Colombian Opinion and Media Leaders Blog 1

April 5th, 2017

Note: Juan Dircie, Associate Director for Latino Outreach of AJC’s Belfer Institute for Latino and Latin American Affairs (BILLA) is accompanying a delegation of Colombian Media and Opinion Leaders in Israel. The program is jointly organized by AJC Project Interchange, in cooperation with the Confederation of Jewish Communities of Colombia and AJC’s BILLA.

We started our trip with a fascinating presentation by journalist Henrique Cymerman, who provided us with a analysis of the realities in the region and the complexities of the existential threat that the current Middle East faces.

A lunch meeting with Shlomo Ben Ami, former Israeli Foreign Minister, Israeli peace negotiator, and advisor to the Colombian peace process negotiations, (who spoke perfect Spanish) gave us an opportunity to hear directly from one of the protagonists about the successes, failures, and complexities of peace negotiations between Israelis and Palestinians.

A walking tour of beautiful Yaffo in perfect weather helped us to understand the importance of the land for the three monotheistic faiths.

We wrapped up the day with a dinner discussion on diversity in Israeli society. Speakers included Michal Avera Samuel, who shared the story about the Ethiopian Jewish community and former Knesset (Parliament) member Dr. Einat Wilf, who discussed the various components of Israel’s diverse society, including its challenges and opportunities.

Day 2 provided us with an absolutely incredible way to see the land and water from the air! We spent the whole day riding an helicopter which flew us over the country. The experience provided a stark opportunity to understand just how small Israel is, particularly compared with most the size of most countries around the world.

We started the day at the Galilee Hospital in Naharia, where we learned about the treatment that is provided to Arab victims of the Syrian civil war free of charge, despite the fact that Syria is an enemy of Israel.

A visit to the Christian sites near the Sea of Galilee was a powerful and emotional lesson in situ on the linkage between Christianity and the Holy Land.

Mohammed Darawashe meet with us at Beit Gavriel to discuss the importance and reality in the Israeli Arab society.

The visit to the Golan Heights was a perfect opportunity to learn about the security challenges on Israel’s Northern border. We were able to see Lebanon and Syria and to understand the proximity of the threat from these two neighbors.

Tomorrow will provide an even more intense experience as we visit Ramallah and meet with Palestinian leaders.

The views expressed in this blog are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of Project Interchange.