is here. Israel’s economy is one of the best in the world. Australia is currently having researchers coming here to find out how the economy has continued to thrive even through the recession. Innovation is thriving, doctors are inventing machines to help the paralyzed to walk, Israeli solar companies are opening offices in California, the first of the electric cars will be sold here, a purified water system will be running soon to help with the water problem in Israel and surrounding countries. Stanley Fischer (An economist and the current Governor of the Bank of Israel), is trying to buy enough U.S. dollars to keep the shekels strong in the world for importing and exporting. It’s always fascinating how young of a country Israel is but how much has been accomplished in such a short amount of time.

As always, in Israel there is “A lot to talk about, a lot to think about, a lot to be proud about, but there are a lot of challenges here.” The biggest thing is how the world views Israel. From the left the sky seems to be falling. From the right it seems like everything is great. But really, it’s smack dab in the middle. “Things are never as good or as bad as they seem. Things are however, more complicated than what you hear in soundbytes.”

As far as the Israeli/Palestinian conflict, the speaker felt the focus was in the wrong place. The reality and conflict is very important, but “it’s not the whole enchilada.” The public relations situation here is not that great, but it’s certainly no easy feat. The situation is way more dangerous than just a press release or some media kits, PR and its materials are critical. It is a matter of national security and putting warfare on a whole new level.

The next speaker we had spoke on how the world is changing rapidly, especially jobs in the journalism and the rest of the media world which are ever-changing. Many of the problems lie within the fact that people think bloggers are fact. To stick up for myself, I do try to be as truthful and objective as I can be. Ok, sometimes being objective is hard, but hey I am a blogger after all! We touched upon the impact of Wikileaks. How does the press deal with this? Is it credible? Will something more “exciting” come about on the site? In the future world of journalism we were told that things like blogs will be incorporated into news carrier’s websites. “Holy Moly it’s Lauren’s Blog” tab on CNN.com — I can see it now!

We then touched on Israel and the rest of the Middle East. “The truth [of the whole situation] is an elusive. You’re never going to catch it.” Everybody spins and it’s very easy to fall into the web of it all. It’s very important to be out there in the thick of it, see it for yourself. Ramallah, a Palestinian city in the West Bank of Israel, is so “normal” and the world thinks it’s this dangerous place. But when the speaker visited there with her friend just the week before, the friend could not believe how calm it was and how many cafes and shops there were. The friend had trouble believing this was the center of a news scare.

The speaker gets to meet people on both sides of the conflict, and told us that each side is a truth if you choose to believe one or the other. After covering both sides so extensively over the years, “I [the speaker] think that I don’t have an opinion anymore.”

When the two speakers had ended we touched upon the conflict a bit more and on the topic of the settlements. Israel has all these people there, what do they do with them? But Palestinians feel as though they bought a full-price bottle of water for $5.00 and only received it half-way filled. We were told to continue to be an educated listener and reader. And from there, we boarded back onto the bus to prepare for Shabbat.

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