Israel advocate Richard Greene addresses Milken community

Richard Green
Richard Green, above. Photo by Gavriella Bernat-Kunin.

Eden Jablon

News Editor

On Sunday, March 18, almost 100 Milken students and parents gathered in the Beit Midrash for an Israel Advocacy Seminar. The speaker, Richard Greene, is a world expert on Israel advocacy and the author of Words that Shook the World.

“This is the first of what we hope will be many wonderful experiences of learning,” Rabbi Liat Yardeni-Funk, Jewish Studies teacher and Israel coordinator, said.

Greene began by sharing a story of how he became involved with Milken, which was primarily due to his daughter’s decision to attend the school. He then went on to explain why he came to speak at Milken.

“I love sharing whatever skills I can share to help you guys be the messengers for the most important human rights challenge the world has ever seen: The struggle for the Jewish people in the state of Israel,” Greene said.

As Greene finished his introduction, the eager parents and students in the audience were quick to speak up. Less then twenty minutes after the seminar began, Greene posed the question, “How do you have a dialogue when you are in communication with somebody whose position is that they do not want Israel to exist as a Jewish state?”

In response to Greene’s prompt, audience members quickly became engaged in heated role-play.

“I don’t believe that just because you’ve heard this all your life, you should cave into the thought. What evidence do you have that we are killing your people?… What does the demise of your cousin have to do with the Jews living in Israel?” Mr. Mel Plutsky, senior parent, said.

As Milken students and parents attempted to debate with a stubborn Greene, the audience quickly realized how frustrating it was to “fumble in the dark,” as Milken parent Ms. Miri Rabinovitch put it.

Greene then introduced startling statistics, such as the fact that Israel is one-eighth of one percent of the Middle East. He went on to elaborate on his solutions.

“One of the things that will help is for those people to go to Israel. If you only stay in one place, your reality box becomes so small and finite that it becomes impossible to understand others,” Greene said. “The best form of conflict is not to go head to head; you need to be creative and run around the side.”

Greene concluded by asserting that what everyone wants is a better life. Opportunity for education and a healthy standard of living will help people deal with their own future. That is all they need to be given, though some extremists will always remain. At this point, Milken parents again spoke up.

“My understanding of what the issue is is very different. I don’t think asking the world for money is going to work. There is no rhyme and reason why Israel is hated; it’s a very ingrained pattern of thinking,” Ms. Fariba Nourafshan, junior parent, said.

Greene was quick to answer these questions, but not to the satisfaction of Milken parents. To the audience, the problem was the ingrained hatred that the Arabs felt – not something that could be fixed. Looking at a sea of raised hands, Greene continued with his presentation.

At this point, Ms. Metuka Benjamin, Director of Education, spoke up in dissent for Greene’s approach. Her idea was that the most essential thing was not giving money, but education.

Greene, again continuing with his presentation, concluded with the following words: “Even though we talked about information, the answer is not talking. The answer is listening. Listening is the most powerful communication tool that there is.”