(This article was originally published on Ynet on 12.11.11 and can be found here. The article below is a translation of the original article.)
Anyone who knows me knows that Jewish and Israeli pride is an important part of my life. I've always been involved in the Jewish community in Israel and abroad, and I believe that each of us must take part in activities to promote the Jewish community in general and Israel in particular.
One of the first organizations I became familiar with in New York is the AJC ACCESS program. This group, which is catered to young professionals, brings together its members to liaise with opinion-makers from different political, religious and ethnic backgrounds all for the sake of promoting Jewish global interests and universal rights.
I recently saw some interesting videos on Youtube. No, I’m not referring to the woman cooking while drunk, though that was hilarious (and yet oddly profound) or the trailer for the latest Muppets movie (oh yes my friends, they’re back). I’m talking about the video discussing the events leading up to 1967 in an attempt to explain why the term “The Occupied Territories” is “just not political correct” or this video featuring the rhythmic heart and soul of Jerusalem made by Israeli artist Kutiman. Or this series of videos covering a television segment while Dr. Jaques Gautier, a Canadian non-Jew who spent twenty years writing a 1300-page dissertation of the legal ownership of Jerusalem (and by extension, the West Bank). A small spoiler alert: He concludes that legally, it’s property of the Jews. And another gem floating around cyberspace is Andrew Klavan’s cynical, satirical and funny solution for the conflict in the Middle East.
The piece below was written by Oliver Worth, Chariman of the World Union of Jewish Students.
The World Union of Jewish Students’ first Congress was held in Antwerp, Belgium in 1924 when 76 Jewish student leaders from 17 countries got together to discuss the problems affecting Jewish students around the World. The result of this Congress was astounding and unprecedented. As well as having invited Albert Einstein to be the first president (which unlike his invitation to become the first President of Israel, was accepted), new programs were developed to redirect Jewish students from Hungary, Poland and Russia to universities in Western Europe where many more opportunities were at that time available.
None of us knew what to expect – Twenty-three American Jews visiting a Protestant Church to commemorate the anniversary of what Americans call “Kristallnacht.” In Germany. At a service conducted in German.
What happened through the eyes of our group was, in a word, unbelievable. Over 300 Christians, young and old, attending an hour long remembrance, repentance, and commemoration to the systematic persecution of Jews in Europe, eventually resulting in the six million murdered during the Shoah. It was a moving and chilling program which included a recounting of the laws enacted against Jews, a speech on the nature of human rights and the role of justice and redemption in German society, and a call to action to uphold freedom for future generations.
>> Over the Green Line
Day Five began with a visit to the home of Hebrew University mathematics professor and former Member of Knesset Alex Lubotzky in Efrat, about 7 miles south of Jerusalem on the other side of the Green Line.
Efrat, home to nearly 10,000 people, was in the news earlier this month when Israel approved the construction of housing units there – a move that drove the international community mad, but that Israel explained as necessary to accommodate the natural expansion of the local population.
Alex described the history of Efrat and talked about its future. He explained that in a negotiated agreement with the Palestinians, this settlement and others in the area are likely to be traded (swapped) for other land.
Some of the mayors and senior staffers were surprised that this settlement looks like – as one mayor put it – a suburban housing development.
Today felt like several days rolled into one. For many in our group, it was a day of once-in-a-lifetime experiences. Find a comfortable spot for reading; this is going to be a long post.
>> Jerusalem: Planning and Architecture
Day Four began with a walking tour of Jerusalem with Ofer Manor, Chief Architect of Jerusalem. The US mayors are all keenly interested in – and involved in – planning issues in their cities. They were so impressed with the various projects Manor had spearheaded.
One project that had particular resonance was the transformation of Jaffa Street into a light rail path and pedestrian street running six and a half miles through the center of Jerusalem.
>> Israel’s Strategic Environment and the Peace Process
Our day began with a discussion with Prof. Asher Susser, senior research fellow at the Moshe Dayan Center for Middle Eastern and African Studies and associate professor in the Department of Middle Eastern and African History at Tel Aviv University.
Asher presented the mayors and senior staffers with an overview of Israel’s strategic environment, including the impact of the Arab Spring (a misnomer, in Asher’s estimation), the predicament of rapid population growth in the Arab world combined with poor prospects for job creation and growth, and the status of Israel’s relations with its powerful, non-Arab neighbors (Iran and Turkey).
The Russell Tribunal on Palestine South African session has come and gone but not without its fair share of controversy.
Held in Cape Town on November 5th and 6th, the RToP set out to be a ‘people’s court’ investigating whether Israel’s treatment of the Palestinian people fits the international legal definitions of the crime of apartheid.
To most onlookers, Judge Richard Goldstone’s prior assessment of the tribunal that, “it is not a ‘tribunal’ … the 'evidence' is going to be one-sided and the members of the ‘jury’ are critics whose harsh views of Israel are well known,” was seen to have been largely vindicated by the proceedings which found in favour of what many argued was a predetermined conclusion.
>> Clean Water
Today began with a trip to the Palmachim Desalination Plant. Actually, let’s back up. Today began with Israeli cottage cheese topped with chopped tomatoes and cucumber, which is a great way to begin the day in Tel Aviv.
After that strong start, we drove south of Tel Aviv to the Water Desalination Plant in Palmachim. The mayors and senior staffers took great interest in this tour, as water management is a topic of concern in a number of US communities, just as it is in Israel.
The Palmachim plant is a major local provider of a large portion of the water consumed by Israeli households and used in Israeli industry and agriculture – in the next two years Israel expects to be able to supply 80 percent of its water needs through reclaimed sea water.
Palmachim is a fine example of the Israeli drive to innovate and be self-sufficient.
Project Interchange, an educational institute of AJC, brings opinion leaders and policy makers to Israel for a week of intensive travel and learning. Participants experience Israeli society, connect with their Israeli counterparts and learn about Israel’s extensive contributions in their fields.
Elizabeth Planet, AJC’s Director of Regional Offices and the Assistant Executive Director of AJC, is currently staffing the Mayor’s Seminar. She is writing a daily blog of her and her group’s experiences and sharing them on the Project Interchange website.