Is there an antidote? There may very well be, says Dr. Scott Baum of the Memphis Friends of Israel group. According to Baum, the major pro-Israel festival the group sponsors each year, along with smaller educational events throughout the year, is an example of an excellent way for supporters of Israel to respond to the bile of the anti-Israel crowd - “especially since we have the facts on our side,” Baum said in an interview with Israel National News.
A long-time activist on behalf of Israel, Baum sensed a few years ago that Israel's message just wasn't getting the media attention it deserved – while anti-Israel events and views were being promoted apace in the local media. “At the time, we opened a chapter of Honest Reporting, and we would hammer the local and national media for their incorrect and biased points of view, but we just weren't getting the coverage we needed.” It was then that Baum and several other Memphis area activists decided to go with a less “hard” approach – and Memphis Friends of Israel (FOI) was born.
The organization's main activity is an annual 'down home' style festival – with a pro-Israel twist. The festival features games, music, food, races – and an Israel information booth.
The organization's main activity is an annual “down home” style festival – with a pro-Israel twist, says Baum. “We sponsor our event in a public forum, not behind a synagogue, and we invite everyone, Christians and Jews” - with members of both faiths actively participating in the organization and execution of Memphis FOI activities. The festival features games, music, food, races – and an Israel information booth. “The people come and have a good time – they dance to Israeli music, eat some falafel, and listen to speakers who tell Israel's side of the story,” Baum says.
This year's festival was the third sponsored by Memphis FOI, says Baum – and each year, the event attracts more visitors. “When we first started the group, we figured we would preach to the choir, helping pro-Israel advocates to better defend Israel,” he says. But with the response to the group's events so positive, Memphis FOI now reaches out to the general community, Baum says – trying to reach fair-minded people who are looking for the facts.
And disseminating the facts is the best way to battle the anti-Israel crowd. “There's no question that the anti-Israel forces are gaining strength these days. They have grassroots support but no facts on their side - and that's how we battle them,” says Baum. Speakers at the festival this year included a soldier who was expelled from his home in Gush Katif, an Ethiopian immigrant to Israel, and a speaker who talked about the facts of life in the Middle East.
Could what works in Memphis work in other cities as well? Baum thinks so, and in fact, Memphis FOI is ready, willing and able to provide assistance to any group that wants to sponsor pro-Israel events. “We have plenty of materials on our website, and plenty of flags and other items we can lend out” - and in fact, says Baum, the organization will be doing exactly that in Nashville later this year. “Our festival is a great way to educate people,” says Baum. “Most people want to be educated, and for most people, the facts will win out.”
For more information, contact Dr. Baum via the Memphis Friends of Israel website.