Homeland security

Nina Mandell

As far as public service annoucements go, “Israel: It’s still safe to come,” sounds a little stiff.

Except when it’s printed on a condom wrapper.

Freshmen at the University of California at San Diego, have been distributing condoms emblazoned with the snappy slogan since last spring. It’s part of a larger educational effort, “Got Israel?” that includes fast facts about the status of women and homosexuals in Israel and the Middle East.

But the condoms stole the spotlight right away.

UC San Diego juniors Neta Retter and Eddie Cohen came up with the idea at a conference they attended in May 2002 called Advocacy Mission to Israel.

“It just came about as a joke one night when we were all hanging out,” Retter said. “We don’t even remember who said it, but Eddie and I thought it was so funny.”

Rabbi Lisa Goldstein of the UC San Diego Hillel said distributing condoms was meant to raise awareness about Israel and to combat apathy.

Goldstein said she had reservations at first, but stands by her decision, despite losing one major donor because of the campaign.

The project is not being funded by their Hillel, but rather by an independent foundation, Retter said.

At Northwestern, however, reaction to the idea was limp.

Kenny Ecker, the president of Hillel Cultural Life, said he strongly disapproved of any NU versions of the campaign.

“We would think about it first and then realize the immaturity of using condoms to get your point across,” said Ecker, a Weinberg junior.

While UC San Diego has many other programs promoting Israel, the condoms aren’t going away. Months after their debut, the condoms and pro-Israel T-shirts are selling well online through Retter’s Web site.

“People are responding really well,” she said, “We get orders for T-shirts and the condoms all the time.”