The missions program is the single most important activity CIJA undertakes to educate Canadians about the people of Israel. Nothing provides greater understanding of the challenges facing Israelis, demonstrates Canadian-Israeli shared values, and illustrates why Canadian Jews care so deeply about Israel than placing a hand on the Kotel, visiting Yad Vashem, or overlooking the Sea of Galilee.
CIJA’s missions program is seen by Canadian opinion-makers and influencers in government, media, academia, and civil society as a unique, once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to experience the real Israel.
What is a CIJA mission to Israel?
In about a week, a CIJA mission exposes participants to many important aspects of Israel, including tours of Jerusalem’s Old City, Yad Vashem, the Knesset, the Supreme Court, border positions along the Golan Heights, and more. Missions are organized and staffed by a dedicated team of Canadian ex-pats with decades of experience designing programs tailored for Canadians.
Mission participants enjoy briefings and dinners with Jewish and Arab Israeli experts with extensive experience in government, media, military, and academia, representing different perspectives of issues that impact Israel and the region. Mission participants also meet with leaders in the Palestinian community.
CIJA often tailors missions by audience, for example:
- Missions for Canadian Members of Parliament include meetings with Members of the Knesset
- A mission for high-tech journalists included visits to many Israeli start-ups and research and development centres of international high tech companies
- A mission for green entrepreneurs provided Canadian businesspeople an opportunity to visit Israeli companies leading development of technologies in solar energy and water conservation
- Academic missions enable university presidents and graduate-level students to meet with officials at Israel’s top universities, the Bank of Israel, and Israeli government departments overseeing financial and industrial policy
What tangible results come from CIJA missions to Israel?
CIJA ensures mission participants understand their attendance comes with no strings attached. Our view is that knowledge gained from visiting Israel speaks for itself; mission participants cannot help but return to Canada better informed about Israel and the Middle East.
At the same time, missions often provide opportunities for greater cooperation between Canadians and Israelis – mutually beneficial for people in both countries. In 2013, for example, during a joint CIJA-Israeli Ministry of Foreign Affairs mission for Canadian university presidents, the Association of Universities and Colleges of Canada (AUCC) signed a partnership agreement with its Israeli counterpart. The accord formally strengthened ties between Israeli universities and every publicly-funded Canadian university and college.
AUCC Vice-President Christine Tausig Ford, a mission participant, stated:
“This has been an eye-opening experience. We have learned about Israeli history and culture, visited university leaders and heard from star researchers in their labs. Canadian university presidents have been deeply impressed by Israel’s innovative spirit and its equally deep commitment to basic university research.”
There are countless anecdotal examples of mission participants reporting that their experience on a CIJA mission was “eye-opening” and even “life-changing”. As Blake Leew, an MBA student who attended a 2014 academic mission, stated:
“I finished the trip not only with increased understanding of the issues but also with an increased conviction to ensure that they are discussed and resolved in a manner that is moderate, balanced, and fair. For many participants, including myself, the trip was a life-changing experience that will have long-lasting effects on the choices we make after finishing school…”
A student participant from another CIJA mission, Sean Wilson, described how his experience spurred him to take action against a boycott of Israel on his campus:
“In December 2012, CIJA’s mission to Israel for young political leaders had a profound impact on my understanding of the Middle East. Just four months after returning from my trip with CIJA, I organized a successful initiative to repeal a boycott of Israel at the University of Regina Students’ Union.
“I’m proud to call myself a friend of Israel today. More importantly, I’m proud to have put my beliefs into action on campus – and to have done my part to ensure that our student union no longer endorses a blatantly discriminatory boycott campaign. CIJA gave me the tools I needed to make a difference.”
CIJA’s fact-finding missions to Israel are enabling current and future leaders to appreciate the Jewish state, its values, and the benefits of a robust Canada-Israel relationship.
Who participates in CIJA missions to Israel?
Since 2011, CIJA has taken over 600 influential Canadians, nearly all non-Jews, to Israel. Previous participants have included parliamentarians, political staff and activists, university presidents, journalists, Christians, students, police officials, First Nations leaders, civil society activists, and young leaders. About a third of current Canadian MPs have participated in a CIJA mission.
Who pays for CIJA missions to Israel?
CIJA’s missions to Israel are funded in three ways:
- CIJA’s core budget
- Canadian donors who choose to sponsor missions beyond CIJA’s core budget
- Participants who fund a portion of their costs
If you are interested in sponsoring a CIJA mission or contributing to the missions program, please contact us. We would be happy to answer any questions you have.