Stuart Palmer and Lucille Cohen with trainee Young Ambassadors in Zichron Yaakov

A 20-strong group of English speaking teenagers has graduated from a pioneering Young Ambassadors course at a school in Zichron Yaakov at a ceremony during which they presented their own projects to parents.

The Yeshivah Tichonit Tanachit headmaster, Rabbi Dr Shimon Rapport, reacted with an enthusiastic “Let’s go for it!” to volunteer teacher Lucille Cohen’s suggestion that, instead of studying a novel for a term, the boys could be trained in Israel advocacy while improving their English skills.

Former Zionist Central Council and Representative Council of Greater Manchester President, Lucille Cohen, who made aliyah just over a year ago, taught and coordinated the course in conjunction with Coalition of Hasbara Volunteers (CoHaV) council chairman, Stuart Palmer of Haifa (www.cohav.org ).

The 14-16 year-olds spent a term participating in a course based on the successful “Ambassadors Online” course at Haifa University, featuring power point presentations and worksheets presented by tutors and visiting lecturers. The Young Ambassadors were trained to analyse the media with a view to discerning bias and methods of counteracting it.

An inspiring visit to MASHAV (Israel’s Agency for International Development Cooperation) provided positive material for dissemination. CoHaV  is now introducing the course as a model for expanding into other schools. One school has already started the program in Raanana and discussions are at an advanced stage in another school in the Tel Aviv area.

Additional speakers brought in by Stuart Palmer included Professor Eli Avraham, Haifa University’s head of the Comper Center for the Study of Anti-Semitism and Racism, in whose department an Ambassadors Online course was started last year, coordinated by Dr David Gurevitch. It will run again this year for the fourth time. Others were Morin Mayor Hemo, also of Haifa University’s Ambassadors Online course and Michael Ordman, who compiles the Very Good News Israel blogspot published by The Jerusalem Post.                                                    

Pupils delivered their final presentations in small groups, and were awarded certificates for projects including: Power Point presentations entitled “Media Analysis During Operation Protective Edge” and “Magen David Adom”, and an Instagram presentation on “Media Misinformation”. Essays were delivered on “What Israel Means to Me”, “The History of Zionism” and “The Attractions of Zichron Yaakov”.

Stuart Palmer commented at the conclusion of the course: “In addition to achieving the objective of improving the students’ English language and presentation skills, it is hoped these students will continue with their projects and build up connections with students overseas.”
The Headmaster, Rabbi Rappaport added: “When Mrs Cohen started working at the Yeshiva we discussed ways to enhance the students' English in a novel and inspiring way. The Israel Advocacy Project was just what we were looking for, coming on the back of a bad media summer for Israel in the wake of the latest operation in Gaza.

“The students heard lectures from the experts, but more than that, they learnt so much English. They learnt about different genres of writing, they learnt how to present ideas in a various formats and they also learnt how to analyse newspaper articles, film clips and cartoons, looking out for  the clever ways the truth had been presented, either wrongly or with a clear anti-Israel bias. My thanks go to Stuart Palmer and Lucille Cohen who led this project from its inception to its finale - a morning in school with the students' parents listening carefully to projects based on what had been learnt over the previous three months.”

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