A Message from Rebecca Caspi, Senior Vice President, Israel and Overseas
Just a few weeks ago, in a highly emotional moment, the Completing the Journey Mission accompanied 80 Ethiopians from Gondar on their aliya to Israel. Last week, I was privileged to be part of a delegation of senior federation leadership in a meeting with Prime Minister Netanyahu, where we raised the issue of Ethiopian aliya. I was thrilled that just a few hours after that meeting, the prime minister announced a dramatic increase in the number of monthly immigrants who will be coming from Ethiopia (see details here).
Many of us are concerned about recent trends in Israel that have been high on the public agenda. Issues of racial divides and segregated nurseries; religious conflict and intolerance; social divisions and internal conflicts have all been prominent. At the same time we have seen a strong push back by many elements of Israeli society, including work by our historic partners building bridges and creating a more just and equal society.
I also look on at the incredible - and somewhat miraculous - achievements that Israel continues to bring forth, with the help of Federations and our partners. I think of the renewable energy initiative being worked on in the Negev and of our scientific, academic, commercial progress. I turn to the young adult communities and marvel at the strength and drive of Israel's citizens, to build up this country and be a leader where there is no leader. The social protests in the summer showed the potential of the Israeli people when they come together.
Yet, with unresolved issues surrounding Jewish identity, the 'Who is a Jew' question, and troubling rifts between religious and secular, my life here can feel quite schizophrenic. I take great pride in Israel, while feeling worried about its deficiencies. I know I'm not alone in that – it's me and the rest of the nation.
We've prepared a resource page on challenges in Israel's civil society to offer some clarity in these areas as they develop and to highlight federation involvement. The January Board of Trustees meeting provided an opportunity to present the latest on conversion in Israel, which you can see below. We are excited at how the Global Planning Table is taking form and encourage you to learn more about it.
At the same time as trying to make sense of our internal issues, we at the Israel office are readying ourselves for any major event that may take place, keeping a close eye on developments with Iran, and together with our partners, refining our emergency preparedness strategies. As the South remains in danger of missiles, JFNA continues to work closely with JAFI and JDC as well as governmental bodies to ensure the greatest assistance possible.
Keep looking at our Israel and Overseas website for updates on new teleconferences held to update you on hot topics. We continue to be your eyes and ears on the ground, representing the North American Jewish voice however we can and encouraging that voice to be heard as Israel's partner in the building of the State of Israel.
Please enjoy this edition of our I & O Newsletter and don't think twice about sharing any comments, thoughts, feedback you have about this publication, our web site and our ongoing efforts.
Shalom and best wishes,
The Negev Funding Coalition's Renewable Energy Program