Do The Write Thing, a special seminar organized for Jewish journalist students by the Hagshama Department of the WZO and the Prime Minister’s Office in November, proved to be a very enlightening experience for me from day one of the program. It was an experience that was especially rewarding thanks to the students who had participated and whom I got to know over the few days that we spent together.
The most important day in such a program in regards to the bonding experience you share with the group, is the first day where everyone gets to know one another. I had missed part of spending the first day with the group because of my work and a series of unfortunate events.
I work for Sderot Media Center in Sderot, where my work there is intense and unrelenting, usually in relation to the number of Palestinian rockets fired at the western Negev region. On the first day of Do The Write Thing seminar, the DTWT participants were actually scheduled to come visit Sderot with Sderot Media Center. I was supposed to be their guide on that day and show them the reality of the city. However, on the day the group was scheduled to come, there was a volley of Palestinian rockets fired at Sderot and the western Negev early in the morning. Due to the security situation, the group could not arrive, and I was sadly disappointed but not surprised.
Sderot is a city that is often visited by many groups of students as it unfortunately stands to highlight how Palestinian terror on a small Israeli city, located three kilometers away from Gaza, has completely disrupted normal life. The Palestinian rocket fire has instilled fear and panic among innocent Israeli civilians, as bomb shelters and other protective structures emerge throughout Sderot year after year. The work I do entails much hasbara, or advocacy for the people of Sderot and sharing their stories of quiet survival under extraordinary frightening conditions.
So it was obviously crucial for me to relate the situation in Sderot to my fellow DTWT participants whom I knew all had backgrounds in journalism and writing and would therefore have a platform by which they could relate the situation in Sderot to a wider audience. I was looking forward to having the group come and see Sderot up close and personally– the Sderot that one can never fully comprehend by simply following Israeli media and listening or reading the news.
This was not to be the case or so I thought.
However, when I met up with the group in the Hyatt Regency Hotel in Jerusalem (yes, the DTWT program entails a few nights in a nice Jerusalem hotel), so many of the participants personally expressed to me their disappointment in being unable to visit Sderot. â€œThat was supposed to be one of the highlights of the program,â€ one participant to told me, â€œto see the situation on the ground.â€
Fortunately, there were many other significant visits and seminars that the organizers had carefully planned out for us. A visit to the Israeli Foreign Ministry and the Jerusalem Post, hearing speakers such as Benyamin Netanyahu, Moshe Ayalon and Shimon Peres during the GA Conference, and taking part in panel discussions featuring experts on critical issues such as Israeli security and peace, made the DTWT program a full and engaging seminar. Each one of us found a particular discussion, speech or seminar on Israeli politics, or other relevant issues, to be enlightening and informative as journalists and future opinion makers.
But as I indicated before, the most inspiring aspect of the Do The Write Thing seminar was meeting the participants who were journalists and writers like me and listening to them express their desire to visit Sderot and get involved in some way. After the program was over, I received so many e-mails from the DTWT participants, asking me about the situation in Sderot and when would be best to come up and visit.
It was truly encouraging for me to see how the Sderot issue had made such an impact on this group.
During the DTWT seminar, the madrichim, recognizing the importance of talking about the Sderot issue, had allotted me a few minutes during our extremely busy schedule to speak about the rocket situation and my work at Sderot Media Center.
To receive the feedback that I did about Sderot from the group, and seeing their interest grow to the point that several participants asked if they could come and volunteer in Sderot, showed me how the wave of social change and justice begins with young people who believe that making a difference begins with–us.