New, Bold and Profound

October 30, 2017
 

 

StandWithUs educator Yahya Mahamid
StandWithUs educator Yahya Mahamid

StandWithUs San Diego (SWU) is entering its third year. Under the executive directorship of Sara Miller and an expanded board headed by Mitch Danzig, esq. from Mintz Levin, there will be additional programs for teens and college students, new sponsorship levels and an exciting evening planned for its Festival of Lights gala.

Tickets are selling fast for the December 2 event, which begins at 6:30 p.m. at the Marriott Marquis hotel.

Yahya Mahamid, 19, is an Israeli-Arab-Zionist and StandWithUs educator. Although indoctrinated from childhood to hate Jews and Israel, he will recount how his contacts with Israelis transformed his views. He decided to do what he can to combat the demonization of Israel. Today, Yahya bravely speaks out for Israel and against hatred.

Dore Gold, Israel’s former ambassador to the U.N. and President of the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs, is the keynote speaker. An expert on foreign policy, Dore will provide an insider’s view of U.S. – Israel relationship and the Iran deal.

The entertainment hails from Israel. KIPPALIVE, who stole the show as the most popular finalists in Israel’s “X Factor,” invite all to share their dynamic sound.

Dinner co-chairs are Natalie Josephson and Jaime Feder. Co-sponsors are Jenny and Julian Josephson and Shirley and Harold Pidgeon.

Natalie Josephson recalls that, “Everything changed when I went to UCSD during Israel Hate Week. I was horrified to see the “Apartheid Wall,” BDS propaganda and hate speech against Israel. This is happening in our own backyard and we must not be silent.”

“When I think about the anti-Semitism occurring on campuses today, it makes me fear for when the first of my four kids will start college. We have to start providing them with the tools and information they will need so that they can be strong, confident and able to differentiate fact from falsehood,” states Jaime Feder.

Guests will meet the local new StandWithUs High School Interns and college Emerson Fellows. Created in 2001, the Emerson Fellowship selects student leaders on campuses throughout North America and trains them to educate their peers about Israel and how to combat anti-Israel rhetoric.

Ariana Arakelian is from SDSU and Orr Toledano attends UCSD. Ariana recalls that she was not especially active in Israel education as a freshman; at least not until the “Apartheid Wall” was erected at SDSU and “I realized I could no longer be a bystander.” As a SWU Emerson Fellow, she has already presented Israel 101 to her group Students Supporting Israel (SSI).

Orr is using the “tools, goals and guidelines” of the Emerson Fellowship to create substantive change on his campus regarding Israel education, increase involvement of the pro-Israel students and in the creation of effective events that engage various campus groups.

One objective of the SWU High School Internship – created in 2012 – is to prepare students for the anti-Israel related challenges they may face as college students. The 2017-18 Interns are: Trevor Lyons of the San Diego Jewish Academy and Karen Ptashek of Canyon Crest Academy.

Trevor became an intern because “I believe in Israel’s right to exist as a secure and independent state. I love Israel, and I wanted to help promote its goodness to the world.” Karen joined “to gain knowledge and expand my own knowledge base about Israel while making it a priority to teach others and influencing their points of views.”

All four attended and credit their respective August training conferences for providing the history, education and tools to have constructive, fact-based dialogue about Israel with different audiences including anti-Israel ones. They also learned how to plan effective events and to reach out to various student organizations.

The third tier of education is SWU’s newly launched middle school curriculum, “LINK – Discovering Your Israel Connection.” The six-lesson unit allows students to explore the historic Jewish roots to Israel while discovering their own personal, modern connection. LINK’s pilot testing last year demonstrated measurable and impressive results. San Diego Jewish Academy was one of the schools.

Director of Jewish Life and Judaic Studies, Maimonides Upper School Jeremy Toren praises LINK. “We at SDJA were thrilled at the opportunity to participate in the LINK pilot program and are excited to continue using the rich curricula in a variety of classes this year to gear up for our annual Israel Education Week. We place high value on our partnership with StandWithUs, as they do a wonderful job of enhancing the quality of our Israel education programs.”

The fourth tier emanates from SWU’s Israel Education Center in Jerusalem. Yahya Mahamid grew up in Umm el-Fahm, the third largest Arab city in Israel. Run by the Islamic movement, Yahya says the city is filled with ISIS logos and swastikas where people are told that Israel is an evil, oppressive regime. “You could not be both – Israeli or Palestinian, it is one or the other,” he explains.

Yahya learned the truth by working with Israelis. His first job in twelfth grade was as a busboy at a Tel Aviv hotel where he realized that he had been intentionally misled by his leadership. When three Israeli teenagers, Gilad Shaar, Eyal Yifrach and Naftali Fraenkel were kidnapped and eventually murdered in 2014, Yahya posted a photo with the hashtag #bringbackourboys. The police told him his life was in danger.

The StandWithUs Israel office contacted him by Facebook and he met the team in Jerusalem. It wasn’t long before he joined as an educator. Yahya traveled with the SWU delegation to South Africa in 2017 to combat the annual campus “Israeli Apartheid Week,” which contends Israel has apartheid policies. He endured insults for his support of the Jewish state, yet held his ground.

The terrorists who killed the Israeli soldiers at the Temple Mount were from Umm el-Fahm, prompting Yahya to post a condemnation of the attack in Arabic on his Facebook page.

Although Arab citizens of Israel are not required to serve in the Israel Defense Forces, Yahya enlisted as a volunteer. He is on a U.S. speaking engagement prior to his entry into the service. Yahya is an extraordinarily courageous young man who, despite the difficult journey he has chosen, feels that he is doing the right thing.

Executive Director Sara Miller joined StandWithUs San Diego in 2014. Born in Hawaii, she married her husband Mark there last year. She holds an MA in Islamic Studies from the Hebrew University in Jerusalem at the Rothberg Institute. Her dorm mate Hannah Johnson –now the executive assistant at SWU NY – suggested that Sara apply for the position at SWU SD.

“The journey StandWithUs has taken me on has been nothing short of remarkable,” Sara comments. “I interviewed from my bomb-shelter dorm room at Hebrew University, when rockets were flying through Tel Aviv airspace during Israel’s war against Hamas in Gaza in 2014. That was when I knew that I wanted to become a permanent part of Israel’s story. Israel is my mission and the San Diego Jewish Community is now my family. We will continue to lay down roots, empower local students and educators, and be a stalwart support system for Israel wherever we go.”

StandWithUs is a 16-year-old, international Israel education organization with chapters throughout the U.S., in Israel, Canada and the U.K. SWU believes that education is the road to peace.

For more information and to purchase tickets visit standwithus.com/iheartisrael17, email saram@standwithus.com or call the office at 858-598-8220.

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