By Emma Reed, Westchester Region, IC 2017 Press Corps
In “ An Israeli-Arab’s Journey to Israel Advocacy”, we had the privilege to hear Yahya Mohammed's story of change. Yahya is from a small Arab town in Israel called Umm Al-Fahm. Growing up, he was taught to hate Israel and everything it stands for. His entire town did not believe in Israel’s right to exist. One day in school, he saw a world map on which the entire country of Israel was replaced with Palestine and even though it aligned with everything he had ever been taught, he felt that the map’s complete lack of recognition of the state of Israel and reported the it to Israeli authorities.He remembers this as his first act of Israel advocacy. When he graduated out of school, he moved to Tel-Aviv to work at a big hotel. During his time there he was actually exposed to the Jewish people and grew friendly with his Jewish co-workers. Because of this new-found exposure, his views on the Jewish people and on Israel as a whole shifted dramatically.
Then, in 2014, when three young Jewish boys were kidnapped in Israel, he felt the need to change action and joined the social media campaign by posting a picture of himself holding up a sign saying “Bring Back Our Boys” along with the Israeli advocacy. This sparked outrage with Arabs from around the world and from his own home town. They called him a “traitor” and “spy” and made multiple threats on his life. Not long after, he was contacted by StandWithUs, an organization dedicated to education on Israel and the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Yahya now spends his life educating and sparking conversation with those who are on the Palestinian side of the conflict out of ignorance. “You are the new generation of the Jewish Nation” he said, “and you are being unpowered to find your connection to Israel and your heritage. And always remember that every time you stand up to hate and misinformation about Israel, you stand up for the democratic values in the middle was and all Israelis just like me”. Yahya inspired those in his program and everyone he meets to make a difference, and reminds us that all hate can be overcome with enough love.