By Nadav Schachter, Israeli Emissary (Shaliach) of the JCFR
Before we get started, I should introduce myself: My name is Nadav Schachter and I'm the new Israeli Emissary/Shaliach in Richmond.
I was born and raised in Netanya, which is right next door to our P2K community, Emek Hefer. I am 22 years old, recently finished four years of service in the Intelligence corps of the Israel Defense Force, and I am now serving Israel in our community.
Now that we are no longer strangers, let's play a word association game. Think about the word "Israel," what are the first five things that come to mind?
Done? Most of the times, the answers I hear from people are along these lines: "Desert," "Camel," "Falafel," "Soldiers" and "Jerusalem." Wow, sounds like this "Israel" is the Ultra-Orthodox version of Aladdin.
But hey, we had it coming. I mean, when almost every Birthright Israel group goes on a camel ride as part of their Israel experience - the paradigm "Israel = Camels" sticks (and when you buy this, you get the "Desert" paradigm absolutely free! Order today).
Of course, we all know where "soldiers" came from, thanks to our friends from Sky News and CNN. (The falafel is actually really great though, don't worry about that).
Symbols create paradigms. Paradigms are what our opinions are based on, and our opinions lead us to action (or lack thereof, for that matter).
Or in other words, why should a cool-nineteen-years-old student go to a semester abroad in a country that's known for its amazing camels and glorified warriors? I certainly wouldn't have. Moreover, if one has a negative or even an indifferent opinion about Israel, the Jewish homeland, I can only imagine how that affects his Jewish pride and affiliation in his own local community.
We need to stop and think and look at all the amazing things about Israel that did not come to mind initially. Lonely Planet has chosen Tel Aviv as the 3rd best city in the world. Stanley Fischer, Israel's central bank governor, was declared Central Bank Governor of the Year 2010 by "Euromoney" magazine.
Also, statistics show that Israel has more start-up companies, museums, clean-tech ventures and creates more medical devices per capita than any other country in the world.
Better yet, how can we use those and other facts to create a different, more complex perception of Israel?
I would love to hear from you, call me at 545-8655 or e-mail me at Nadav@jewishrichmond.org.