Emily Austin, an Israeli-American sports broadcaster and social-media influencer, last visited Israel almost a year ago. So it was high time for another visit, the 22-year-old told JNS, when the Sheba Medical Center at Tel Hashomer invited her to get a glimpse of its humanitarian work.
Austin, who began modeling and working in broadcast news at 18, has a vast social-media following with more than 500,000 on TikTok and 1.2 million on Instagram. She aims to visit Israel at least annually and thinks it is “important to remind myself and everyone else of my Israeli roots,” she told JNS.
Born in Brooklyn, NY, to Israeli parents who immigrated to the United States, she got her big break when an MTV producer saw an Instagram live show that she produced, called “Daily Vibes with Emily Austin.” The producer asked her to audition for the MTV show “Music Lives On.” She did and was part of the show for one year.
She has served as an unpaid media consultant to Israel’s permanent mission to the United Nations since September 2022 and was a judge of the 71st “Miss Universe” pageant earlier this year.
“Israel is always taking heat for a lot of false narratives that are out there,” she told JNS. “I am one of the many proofs that this is a thriving and democratic country.”
Correcting false narratives, building bridges organically
Austin hopes that her visits to Israel, which she discusses on her social-media handles, will encourage US athletes to see for themselves that Israel is neither a war zone nor an “apartheid” state, an accusation that has been increasingly pointed towards the country.
Her trip last month, which was organized and paid for by the hospital, included meetings with Israeli President Isaac Herzog and his wife, Michal Herzog, at their Jerusalem home; visits to the Western Wall (Kotel) and its tunnels; and a meeting with Rabbi Shmuel Rabinovitch, chairman of the Western Wall Heritage Foundation. And, of course, she spent a lot of time at the medical center.
Herzog was “very genuine,” she reported, and she and he and his wife discussed medical innovations at the hospital as well as the importance of Israeli unity. The Israeli president thanked her for her social-media activism on behalf of the Jewish state, she told JNS.
At the Sheba Medical Center, Austin learned about advances it has made in the medical field in recent years, including a field hospital that reportedly was the first to set down in Ukraine after the Russian invasion in February 2022.
During the trip, Austin also met with Israeli opposition leader Benny Gantz and attended the medical center’s annual gala on June 5, where she met US Ambassador to Israel Thomas Nides and Israeli pop star Shiri Maimon.
At a campus of the Shalva Center, an Israeli nonprofit that works with people with disabilities and their families, Austin learned about a soccer and basketball camp, whose coaches include former Israeli-American professional basketball player and current coach Tamir Goodman and retired Israeli Olympic judoka Ori Sasson.
She also found time on the trip to visit with family, including her great-grandmother and cousins who live in Tel Aviv.
Austin doubled down on the need to correct the false narratives about Israel, she told JNS, saying that “the only way we can do that is through connecting people on a personal level.”
She added that sports are one of the best ways “to build these bridges organically.”
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