The winner of CAMERA on Campus’s SodaStream raffle is Hosanna Thalhofer, the President of the Students Allied for Israel club at Tacoma Community College in Tacoma, Washington.
Gilad Skolnick: How and why did you get involved with pro-Israel activism?
Hosanna Thalhofer: When I was 11 years old, my parents and I started going to a Messianic congregation, El Shaddai Ministries in Tacoma, WA. I was able to learn more about Israel and the Jewish people there and I started to feel my connection to the Land. When I was 17, the leadership of El Shaddai Ministries helped me with my scholarship to D.C. for the Christians United For Israel Summit. That is where I decided to go back to campus and start a pro-Israel group. I also then got involved with the local Jewish organization StandwithUs Northwest. Both organizations helped me to start my group. It took over 14 weeks to convince my school, but I did it.
I absolutely love what I do on campus. It is very rewarding to find like-minded people that have the same love for Israel and her people as I do and who want to help this pro-Israel group on campus thrive. Becoming a pro-Israel activist on my campus has changed and shaped my personality and truly changed my perspective on things. I have begun to notice all the anti-Israel students and staff members who do not like what I do. However, our group is helping change the student body on campus by personalizing Israel and the Jewish people. We have had many students come up to us with questions like, “Who is Israel, a famous person or something?” It is amazing how many students on campus have no clue about the land of Israel or the conflict and that is why I believe we are on campus, to educate students. Our presence on campus is making a change.
GS: What has been the greatest challenge regarding advocating for Israel?
HT: The greatest challenge was getting our group started. As I mentioned, it took over 14 weeks. I started at the end of September of 2013, when fall quarter began, and it finally became an official group in January of 2014. Just about every week I would go up to the Student Government and they would make excuses on why I could not and never would be allowed to start this pro-Israel group on campus. Even after receiving two advisers and over the required amount of student signatures, the Student Government told me several times, “It is impossible, we will not fund a group like this.” The original name was going to be Christians United For Israel, as a chapter of the largest pro-Israel organization in America, but they said “Christian” could not be in the name. Later they said that “Israel” could not be in the name, either!
It was a crazy process. Most of their excuses were, “all your group wants is money” and “the Israeli conflict will likely end in a year, so there is no point in starting a support group.” It seemed like their excuses would never cease. After being consistent and always going up to them and trying to change their views, they decided to allow it one day. Our name became Students Allied For Israel. My group and I were pleased to keep Israel in the name.
During the issues with the Student Government, students and officers of the groups started to give up on the mission on campus and leave the group. I was very glad though to get a group together the day that our club became official. Even now, after our club became official on campus, we have seen some hate from students. A hate letter was put up by our flier saying how Israelis murder innocent people and the like. We have had some fliers taken down around campus, but this does not stop us from putting more up. Students have been coming to our events and more students have become interested in Israel and the Jewish people. We know there will always be haters, but we also know that there will always be others who will be curious and later become warriors for Israel on campus like us.
GS: What have you heard of SodaStream before?
HT: I have heard of SodaStream since it became a controversy. I have been a huge fan of this product and couldn’t wait to get my hands on it! I am so excited to get one now because I plan to use it in my Pro-Israel club on campus. I am planning to do some tabling with the SodaStream machine and give out samples. While students sample the drinks, my club members and I will talk about how Israelis and Palestinians are working together. I really believe this will do something great on campus. A lot of students on my campus think that the Israelis and Palestinians are always at war and there is no peace. We are here on campus to show how peaceful Israel is and what they are doing to help create more peace.
GS: Where did you grow up, what year are you and what do you study?
HT: I have lived on Vashon Island, in the Tacoma area, my whole life. I commute from the island to my classes at Tacoma Community College every day. I am a 17-year old Running Start student at TCC. I am finishing up my 2nd year of college with a General Associates degree and my high school diploma. I am planning to finish up my prerequisites for nursing at TCC in the next year and then transfer to a 4-year college.
GS: What is your favorite thing about Israel?
HT: My favorite thing about Israel is how the people in the land have withstood so much horror through bombs, attacks, and lies. I love Israel and the Jewish people because of their strength and their unwillingness to settle for less of than who they are. Israel is a great and mighty nation, because the one and only great, mighty, and powerful God protects them. The Bible says about Israel in Genesis 12:3: I will bless those who bless you, and whoever curses you I will curse; and all peoples on earth will be blessed through you.” God supports Israel, so do I, and so does my group on campus.
Contributed by CAMERA intern Aaron Marks