In early November a group of representatives of Jewish organizations from South Africa arrived in Israel. They participated in a hasbara seminar organized by Partnership 2000 Beit Shemesh - Mateh Yehuda - Washington - South Africa of the Jewish Agency.
The Jewish community in South Africa expressed a strong willingness to send the mission, following a wave of anti-Semitic activity in the country, both in actual deeds and on the informational front, and Partnership 2000 rose to the occasion. The aim of the seminar was to introduce the representatives to the complex reality of Israel, the nature of the conflict and the opportunities Jews have abroad to help with Israel's public relations. The motif of the seminar was "Seeing the Situation on Foot" - in other words, taking trips around Israel, and gaining a sense of and a feeling for the actual situation.
On the first day there was a trip to Mateh Yehuda and Beit Shemesh, and our thanks go to the trip guide Harley Stark for his help. On the second day the group visited Jerusalem and went to the Temple Mount and the 1967 border, the neighborhood of Gilo and to the security wall at Ras el Amud. The group met a group of Christian supporters of Israel who help with hasbara for Israel all over the world, and finally met with Zehavi Appelbaum, head of the Israel branding section at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs who gave them an inspiring review of the ministry's activities.
On the third day of the seminar the group met an Israeli doctors' organization which helps Palestinian children with severe medical conditions, and continued on to the south where the mission members visited Sderot and the Gaza strip, and went to an observation point that overlooks the city of Gaza. At this point the group took on board a strong message, that Sderot is not a tiny community of 20-30 families as comes across in the world media, but an entire town which has suffered from rocket attacks for some years.
On the fourth day the tour focused on the story of the West Bank, and the implications of the Security Fence for the Arab and Israeli populations. The group visited the village of Bartaa and met some of the local residents who talked about their experiences in the village, how some families have been divided and about their relations with the Israeli authorities. The group later visited a slik (historic arms cache) at Nahalal and the cemetery where Moshe Dayan and Ilan and Assaf Ramon are buried. On the fifth day the tour focused on Israel's relations with its neighbors to the north - Syria, Lebanon, Iran and Turkey - via a trip along the border from the Golan Heights as far as Misgav Am.
The group reconvened on Saturday night, for an activity of which involved sending hasbara messages back to South Africa, and on Sunday the tour concentrated on Israeli success stories - founding Tel Aviv, inventing the electric car and developing strategic thinking such as the Reut Institute.
Throughout the seminar Israeli volunteers from the Partnership joined in, and shared their knowledge and experiences with the group. This is the time to offer our thanks to Mrs. Mickey Bloomberg, representative of the South African community, and Hagit Banit who provided great help with preparing and running the seminar, and to Avihu Cohen who help devise the seminar.
Following the success of the seminar, the South African community asked to hold another one towards the end of the year.