Prior to the summer of 2014, CAMERA campus coordinator Ben Suster was politically indifferent towards Israel. Although he had been there multiple times before to visit family and participate in programs, this trip was different. He landed a few days before the bodies of the three murdered yeshiva boys were found and was in Israel for the duration of Operation Protective Edge. The rocket attacks from Gaza resulted in hundreds of thousands of Israelis living in bomb shelters and makeshift bunkers. In Sderot, a missile landed 2 kilometers away from where he was. He attended soldier’s funerals and spent much time underground. This was an eye opening experience for Ben.Initially, the basis of his support for Israel came from his American Israeli background, but after living in Jerusalem, Tel Aviv, and Sderot during the operation he became invested in fighting for what he now considered his home.
When he returned to the United States, he learned that Israel was not only being attacked militarily, but also assaulted verbally on his college campus and in the media. He started teaching himself about the history of Israel and the conflict, and felt invested in combatting media bias and anti-Israel sentiment at his university.
Ben started working with the pro-Israel group on campus and eventually became the president of the CAMERA-supported group Knights for Israel at the University of Central Florida. As a group, they worked a lot with CAMERA to plan successful events. The club put together campaigns in response to Israel apartheid week and, most importantly, the members grew into leaders.
Now, as a campus coordinator for the tri state area and Canada, Ben travels to schools throughout the year and helps students by providing them with the resources they need to improve their group, execute successful events, and gives advice based on his personal experiences.
He has spoken at countless events, such as fundraisers, Chabad Shabbatons, and educational events for college and high school students, as well as invested parents. His speeches are based on how CAMERA helped him grow into an Israel educator, and how students can become a strong influence on their campus.
Ben shares what he and Knights for Israel accomplished, creating leaders who prepared and hosted events that attracted a wide range of students, half of whom were not Jewish.
Most importantly, he focuses on how the media poorly represents Israel, creates myths and misinformation and how this parallels the atmosphere on college campuses across the world today. He believes anyone can provide input on why BDS is bad, but he focuses on why empowering the students to educate about and defend Israel is the most important thing.
Contributed by CAMERA Intern Ilana Sperling.