For most Israelis, the experience of traveling is often accompanied by that nagging feeling, or at least hyperawareness, that being from Israel will lead to nothing good. Maybe when people ask where you’re from, you say Israel then brace yourself for the response. Maybe you don’t say you’re from Israel at all. Everyone has that story about that time abroad… you know the one I mean. Most of us grin and bear it.
Nofar Ron, a 4th year mechanical engineering student at BGU, decided she wanted to do something about it. While traveling in Iceland the summer after her first year of school, she was struck by the misinformation about Israel floating around. People seemed surprised that she didn’t ride around on a camel or carry an M16 to class. When she found herself getting yelled at by a local resident about everything wrong with Israel and not knowing how to respond, she decided that she would never find herself in that situation again.
Nofar talked to a few friends upon her return to Israel and found that a lot of them had had similar experiences and were interested in working together to make a change. Nofar’s father, Lieutenant Colonel Noam Ron, who was killed seven years ago, was also a big proponent of Israel advocacy and Nofar had been looking for a way to honor his memory. The two ideas came together perfectly, and thus Noam’s Ways, or Darkei Noam (דרכי נועם), was born.
The project focuses on students – because they tend to travel a lot and can find common ground with people from around the world (possibly unlike soldiers) – and helps give them the confidence to share their personal stories when they travel. Nofar and the other student leaders of the community are big believers in the power of personal stories. They don’t have any specific agenda or message they want their students to pick up. In fact, they themselves are from all different backgrounds and places along the political spectrum. Their mission is to give people the tools and the self-confidence they need to share the real Israel as they know it, whether that’s stories about their favorite hiking trails, Friday night meals with family, a stranger offering help, or anything else.
Noam’s Ways caters to students’ needs and consists of four meetings throughout the semester. The meetings combine a lecture with a hands-on element that allows people to practice telling their stories or responding to harsh comments. The semester ends with a final event that asks students to come up with technological solutions to problems in Israel advocacy and representation around the world.
When she isn’t busy working on developing Darkei Noam, Nofar is out hiking and exploring the natural beauty Israel has to offer. Some of her favorite places? Nakhal Kziv, Makhtesh Ramon, and the Dead Sea.
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