In recent years, Gen Z (those born in the late 1990s to early 2010s) has become well known for its activism and thirst for education on global issues such as Black Lives Matter, gender inequalities, and gun reform.
Throughout this movement, in the United States, many young adults who consider themselves “advocates” have been sweeping Israel education and advocacy under the rug. The topic of Israel has become taboo, and reference to the state often results in an immediate segue to the complex Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
Fortunately, some students like Aidan Golub, a sophomore at Harvard University, are taking the lead on Israel education. Golub is doing so with hopes of removing the stigma around the subject and providing college students with an opportunity to learn about Israel.
Golub is the Executive Director of the Israel Summit, “an international movement looking to engage students of all backgrounds with a nuanced and holistic view of the state of Israel,” as he described it. The Israel Summit was founded in 2018 by a group of students at Harvard, and since then has been held at The University of Michigan, The University of Chicago, and Northwestern University.
Golub explained that it began “out of a response to the rise of antipathy and apathy towards the state of Israel on college campuses.” Due to the pandemic, Golub took a year off of college to dedicate his time towards planning this year’s conference. The Israel Summit transitioned from an in-person weekend-long event to a 5-day virtual one, which occurred from February 7-11. Golub and the rest of the Israel Summit team asked, “How can we leverage the remote necessity of the coronavirus to allow us to reach more students across more college campuses than we ever could have done in an in-person event?” They were pleasantly surprised by the benefits. According to Facebook, the conference reached over 2.5 million “views”, making it the largest conference in support of the state of Israel ever, not to mention it was entirely organized by university students. There were registrants from 47 U.S states, 89 countries, and 531 different colleges and universities.
Students had the opportunity to attend 5 different hour-long keynote sessions. Spekaers included the president of the Republic of Sudan, the president of Georgia, the Chief Medical Officer of Moderna, Lior Roz from the Isaeli TV series ‘Fauda,’ and the the CEOs of Waze, Google Israel and Kind Bars. The summit also offered a virtual career and special opportunities fair where students “could connect with over 50 different booths allowing them to directly interface with representatives from career, research, study abroad, travel, and internship opportunities in Israel,” he continued.
Additionally, they partnered with 79 Jewish and non-Jewish organizations who all share the same support for the State of Israel in hopes of getting the participating students involved in those organizations and to “keep the work going.”
The 2021 Summit was successful in accomplishing their primary goal, which, according to Golub, “is to really broaden the conversation through a totally apolitical lens and engage students with other facets of what the State of Israel is and what it has to offer.” They strive to uncover the innovation, culture, history and beauty of Israel which have been buried and pushed aside by political issues.
Their secondary goal was to use this year’s summit as a launchpad for future in-person summits all around the world. For now, The Israel Summit hopes to “really institutionalize these efforts, set up an independent nonprofit organization with full-time staff and resources to be able to centrally support dozens, or hopefully one day [support] hundreds of Israel Summits at universities all over the world in person,” concluded Golub. Hopefully, the success of the summit will invite future informed conversations about Israel and encourage Gen Z to rally around our shared homeland.