In the spring of 2002, at the height of the second intifada, a group of us from the greater Berkeley area went to Israel to assess the situation for ourselves. We returned and started a grass-roots organization, Bridges to Israel-Berkeley, dedicated to promote Israel's security and survival.
Berkeley is a reputed center for pro-Palestinian activism and during the intifada period Israel was portrayed frequently as an aggressive and illegitimate entity, even though suicide bombings and other terror activities were being directed at its civilian population on a near-daily basis. The constant din of voices condemning Israel in the media, at public meetings and on the UCB campus far outweighed the sounds of reason, prudence and careful judgment about current and historical events. We strongly believed that a countervailing voice was needed in this community to give Israel a fair hearing and we saw Bridges to Israel-Berkeley as the medium to provide that voice.
We held our first community meeting on June, 2002 and over 50 people attended to hear a report on the economic, political and psychological impact of Palestinian terrorism on the Israeli population. Bridges to Israel-Berkeley was launched at that time and 30 people immediately signed up. Since then, our membership has grown enormously.
We saw and continue to see the crucial need for balanced community education on the complex situation in Israel and the Middle East. Since our inception, we have sponsored or co-sponsored community educational events which have included speakers representing both Israel's political left, right and center [link to list of our past educational events]. These have included well-known journalists, jurists and politicians. In addition, several times a week Bridges to Israel sends out a free Briefing of articles on Israel's diplomatic, political and socio-economic situation garnered from Israeli periodicals and the world press. The purpose of these briefings is to provide analysis, background and context on important current issues involving Israel. Every attempt is made to maintain respect for the complexities of these issues and to provide nuanced viewpoints which, in net, adhere to a centrist position. If you'd like to subscribe, please click here to send us an email.
In 2006, Bridges to Israel-Berkeley initiated the Israel Educational Forum (IEF)--a fund developed specifically to bring named speakers from Israel to the East Bay as part of its educational program. Our initial program in March 2007 sponsored Ze'ev Schiff, the senior defense analyst and correspondent of Haaretz, who addressed the topic: War and Peace in the Middle East: How will Israel face the new realities?