One result of focus-testing, according to Firestone, is that a highly popular topic with college students is love and romance. He said pro-Israel groups are exploring ways to talk about love of one's neighbors, and the love expressed between parents and children in a society constantly aware of suicide bombings and the ephemeral quality of life.

"We are so used to dealing with the rational level," Firestone said, "but we have to talk about emotions, too - about our love for Israel, for justice, and even donating organs to show our love of life."

Sharansky and Firestone agreed that no single approach in making Israel's case can work, especially on college campuses, where openness, tolerance and dialogue are highly valued. In his Maariv essay, Sharansky suggested that 90 percent of Jewish college students are not involved with Israel, dubbing them the new "Jews of silence." Whatever the statistics, several Hillel directors around the country interviewed for this article noted that many Jewish students feel emotionally close to Israel but lack the historical and political facts to counter pro-Palestinian arguments.

"I see Jewish students in agony," said Michael Brooks, director of Hillel at the University of Michigan. "They feel inadequate, and we in both the Israeli and the American Jewish communities have failed to contextualize for them just how extraordinary the Zionist enterprise is. We send them signs and slogans, but that's not enough."

He said that a non-Jewish student recently wrote a piece in the campus newspaper expressing his annoyance with Hillel T-shirts that read, "Wherever We Stand, We Stand With Israel." To him, the slogan meant Israel, right or wrong, Brooks said after meeting with the writer. Brooks said he explained that the intent was to suggest the diversity of Jewish opinions on Israel.

"We missed an opportunity with the shirts," he said, suggesting the message should have been one to encourage dialogue rather than proclaim a slogan. "That's what we intend to do now," he said.

A Hillel director on the West Coast, who asked not to be named, stressed that "strident pro-Israel advocates who are unwilling to concede that Israel has a problem with settlements, occupation and other controversial stands, only end up making more Jewish students skeptical. If you insist you're always right, you lose credibility."

Supporters of Israel can't use the same kind of advocacy their parents did when Israel was less a military power than it is today, he said.

Jewish leaders confessed they are at a loss as to how to deal with anti-Israel faculty, while noting that teachers play an important role in shaping students' opinions.

Ido Aharaoni of the Israeli Consulate said that while the American Jewish community was investing in Jewish studies programs at universities around the country, it neglected to establish endowments or chairs in international and Mideast studies, and other fields. Arab governments and other sympathizers have poured millions into such programs, he said.

He called for a long-term campaign to produce professors more sympathetic to Israel.

Everyone interviewed spoke of the need to integrate Zionist and Jewish education from the earliest stages so that young people will understand that outside of the context of Judaism, Israel is just another state, and that without Israel, Judaism is a religion without a home.

"It's not a matter of solidarity with Israel or strengthening Jewish life," Sharansky noted. "We need both."