As explosions and air strikes rattled Israel and Palestine and the threat of an all-out war loomed over summer 2014, social media platforms pulsed with divisive statements and links to biased, sometimes misinformed, articles about the conflict. It was difficult to discern fact from opinion and opinion from misinformation.

With this in mind, three Israeli organizations, Tafnit, Hasbara Fellowship and Brand of Milk and Honey (BOMAH) decided to work together to connect Israelis with Americans using tools like Skype, a video chatting service, Facebook, Instagram and Twitter among others. They created the Israeli Ambassador Program, in which Israeli college students would regularly communicate with American university Jewish Student Unions and Hillel groups.

By September 2014, the College of Charleston’s JSU/Hillel was one of six on U.S. college campuses to participate in the program. Two College


JSU/Hillel Israel Chair Kate Scher

students, Kate Scher a junior psychology major and Israel chair of JSU/Hillel, and Kayla Sculnick, a senior hospitality and tourism management major and Israel on Campus Coalition (ICC) Fellow, along with Jewish Student Program Coordinator Dara Rosenblatt, have spoken with two Israeli college students named Sivan Katz, an Israeli woman who served in the Israeli Army, and Barr Solnik, an American man who emigrated to Israel, and who has also served.

“When we first spoke with Sivan and Barr over Skype, things were quite calm in Israel,” Rosenblatt said. “Much of our discussion revolved around this past summer’s events.”

Rosenblatt hopes to set up a Skype appointment to introduce Sivan and Barr to more students in the future, an event that will take serious planning to account for the time difference.

That seven-hour time difference, however, is low on a list of reasons some students aren’t making the physical trip to Israel. According to a Times of Israel article, over summer 2014 “Israel couldn’t have seemed farther away with disturbing news headlines blaring across the media and alarming travel warnings issued by those we trust.” Despite these challenges, the same article cites that “all research has led us to understand that the best way to connect to Israel is by a visit.”

In addition to the primary goal of sharing stories with Americans first hand, the Israeli Ambassadors Program also hopes to “bring Israel to campus,” as Rosenblatt put it. “With Sivan and Barr we are given an inside look into the life of an Israeli student and our students are given the chance to connect with them on an informal basis.”

While the Program will help to bring the issues Israelis are facing home to JSU/Hillel students in Charleston, all those involved understand that a


Photo of a Taglit Birthright group in Israel, courtesy of

visit is the only way to truly understand the situation. That’s why some JSU/Hillel will take a 10-day trip to Israel through Taglit-Birthright Israel over summer 2015.

“We would love to meet Sivan and Barr in person when we’re there next summer!” Rosenblatt said. She hopes the Program will facilitate a lasting relationship between JSU/Hillel participants and their Israeli counterparts.

Rosenblatt believes she, Scher and Sculnick will stay in official contact with Sivan and Barr for a year, at which point new Israeli Ambassadors will reach out to the College.

“They help us see the realities of life in Israel, a place so many of us are so connected to,” Rosenblatt said. “It’s a really wonderful opportunity.”