Student honored for unwavering commitment to Israel

Naveh is no longer in touch with her childhood playmate. But perhaps that friendship was a precursor of what Naveh will accomplish.

The senior at U.C. Berkeley is the 20th recipient of the Haas-Koshland Award of the Jewish Community Endowment Fund. The fund of the S.F.-based Jewish Community Federation is intended to honor a recent college graduate from an area university who shows a strong commitment to Israel.

A Piedmont High School graduate, Naveh is an English major with a minor in Public Policy and Hebrew. She is in the honors thesis program, and in addition to her thesis on the novels of Charlotte Bronte, she wants to examine comparative terrorist rhetoric. The second one, she considers a "lifelong project," as she intends to compare Israeli and Palestinian textbooks and speeches.

Naveh, whose parents are Israeli, grew up speaking Hebrew. She was raised in the United States, but has returned to Israel often with her family. Though she has not yet studied Arabic, she plans to, possibly when she is in Israel next year.

The fund offers enough of a stipend to allow Naveh the opportunity to volunteer her efforts. She plans to live in Jerusalem and divide her time between the foreign ministry and the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, the office that handles claims of Palestinian refugees seeking asylum in Israel.

Naveh doesn't yet know what she'll be doing in the foreign ministry. "I want real Israel policy experience, and to do something that really supports Israel."

And she wants to work for the UNHCR because "at the same time, I need to familiarize myself with the issues and concerns on the other side. My heart is with Israel, but if I'm ever going to be an advocate for Israel, I need to be familiar with the concerns of refugees."

When asked whether she was afraid to live in Israel next year if the violence continues, Naveh answered, "I'm fatalistic about it. There are calculated risks I'm not going take, and certain areas I wouldn't hang out in, but Israelis live with it, so I'll live with it."

After her year in Israel, Naveh hopes to go to graduate school in New York, and pursue a joint degree in law and public policy. Whether she will return to Israel after that remains unclear.

"I hope to determine where I'll be most effective for Israel," she said. "Whether that's in Israel or America, I don't know, but that's what I hope to discern in the next few years."

Naveh said that as an advocate for Israel, she hopes some day to help bring peace to the Middle East, ending the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

Living conditions in the territories — as well as throughout the Arab world — need to be improved, she said. And "until democracy is introduced at a fundamental level, they're not going to stop killing each other or killing Israelis."

Until "there's fundamental change, and their lives are improved and there's some kind of democracy, I don't think there will be a change," she said, "no matter what Israel does, whether it withdraws or not, or whether the Palestinians have a state or not."

While Naveh believes a Palestinian state is inevitable, she said it is up to the Palestinian leadership, as well as the people themselves, to take some responsibility in improving their situation.