Young Israelis on mission to improve their country's image


A GROUP of eight young Israeli people have come to Ireland to tell their stories in a bid to improve their country’s image.

The “Faces of Israel” group includes a Muslim policewoman, a journalist who is an Ethiopian Jew, an actor and a former soldier from a secular immigrant background.

The Ireland-Israel Friendship League is supporting the group, which arrived last Friday and will travel to Belfast today.

One of the group is Adam Briscoe, grandnephew of former Fianna Fáil TD Ben Briscoe. He said the initiative was important because the Irish and UK media tended to focus solely on the conflict in Israel.

“There is a whole other side to this story and we understand that people here want to talk about the conflict because that’s what they see, that’s what they read about, but there’s so much more,” he said.

“Israel has the number one most start-ups per capita in the world and information like this is stuff that we need to get out because we want to create cultural exchanges that go beyond just the political divisions.” They addressed a meeting in UCD on Monday night and met DIT students union leaders yesterday.

The tour is timed to coincide with Israeli Apartheid Week – an annual international series of events with the stated aim of educating people about the nature of what is called Israeli apartheid against the Palestinian people. The Ireland Palestine Solidarity Campaign is hosting Israel Apartheid Week events here.

Mr Briscoe acknowledged the support for the Palestinian cause in Ireland and said pro-Palestinian campaigners had protested about the tour and debated the issues with them at the UCD meeting.

“We are happy to debate these people and discuss the issues,” he said “but that is a debate that will constantly happen, that people will never be able to get over. That’s something that people take sides on and there’s so much more positive matter that we can agree upon and things that we can come together and co-operate over.”

High school teacher Amnon Shefler said he was in Dublin because he wanted people to know there were many different faces to his country. “I don’t believe there is one truth. I believe there’s always two sides or more to the story,” he said.

“When people are hearing one story they should look and be critical about it. There’s always another story . . . this is a very, very complicated issue.”

Apart from the conflict, Ms Shefler said Irish people were interested in hearing about kibbutzim and about the beaches and parties in Tel Aviv.

Actor Aki Avni said he had many Palestinian friends. “My fellow actors in the theatre, they do the same as I do,” he said. “We care not just about ourselves. The majority, most of the Palestinians, want to live in peace and quiet and have a wonderful life as they deserve, as we want to have.”

As a member of a Haredi family, Sari Diskind comes from an ultra-Orthodox tradition. She said her life, as a divorced mother who worked outside the home, was an example of the many diverse strands that reflected the Israeli-Jewish narrative.

The tour was organised by the Israeli ministry of public diplomacy and diaspora affairs. However, she said, the group was not told what to say. “They are not telling me what to say. I can say everything I want.”