Today is International Youth Day and IJC’s Senior Diplomatic Advisor Yitzhak Eldan has written an op-ed in Israel Hayom on the importance of harnessing our young leaders skills and passion as Ambassadors for the State of Israel.
The IJC continues to support and work closely with gifted Israeli high school students from across the country, as well as IJC Young Fellows (College Students) to help train and empower them as diplomats for the State of Israel and create bridges with other young leaders from Europe and around the world.
This article was written in honor of Shira Banki (z’l), a 16-year-old Israeli girl murdered at the Jerusalem Gay Pride Parade last month. Shira embodied the very essence of what it means to be a young leader.
You can read full article here  and below.
Our youth as ambassadors
By Yitzhak Eldan, The Israeli-Jewish Congress (IJC) Senior Diplomatic Advisor (12 Aug, 2015)
As Israel tries to process the death of 16-year-old Gay Pride Parade stab victim Shira Banki (may her memory be a blessing), the world is preparing to mark International Youth Day on Wednesday, focusing on the theme of youth civic engagement. Shira was an excellent example of the civic engagement of Israeli youth — the young people that we have been blessed to watch contribute to and volunteer for the country.
On Wednesday, events will take place around the world emphasizing the important potential of young people as contributors to the development of their countries. On this day, a call will go out to state leaders to encourage their youth to take on an active role in community life out of a recognition of their vitality and ability to contribute to achieving national goals.
In Israel, there is less of an understanding of youth’s ability to get involved in the national effort to improve the country’s diplomatic status and image in the international community. The Foreign Ministry has always realized the importance of diplomacy and ties between countries as the foundation of diplomatic relations — and youth diplomacy is an integral part of that. Hundreds of young people from all over the country are active in different ways during their free time, volunteering to help their local communities with international relationships, especially under the twin city initiative. They are also among the first to volunteer to help organize international events in their towns and to host delegations from abroad.
In light of growing efforts on the part of Israel’s enemies to isolate and boycott our country, one of the most effective and important ways to advance Israel’s interests is to get Israeli youth active on social media and online. This would include presenting the beautiful state of Israel, responding to those who attack Israel and developing relations with youth in general, and especially Jewish youth, around the world.
Direct face-to-face contact with youth abroad is the most effective way to develop a young Israeli leadership that crosses borders, positively influencing foreign discourse. Traveling abroad as part of a public diplomacy delegation and inviting youth to visit Israel would significantly contribute to Israeli representation abroad.
Youth diplomacy is worthy of governmental and other kinds of support, for example from Communications Minister Gilad Erdan and from Education and Diaspora Affairs Minister Naftali Bennett. Minister Gila Gamliel’s appointment as social equality minister also includes youth issues, and provides a great opportunity to promote as a priority the social and political involvement of young people in the local and international sphere. Israeli children today are born into a giant global village. It is up to those in charge of youth issues to provide them with the tools to thrive in the international arena.
On International Youth Day, we, as Israelis, should remember the advice that has been attributed to Albert Einstein: Large countries do not need great diplomats, as their power speaks for itself. Small countries, on the other hand, need diplomats who know how to represent and promote their interests in the most effective way.
Leaders and ambassadors do not come out of thin air, we must grow and develop them from the time they are young.
[Photo credit: Israeli-Jewish Congress]