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Student Ambassadors
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Photo By: Jonnie Schnytzer

BY CASSILEE KAHN
AUSTRALIAN JEWISH NEWS

MORE than 250 Australian students were trained in the art of Israel advocacy during a three-day conference held in Jerusalem this week.
 
The seminar, run by StandWithUs International (SWU) - a not-for-profit education organization aiming to ensure Israel's side of the story is told around the globe - in partnership with the Zionist Federation of Australia (ZFA), featured lectures from senior Israeli officials.  These included spokesperson for the Prime Minister Mark Regev, Deputy Prime Minister Dan Meridor, Minister of Public Diplomacy and Diaspora Affairs Yuli Edelstein and chairman of the Jewish Agency Natan Sharansky.
 
Participants also visited the security barrier, heard from two IDF soldiers and met Sudanese refugees who have sought asylum in Israel.
 
The aim of the conference, the first of its kind for students on one-year programs in Israel, was to prepare the participants for the challenges they may face when they return to Australia, turning them into ambassadors equipped to articulate the Jewish State's case on campus.
 
To assist in that process, director of the SWU Israel Michael Dickson said they also took part in workshops covering the "three Ds" of anti-Israel rhetoric - demonisation, double standards and delegitimisation.
 
"They can confront the biggest accusations, the biggest allegations that are thrown at Israel on campus right now.  They deconstruct them and have a ready response," Dickson said.
 
"These guys can say that I've been there and know the issues, and therefore they'll have more credibility."
 
Executive director of the ZFA Robbie Franco, who was one of the instigators of the program, said: "We hope that this will serve as a model for other communities and that in the future, every one of the 8000 overseas participants on one-year programs will be afforded the opportunity of becoming a young ambassador for Israel.
 
"We believe this to be one of the most exciting new projects that we are undertaking - one that can dramatically assist in improving Israel's standing around the world."
 
Reflecting on the experience, participant Ashley Osie from Sydney said: "The past three days have been really intense.  We have heard from an incredibly diverse range of speakers, who have each presented us with a plethora of facts, opinions and information, and have taught us invaluable skills and techniques for advocating for and actively supporting Israel."
 
Dean Leveton from Sydney concurred. "The seminar ensured I can confidently embrace university life, both as a Zionist and a Jew.  To all university colleagues, challenge me. I dare you," he said."
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