In Israel, Standing Side by Side with Our People
Last week, I had the honor and privilege to lead 57 international Jewish community leaders from 22 countries on a solidarity mission to Israel, where we were joined by 21 Israeli leaders and World Jewish Congress (WJC) staff. The fact that WJC brought people from all WJC regions – North America, South America, Europe, Euro-Asia, and Africa – to Israel on only a few days’ notice shows the fervent support of world Jewry for the Jewish state. Concern for Israel binds the diverse Jewish communities of the world together, and it was amazing to see this outpouring of support as people literally dropped everything in order to stand side-by-side with Israel during this dangerous period.
We saw and learned a lot on this mission. It was inspiring to meet with the young soldiers who are defending Israel from this terrible threat, and with the old generals who have spent their lives facing down Israel’s enemies from all sides. We met with brave residents of the south, of Sderot and Sha’ar Hanegev, who live with rocket fire as a daily part of their lives – such as children who attend a specially reinforced school so they can withstand rockets attacks while in class. We heard from three ministers and so many other august leaders and fine analysts about all the things Israel is doing to stop the rockets while minimizing casualties – and about the things the world must do to stop Iran, which is the source of so many of the rockets.
Meeting up with Israeli President Shimon Peres, we paid a visit to Kibbutz Zikim, which borders the Gaza Strip. A few days ago, a terror attack against the kibbutz by Hamas fighters was narrowly prevent by the Israel Defense Forces after a Hamas commando unit tried to land on Zikim Beach.
We saw a resilient Israel, protected by a powerful Iron Dome, which we visited. We bonded with Israelis and each other.
I’d like to thank the wonderful WJC staff for all their effort putting together such a huge undertaking on such short notice, and the leaders who came from the ends of the earth to get there. The people we met in Israel very much appreciated our solidarity and presence.
Ronald S. Lauder is president of the World Jewish Congress. This article first appeared on his blog at worldjewishcongress.org.