Awesome Seminars

From Nelson Mandela who unforgettably said, “Education is the most powerful weapon which you can use to change the word,” to Blues guitarist BB King who quipped, “the most beautiful thing about learning is that no-one can take it away from you,” many a figurehead has summed up the important of education. What is true for BB King and Mandela is true for educator Neil Lazarus. 

In 1988, Neil left London and came to Israel for what he thought would be for six months. 33 years later he is still here. He has used those years wisely and succeeded in building a reputation as one of the most respected (and funniest) educators in the world of all things Israel.

In a seemingly endless resource of materials which follow the ever-changing realities of the Middle East, for the last thirty years, Neil, fondly known as Mr Israel Advocacy, has built a platform under his company name “Awesome Seminars,” which is accessed through his website, Spotify, Google, and Apple. Even throughout the lockdown this has ensured that he meets his target of educating his average 30,000 people a year.

Never one to shy away from difficult political questions, Neil builds an itinerary for students where they can meet Israelis and Palestinians alike. Nothing is off limits. Students can express any opinion they want as long as they engage in debate with dignity. He teaches them to rationally defend an argument, a skill mostly shrouded in a world where it’s an offense to hurt peoples feelings. 

His comprehensive knowledge of the Middle East – in which he insists Israel must be viewed in context – has been laid out and brilliantly explained via his mastery of all things to do with computers and technology. Neil knows that to keep up with the times there is a need to reinvent oneself. In doing so, whether it be apps, webinars or seminars, he commands the attention of young people exhausted by online learning, and astonishingly has picked up rave reviews that leave his students wanting to know more. 

His latest teaching tool is an interactive multi media presentation which presents students with moral dilemmas. There is a terrorist in a car on his way to blow up an Israeli club. Students have an option of giving the order for a drone to strike. But things are not as simple as they seem. As the car progresses towards its target, dilemmas open up because of new intelligence. There is a risk of killing innocent civilians. Yet if there is no strike, innocents could be murdered in a terror attack. What originally seemed black and white, unfolds with an agonizing predicament. Thus, students learn through this activity that anything to do with the defense of Israel comes with moral dilemmas and is far more complex (like most of life itself) than what first meets the eye. 

Although he has trained Israeli diplomats and ambassadors for public speaking (and even trained a candidate for the premiership of a European country) his favorite audience is young people, teenagers with hungry minds. This stems from his deep belief that Jews are the people of the book. Jewish people wrote the Bible, have flooded the world of academia for hundreds of years, and influenced  every culture and country where they have settled down. Neil’s theory is a truism and hope for young people who may have lost their way during a lockdown. He empowers  these young Jews to understand that they don’t just read the book but they can write it too: by acquiring knowledge, showing dignity towards others and conveying with a new zest their love for Israel which is part of the complexities of the Middle East.