My name is Jason Frances, an upcoming senior at the University of Central Florida and student activist on campus. I am currently majoring in marketing and will graduate in May 2017. Since I started advocacy for Israel, I have encountered many tough challenges from fellow students and organizations, and this mission trip has given me amazing tools and training to face the anti-Israel narrative head on. From the sights we have seen, to the speakers that were brought in, the group has gotten an amazing overall perspective of the political climate of Israel and the Middle East as a whole.
One of the biggest decisions that I have since starting pro Israel involvement, is the decision to make Aliyah upon my completion from University. After gradation in May, I will be enlisting in the IDF through a program called Garin Tzabar. On the program I will live on a kibbutz for 24 months while I complete my service. Although I made this decision last year, the ZOA trip has truly reinforced my want to join the IDF and make Israel my permanent home. The trip has opened up many doors for me and I have met so many people that will make the transition of the move much easier on myself.
Today, we begin with the museum at Ammunition Hill, the sight of one of the most important battles in the Six-Day War. We watched a video about the strategy of the battle and how Israel was about to secure Ammunition Hill and eventually all of Jerusalem. From there we traveled around Jerusalem on a “seam-line” bus tour. On the tour we oversaw several key points of conflict and security measures that have been taken by Israel. We visited the Mount of Olives where we saw the grave of former prime minister Menachem Begin and learned about the contributions he made to the Israeli state in its infancy. We finished the tour by going to an outlook that oversaw the Security Fence and how it plays a key role in protecting the land of Israel and its citizens. We then ended the day with a group of meeting with Im Tirtzu, an organization that combats anti-Israel students that blanket the campus of Hebrew University. We spoke about the challenges that they face on campuses in their home land. It was shocking to hear that there is similar sentiment coming directly from the very country that they live in. We were able to exchange knowledge and tips to better combat the anti- Israel narrative on campuses globally.
The content of the trip itself has also been very insightful and eye opening both as a student and future Oleh Chadash. The best part of the trip so far has been our amazing tour guide Daniel Jacob. His knowledge of the Israeli- Arab conflict is some of the best that I have ever seen. Beyond that, he knows how to deliver the tour in an engaging and educational way to keep people involved and interested. Without the expertise and delivery of Daniel, The trip wouldn’t have been the same.
Overall, it has been and honor and pleasure to be able to represent the University of Central Florida on the mission trip. ZOA has given an amazing opportunity for students to come back to the home land and learn about the political obstacles that the country faces and how to combat antisemitism and anti-Israel groups on campus. Being able to see first hand how the conflict effects both sides, I can share my experiences to other students to hopefully open up a channel of understanding and coexistence on campus.