Readers of this blog are familiar with Honest Reporting, the indispensable watchdog group that keeps track of news articles that misrepresent Israel or, worse, make up their own “facts.”
Honest Reporting does more than just keep the media honest, though. It also sponsors a Mission to Israel where you can gain a real understanding of the challenges Israel faces every day.
The mission is a specialized, intense week-long tour of Israel where the participants get to meet with and listen to an impressive array of political experts, military leaders and other well-known Zionist figures. It is far more than a tour – it is an immersive program that is fun and educational, if a bit intense.
This year, the Honest Reporting Mission to Israel takes place from November 15-21. I am told that the itinerary isn't yet set, but from looking at the last trip you can see that they get some very high-powered speakers and topics. For example, last time the trip included:
- · Mark Regev, the spokesperson for the Prime Minster, spoke on "Israel's Message."
- ·Professor Asa Kasher, the author of the IDF Code of Conduct, spoke on "Ethics in the IDF." I blogged about him earlier this year here.
- ·There was presentation by Itamar Marcus, founder of the invaluable Palestinian Media Watch. He was most recently in the news for presenting to US members of Congress a new report on how the Palestinian Authority pays salaries to terrorists in Israeli prison.
- ·A meeting at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs.
- · A talk by Dr. Mordechai Kedar, Head of Arab Studies at Bar-Ilan University and expert on Syria. he is the man who made an impassioned defense, in Arabic, of Jerusalem’s Jewishness in one of the most memorable interviews ever aired on Al Jazeera. (Even if you’ve seen it before, stop reading right now and watch it again. It is incredible.)
- ·A Shabbat discussion with Khaled Abu Toameh of the Jerusalem Post and the Hudson Institute, on “What Arabs Inside Israel are Really Thinking.”
And these are only a few of the people you can meet. Add to that list Ishmael Khalidi, a the first Bedouin to serve as an Israeli diplomat; Aryeh Green, the director of MediaCentral , NGO Monitor's Professor Gerald Steinberg who has exposed an untold number of abuses by anti-Israel NGOs, and the excellent Dore Gold, not to mention the members of Honest Reporting itself. Together this makes a really great lineup of high-powered thought leaders that you can listen to and engage with.
There have been a few occasions that I have gotten a chance to meet with leaders like these, and it is a really fun to discuss ideas with them - much different than email or Facebook messages. It is a great experience to meet any one of these people - to meet them all in the course of a week is an experience that everyone should have.
I wish I could go on the mission to interview every one of them for the blog. Maybe next year…
There is another important reason for going on this mission. The casual disparagement of Israel in the media and even in everyday conversations is increasing. Too often people who support Israel are not armed with the facts to be able to respond effectively when they come across such anti-Israel opinions. Lies have become accepted as conventional wisdom and it takes knowledge as well as passion to be able to counter the false narrative. Honest Reporting, true to its origins, spends a lot of time in this mission in workshops specifically to teach participants how to answer anti-Israel arguments and articles with real facts and real history. People who attend will have more confidence in being able to answer critics immediately and convincingly.
And I haven’t even mentioned the tours! You can get to see Jewish communities in Judea and Samaria, spend Shabbat in the Old City, tour the Western Wall Tunnels, visit the IDF Navy Base (where no doubt the flotillas would no doubt be discussed) and more. You can get to see the real Israel, not the funhouse-mirror version that the media often portrays.
One other nice thing about this mission is that it ends a few days before Thanksgiving so Americans can stay in Israel a little longer and enjoy the holiday weekend there. After this whirlwind of a week, you would probably want to unwind and enjoy Israel at your own pace for a few days.
Previous attendees raved about the trip; you can read some of their comments here.
If you want a behind-the-scenes look at Israel that goes way beyond normal tour groups, this is the way to go. Check out the Honest Reporting Mission site to see more details.