With various political and religious bloggers taking potshots—or launching artillery attacks—at the tiny state of Israel, someone was bound to have a good idea and host influential writers and journalists so that they could see for themselves just what the Jewish state is really all about.
In June, the America-Israel Friendship League (AIFL) launched a “blogger tour” of Israel. By all accounts, it was a smashing success.
Writing for National Review in June, Deroy Murdock, a syndicated columnist, made it clear that seeing Israel in person has a dramatic effect on one’s perceptions:
I was fortunate to see Israel for the first time last week, thanks to the America-Israel Friendship League. Five of the eleven journalists on AIFL's fact-finding trip were new here. Keys and other artists likely would find Israel at least as surprising as we did.
First and foremost, Israel's omnipresence in the U.S. media makes it sound like a superpower. But as much as anything, Israel is impressively compact. At just 7,992 square miles, it is slightly larger than Clark County, Nevada (greater Las Vegas), but smaller than New Hampshire. Israel is crowded on three sides by Lebanon, Syria, Jordan, Saudi Arabia, and Egypt. It could fit 157 times within the land masses of those countries.
Sandy Rios, vice-president of Family-Pac Federal, recognized in the Israeli people a laundry list of character traits that separate them from their critics, particularly the barbarians committed to destroying them.
Mostly on this trip, I saw the value of a cohesive culture and by that I would say Israel is filled with Jews of all descriptions. Secular, religious—tons of differences, but they have a common language, a common educational system. They learn Hebrew, Jewish history, the modern history of Israel, and serve in the military. There is a common sense of purpose.
Rios, a leader in the Christian community in the U.S., also said with a tinge of sadness:
Israelis create energy and focus, and pride in their culture. Qualities I remember America used to have. I love that in Israel, I envy that.
With a growing number of evangelical Christian bloggers advocating for the Palestinian narrative, the AIFL-sponsored trip was even more critical because it brought Christian leaders over who can counter the propaganda. Robin Mazyck, CBN Bureau Chief in Washington, used her first trip to Israel to gain a well-rounded perspective of the Jewish state. Included in her education was the fact that Israel is far from the “apartheid state” her enemies claim.
There are Muslim Arabs who voluntarily serve in the IDF, and Israel issues thousands of work permits to Palestinians living in the West Bank,” she said. Obviously, I knew the situation in the Middle East was complicated, but I didn’t understand just how extremely murky the waters were until I learned those things.
Religious diversity in Israel is another reality Mazyck was pleasantly surprised to see:
I saw nuns walking next to Muslims and ultra-orthodox Jews walking past Catholic priests in Jerusalem. I certainly wasn’t expecting to see this. I knew that the Old City was important to Judaism, Christianity and Islam, but I wasn’t expecting this at all. Israel is extremely diverse – there are people there from around the world. Every ethnicity you can imagine is represented in this tiny country.
Upon returning to the States, Mazyck sees clearly the benefits:
I have shared the experiences from my trip with my colleagues, my friends and my family. The trip has given me a new perspective and insight.
CBN News has a bureau in Jerusalem, and I stopped by for a visit. Seeing their facility and learning more about their workflow allowed me to offer them assistance from my bureau in DC. My early morning videographer is now on standby to help them when they need it.
Guy Benson, political editor for Townhall, and a talk radio personality, was grateful to see that his hosts embody an affinity for surviving that few understand:
We finished our Friday by attending a Shabbat service at an orthodox synagogue in Jerusalem, followed by a traditional dinner at the local rabbi’s home. During the meal, I watched the young rabbi carry out ancient religious rituals, surrounded by his happy, healthy and growing family. They sang in Hebrew, the same language their ancestors spoke. They practiced their forebears’ faith. And they did so in a safe and thriving Jewish state, located on the same parcel of land their people have inhabited for millennia. More than seventy years ago, a malignant ideology terrorized world Jewry. The resulting genocide continues to shock the free world’s collective conscience. But for all of Hitler’s vile efficiency, he and his killers ultimately failed. And that failure is embodied by the smiling, laughing, faithful family with whom our delegation broke bread last evening. How beautiful. How moving.
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