This week the WUJS Tel-Aviv group took a trip to the Supreme Court and the Ministry of Foreign Affairs in Jerusalem. Both of these locations, aside from being important staples in the government, are architecturally fascinating and educationally stimulating. We learned about how they were built and what goes on inside behind closed doors. This trip was designed to teach participants about the Israeli legal system as well as the image of Israel in the "outside world".
The Supreme Court in Israel is built like a pyramid, its hierarchy based on merit and superiority. There is no jury and citizens can only appeal their case once. We also learned that the army has its own court system similar to the national system but that any human rights cases will go directly to the Supreme Court. We ended the tour with a visit to an active courtroom.
Our next stop was to meet Andy David, from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs where he gave us an impressive presentation about Israel's new image concept. We looked at research that showed foreigners views of Israel; they used terms like militaristic, uninviting, religious and strict which we have learned is not the situation here. It is due to the way that the media portrays Israel that people have these connotations of the country. Participants in the study also said that they feel Israel is all cement and no greenery which seems so ridiculous to me now because Israel is a leader in agricultural technologies and was able to irrigate desert lands while its neighbors are often still living in the dust.
The new approach is to highlight the positive aspects of the Israeli culture like the beach life, volunteering, activism with refugees and children, the historical sites, the growing technology companies and the diversity of people that make up this country. The media has taken away the face of the Israeli soldier to show Israel as one big army but with a new concepts and ideas the foreign ministry is endeavoring to change people's views on this issue.
One participant asked about the effects of the Zohan movie. Mr. David said that even though Israeli's felt stereotyped by the movie's portrayal, it was still a good thing for Israel because it showed a different side of the country. The opening scene was filmed on the Tel-Aviv beach and highlighted the amazing coastline and the fun side of the city.
At the end of the day we gained a new insight to the structure of the Israeli government and how it deals with the issue of domestic and international image and policy. We learned that we can help change the image of Israel by showing the cultural and historical aspects of this country and by educating others that there is so much more than just a military. We can all help in building a new face for Israel when we head back to our home countries.