From chillaxing to rockets, teens get earful on Israel

How do two Israelis get a couple of dozen 13- to 15-year-olds to understand that not everything they read or hear about Israel is true?

That was the task facing Ranya Fadel, 34, and Ran Bar-Yoshafat, 28, at the Oshman Family JCC in Palo Alto on Feb. 25. The next day, the duo went at it again in front of a slightly older audience at the Jewish Community High School of the Bay in San Francisco.

“People will attack you because you are connected to Israel, so it is important to be educated, to visit Israel first-hand, to be in dialogue with Israelis and to maintain your ties with the country,” Bar-Yoshafat told the members of Club Z, a group of Peninsula teens who meet regularly to learn about Israel.

“When I hear people call Israel an apartheid country, it really bothers me,” added Fadel, a Druze woman who was raised in northern Israel. When an untrue statement like that is made, she said, it negatively affects all citizens of Israel, including non-Jews like her.

Ran Bar-Yoshafat speaks to a mostly teen audience at the Oshman Family JCC in Palo Alto on Feb. 25. photos/courtesy of standwithus

Fadel, who has a B.A. in political science from Bar-Ilan University, and Bar-Yoshafat, a lawyer studying for an MBA, spoke to the teens on a StandWithUs-sponsored tour of the Bay Area. The Los Angeles–based Israel education nonprofit also had the duo speaking in front of adult audiences at San Jose State University, U.C. Berkeley, U.C. Davis and the state Capitol in Sacramento.

In an attempt to relate to the youngsters, Bar-Yoshafat showed photos of him and his friends “chillaxing” on the beach and talked about how he learned English from American TV programs. With a chuckle, Fadel admitted that her favorite pastime is shopping.

But most of their presentation was not so light-hearted.

Bar-Yoshafat showed a photo of a bus blown up by a suicide bomber during the second intifada. Fadel showed a photo of a memorial for the victims of another bus attack, one that left several of her friends and neighbors dead.

Fadel got emotional as she told the kids about how she would have been on that bus had she not overslept the morning it was blown up. She also recalled what it was like to have been under rocket attack from Hezbollah during the Second Lebanon War in 2006.


Ranya Fadel

After Bar-Yoshafat spoke about his service in the IDF — he served in an elite Special Forces unit during the second intifada, tracking down and apprehending terrorists —one teen asked Fadel what she had done in the army.


She explained that although she is personally not religiously observant, the Druze community is considered to be a traditional one, and that consequently Druze women do not serve in the military.

“Instead, I did national service by working in hospitals,” she explained, noting that her male relatives do serve in the IDF. “The Druze religion dictates that we be loyal to whatever country we live in.”

Another teen asked about Khader Adnan, the Islamic Jihad member who recently went on a 66-day hunger strike to protest his detention in Israel. Bar-Yoshafat defended Israel’s use of administrative detention (when arrested individuals are held for months without charges), saying other countries also have it, and that “other countries would be more aggressive against someone from Islamic Jihad.”

Another teen asked what the speakers thought about the Palestinians’ demand for the right of return. If all Palestinians had the right to return to their homes in what is now Israel, “there would be no Israel,” Bar-Yoshafat said. “If Israel is not a Jewish, democratic state, it won’t be a democratic state at all.”

Another teen asked about Iran’s nuclear program. Fadel answered that the Iranian regime does not value life and doesn’t want the atom bomb for deterrence, but rather to attack Israel and kill the Jews. “Iran speaks with two messages,” she said, “one for the West and one for the East.”

The duo also told the teens not to think that Israel is perfect —  “because it’s not,” Bar-Yoshafat said. “You need to be educated, critical thinkers [about the Middle East],” he added.

The duo’s tour followed on the heels of mid-February talks by Sgt. Benjamin Anthony of Our Soldiers Speak. In the Bay Area, he addressed audiences in Mountain View and at the Hoover Institution at Stanford.

Renee Ghert-Zand
Renee Ghert-Zand

Renee Ghert-Zand is a Jerusalem-based freelance journalist. She made aliyah from Palo Alto with her family in June 2014.