Editor’s Note: If you are interested in bringing Shai to your campus during his Spring 2019 semester tour, please contact CAMERA on Campus.
Celebrity figure visits Ireland in CAMERA-sponsored event at Maynooth
Shai DeLuca-Tamasi’s guest speaker event at Maynooth was undoubtedly the greatest achievement of the society so far, notwithstanding the intervention of Ryanair and the weather to try to stop the event from coming to pass. After a 5 hour delay, and a delay of the event by an hour by an hour and 15 minutes on a Friday afternoon, perhaps all the ingredients were present for the event to fail. However, to our amazement, every member of the audience waited round that hour and 15 minutes to listen to Shai talk. Incredibly, the majority of persons present were not even pro-Israel – they were persons fueled by the curiosity which has led mankind to some of our greatest achievements.
Then Shai began to talk. From the offset, he sought to engage every mind in the room through nothing more than his own story and character. From the retelling of his family history to his enlistment in the IDF, one couldn’t help but be impressed even the pro-Palestinian audience member who attended. Then came the moment when he recounted his near transcendence into heaven when the bus he missed blew up in front of him. The room sat in stunned silence as it hit them that but for HaShem, Shai would not have been before them to talk to them or make them laugh as only he could – but for HaShem, Shai would have been another casualty of war they would have only come across as a part of a figure in an op-ed.
Not to be reified, the floor was then opened up and the questions came – and kept on coming. For an hour, students, activists & lecturers alike questioned Shai on everything from his view on Israeli society now, his experiences as an LGBT man in Israel and the IDF, and the impact of his advocacy upon his professional life. Perhaps though, the most salient exchange in the event was when the pro-Palestinian audience member began to question Shai; Shai did not apologize for Israel, for who he was or for what he believed – and so ensued a respectful but frank, a nuanced but forthright exchange where question was met with fact and reality with reality. And at the end of it the exchange, it didn’t even descend into a protest, it ended amicably. In an era of extreme division and partisanship, this was of the utmost value to all. Disagreement can be had on Israel and Palestine, but that disagreement need not come at the sake of truth, respect, and sincerity.
In as distinctly hostile environs to Israel as Ireland, Shai’s visit was a direct challenge to this pro-Palestinian establishment to end their dishonesty and slurring of the people of Israel. His greatest impact and timeless skill is his capacity to reach pro-Palestinian activists, neutrals, centrists and Zionists alike with the same unfettered message of compassion and truth (with a fair few laughs). The State of Israel and Maynooth Students for Israel is indebted to Shai DeLuca-Tamasi for his friendship, advocacy and fearless defenses of Israel. A massive thanks to CAMERA and Shai for bolstering the Irish in defense of Israel.
Go raibh míle maith agaibh! (Thanks a million!)
Contributed by Maynooth University CAMERA Fellow Daniel O’Dowd. He is president of CAMERA-supported group Maynooth Student Friends of Israel. A recording of the event is available here.