May 18, 2010
L.A. Latino Leaders Visit ‘Real’ Israel
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Paul Turner, president of Save Africa’s Children, a nonprofit that aids orphan and vulnerable children impacted by HIV/AIDS, armed conflict and poverty in Sub-Saharan Africa and the Caribbean, noted that exposure to the cultural nuances and dilemmas of the peace process here put both sides of the conflict into a new context.
“We are grappling with many of the same issues as Israel about how to make room for new immigrants and treat them justly,” Turner said. “As a young country that has absorbed people from so many different places, Israel provides a great model for this.”
Although the mission’s non-Jewish delegates were more interested in Israel’s social and economic models than in the religious and political conflicts here, at least one heated debate, with Palestinian scholar Rami Nasrallah, struck an emotional chord for Galán.
Nasrallah predicted in a lecture about the current political climate that without some Israeli compliance, there would be continued violence in the region. He also explained that many Palestinians regard Americans as puppets.
“We [Americans] have been through a traumatic experience, and we don’t have the stomach for that kind of violence,” Galán said. “They [the Palestinians] would have a much easier time if they did a hunger strike or something nonviolent. In the U.S. we don’t live like this on a daily basis, so we go into denial, but it was shocking to hear someone stand right in front of your face and say they are going to blow you up if you don’t comply.”
Despite moments of tension and political debates, the trip was seen as a clear success by Artzyeli and Andrew Cushnir, The Federation’s associate executive vice president and chief program officer. The delegates also visited numerous community projects supported by The Federation that are bringing about real change.
“We’ve brought numerous delegations from beyond the Jewish community to Israel over the years, but this trip was the largest and most diverse of its kind in many years,” Cushnir said in an e-mail after returning to Los Angeles. “The Jewish Federation’s goals were to bring greater understanding of Israel to Los Angeles and to bring our community closer to our neighbors in L.A. The trip worked on both fronts. ... Together we addressed issues ranging from the peace process, to immigration, to nonprofit leadership, to the formation of personal and community identity. We realized that all of our communities are different, yet it was also clear that we share so much.”
“Trips like this achieve things that you cannot explain by talking about them,” Artzyeli said. “Ideally we would bring 300 million Americans to Israel and show them what life is really like here. Since we can’t do that, we did the next best thing and brought inspiring leaders and media moguls who we hope will help bring a deeper understanding about Israel to their respective communities.”
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