2018-11-07 / Voice at the Shore

The world needs a whole lot more Israel

Israel Center Co- Chair/ Jewish Federation of Atlantic & Cape May Counties

Spending time in Israel is always a wonderful and uplifting experience, but being there when the General Assembly (GA) of The Jewish Federations of North America (JFNA) takes place in Israel is an especially inspiring and incredibly meaningful experience.

More than 3,600 people participated in the GA in Tel Aviv from Oct. 22-24, representing Jewish communities large and small, urban and remote, connecting personally with one another, and hearing about the accomplishments, challenges, and issues we confront in our own communities and as part of a global people.

The closing plenary wove together in a powerful culmination the GA’s theme of “Let’s Talk,” and while it was Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who closed the GA speaking with unusual candor, humor, sensitivity, and, yes, even vulnerability, it was the ambassadors of Canada and the United States who encapsulated with clarity and strength of conviction why it was we were in Israel.

United States Ambassador David Friedman spoke not so much as a diplomat as he did as a Jew, noting the strong and unbreakable cultural, diplomatic, economic, and security ties between the United States and Israel, while cautioning Diaspora Jews, and particularly those in the United States, against apathy toward Jewish identity and Israel. Amb. Friedman called Diaspora apathy the greatest threat to Israel and the Jewish people, explaining that, however we might disagree, we must avoid politicizing the issues on which we disagree. He encouraged American Jewish communities to do all they can to make young Jews feel heard, and to do so through education and engagement. Failing to do so, he said, will mean we fail this and future generations, and will serve to increase the divide between Diaspora Jews and Jews in Israel.

Canada’s ambassador to Israel, Deborah Lyons, applauded and celebrated Israel’s robust and diverse economy and society, the strength and integrity of her judicial system, and her many accomplishments in every field of endeavor, stating that all should be a source of pride to Jews and non-Jews around the world, but reserved her highest praise for Israel’s incredible effort to strengthen social cohesion in Israel, for her efforts to serve as a beacon to Jewish communities around the world, her willingness to share her expertise in medicine, innovation, and technology with developing nations around the world, and, most especially, for sharing her expertise and resources, with boots on the ground, in disaster and war zones anywhere in the world, whether it be Haiti, Pakistan, or Syria. Israel’s humanitarian aid is equaled by few nations, most of which, including Canada and the United States, have much larger economies and populations, and which is why Ambassador Lyons said, “The world needs a whole lot more Israel.”

As American Jews, we need to recognize that, yes, there are issues on which we will and should disagree with Israel, but what we must always remember is that addressing these differences requires patience, time, and the kind of long-term commitment that comes from addressing all issues with open hearts and open minds. It means that, even when we do not agree, we must never fail to recognize and celebrate all that upon which we can agree, and all that which binds us a global people, as a family. s

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