What 10 Days on Birthright Taught Me About Gaza
Ari King | Podcast Host + Author

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Why Should You Care

In the summer of 2014, the conflict between Israel and Palestine escalated to warfare and violence against civilians. In this interview, King tells stories from his time in Israel at the height of the conflict and a millennial’s point-of-view of the personal affects the war waged on its young soldiers.


Ari King is the creator and host of Off Campus and the author of Now What?! Conversations about College, Graduation, and the Next Step.

He was born in 1987 in Oakland, California. In 2009, he graduated from Wesleyan University with a B.A. in Italian Studies.

Since moving to New York City after graduation, he has temped, worked as a hotel concierge, and learned about the real estate business from the inside.

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I just returned last week on a ten day trip to Israel, part of the Birthright Program. It was my first time going to Israel.


And, we obviously went during a very tumultuous time.


Birthright is if you’re Jewish and you’re under the age now of 29 and you either haven’t been to Israel or you haven’t been on an organized trip, you can go for free to the Motherland courtesy of various Jewish donors both in America, Israel and all over.


We actually came up with this idea that based off LeBron James’ decision whether he was going to stay in Miami or go to Cleveland, that’s what we were going to do.


When you’re dealing with so many Jewish kids you get worried Jewish parents.


It was high and low because we’d also go on camel rides and be eating falafels and shawarmas and be out of harm’s way but we also knew that this was going on sort of at the same time.


So, you know, when you’re in a place and these things are going on, it’s a lot different than when you’re thousands of miles away and you can read about it from the comfort of your apartment or from your home.


We were joined by eight Israelis on our trip, every Birthright trip is joined by eight Israelis.


And, we’re playing the name game and four out of the eight were in the Reserves for the Army.


….we’re going around the room saying like, “Hi, I’m Ari, my favorite ice cream is mint chocolate chip and I’m from Oakland, California.”  And, by the time we got around to one guy in particular he said his name and before he said anything about himself, he got a call and the call was essentially someone telling him that he had to report for duty and go to Gaza that night.


(Democracy Now clip)

This is the War and Peace report, I am Amy Goodman. Israel’s intensified its attack on the Gaza strip, bombing more than 150 sites overnight, including Gaza’s only power station. Palestinian health officials say that more than 110 people have died….


When news started to come out on a daily, hourly basis when we were there the mood would change from joyous celebration oh, look at all these pictures, let’s take a selfie because we’re in Israel to oh, my Gosh, like are we going to be able to get home?  Is my Mom going to be able to sleep okay tonight? Like, if we don’t have Wi-Fi, is she going to freak out?

When everybody found out that the ground invasion was going on and we’d learn on one day that 13 soldiers had died and the next day ten or what have you, it didn’t really hit us in the same way as it did with these Israelis that we were staying with. And, when we were eating this great falafel, we were in, I think, Jerusalem, at this unbelievable outdoor market.


And we were talking about NFL training camp starting, eating this and could we get more spicy food. And I remember I looked over to my right at the table where one of our Israeli friends was sitting by himself and he was kind of just like a little teary and crying a little bit. And I didn’t really want to make anything of, I didn’t want to blow up his spot…And

He knew someone who was down there and I think it’s even worse when you don’t know the status of them, whether they are alive or whether they’ve been killed.  I think it just bothered him so much that this was the beginning of something that he didn’t know when it was going to end.


So, every time that we’d check into a hotel or a kibbutz, one of the first questions would be like does this place have Wi-Fi?


But, essentially, in the hotel lobby or on like the middle of this kibbutz, you’d have 20, 30 kids just glued to their cellphone, either checking in with Mom, texting Mom, calling Mom, skyping Mom, Whatsapping Mom, Facebook messaging Mom, Tweeting Mom, Pinning Mom, LinkedIn Mom.  I mean it was just like everywhere you go you knew you had to touch base with someone at like some point and you’d try to fire off a quick email or you’d already write one in your draft so, it was already ready to go and then you’re just going to hit the ‘send’ button when you checked in.


I think by going and now coming back, I have the mindset that I’m open to learning a lot more than I was beforehand and reading and learning from different viewpoints other than the New York Times or other than CNN.  I think it’s good to read and sort of immerse yourself in other countries and cities, not just languages and their take on the war but just try to imagine it from their shoes, imagine it from their standpoint as opposed to a biased news source.


Made By

Cinematography: Danielle Calodney

Edited by: Dyani Douze

Interviewed by: Noura Ayria

Danielle Calodney

Danielle Calodney has been called the Chief Content Officer for 20to30, and that is the closest she has ever come to a proper title. She produces, shoots, and edits most 20to30 videos while also taking care of the site. She is grateful to live in a time when playing on the internet and making movies can be combined into one job.

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