President Reuven Rivlin on Wednesday morning hosted a group of over 70 Israeli and North American Jewish students, and noted that those studying in American university campuses are on the "front lines" of the battle against anti-Semitism couched in the guise of antagonism to the Jewish state.
Rivlin began by welcoming the students, who are participating in the Birthright Excel program which combines internships in leading Israeli and international companies in Israel, together with a program of leadership seminars and tours of Israel.
"This summer is not just about your internship and building your resume," Rivlin told the students. "On your shoulders, students of the best schools, soldiers at the top intelligence units, lies the obligation as the leaders of tomorrow, to start thinking now about how our future can be a better one."
Speaking about the challenges on college campuses, he stated, "those of you who have come from America and from Canada, and are returning to continue your studies on college campuses, many of you will be on the front line of a modern battle, fighting the attempts to boycott and defame Israel."
"You will face accusations, slander and hatred. It is okay to criticize Israel, but it is not acceptable to use violence or intimidation to silence debate and to single out Israel, to single out Jews. This is the true face of the boycott movement."
Calling for unity in Israeli society, Rivlin added, "we must, all of us, work to find a common language, not by accusing each other, not by shouting without listening – whether in schools, communities, or in the media in order to score political points – but by truly coming together to listen, and promote understanding."
Gidi Mark, CEO of Taglit-Birthright, also addressed the students, noting that "Birthright is this year bringing around 45,000 young Jews to Israel. Birthright Excel's participants begin here in Israel, a long term journey of leadership, and go on to be mentored both in Israel by leading figures in industry and in North America by leading members of the community."