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June 10, 2020 6:32 am
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Connecting the Diaspora With COVID-19 Tech Solutions From Israel

avatar by Eliana Rudee / JNS.org

Opinion

Eran Druker, from the Israeli company RD Pack, gestures while walking inside a special tunnel which sprays football players arriving for matches with a fine disinfectant mist to help prevent the spread of the coronavirus disease (COVID-19), at Bloomfield Stadium in Tel Aviv, Israel, June 3, 2020. Photo: Reuters / Amir Cohen.

JNS.orgAs Israeli society slowly returns to normal — with some fits and starts — Israeli organizations have begun to ask how innovations developed within Israel in response to the coronavirus pandemic can be effectively organized and shared with Jewish communities struggling around the world.

With Diaspora communities still fraught with urgent needs and challenges in the face of the ongoing outbreak, the Reut Group’s “Peoplehood Coalition” launched a new platform to offer Jewish communities around the world solutions from Israeli entrepreneurs. Its “COVID-19 Solutions” platform — a collaborative project with ACT-IL and ISRAEL-is — acts as an online marketplace that matches the needs of individuals, communities, and organizations with Israeli-tested solutions.

Through online dialogue, meetings, and webinars, Israelis share their innovative projects and technologies that can provide individuals and communities with ideas as they work to adapt to this crisis in the short and long term.

Also originating in Israel and since activated in the Diaspora is “Dor L’Dor” (“Generation to Generation”), a program that streamlines the learning process for coronavirus patients and the elderly to use technologies like Zoom, Skype, and WhatsApp in order to connect to others and decrease loneliness.

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A third example, Klar said, is a one-day online Hackathon to gather solutions within a communal framework, a valuable apparatus for communities when they are unable to gather physically. Perhaps more interesting than the specific effort itself, noted the Peoplehood Coalition, is the movement that sits behind it — a group of Israeli leaders looking to support world Jewry not with calls to make aliyah, but by matching needs and resources with Jewish communities during this challenging time.

“It is Israeli society’s duty to offer support to the Jewish world in the spirit of avrut hadadit [‘mutual responsibility’], and to provide solutions and knowledge available in Israel to communities in order to reduce suffering and accelerate the adaptation of other communities through the use of these tested responses,” explained Klar.

While sharing solutions and best practices not only helps Diaspora communities face the coronavirus outbreak, she said, it encourages Israeli civil society leaders to harness their talents and tools to support Jewish communities challenged by COVID-19, thereby instilling a sense of a greater Jewish solidarity in Israeli society, and better relations between Israel and world Jewry.

Klar maintained that in 2016, “something went wrong in the way Israel perceives world Jewry.” Since then, she has dedicated much of her time to developing in Israel a sense of peoplehood with Diaspora communities, initiating discussions with other leaders about their needs, and working at the policy level to strengthen the relationship.

In the 21st century, she said, it makes sense that “almost every challenge you manage has a tech aspect in its solution,” and the simpler the better. “Tech solutions do not have to be super sophisticated; rather, they should be scalable.”

Eyal Biram, CEO of ISRAEL-is, which trains discharged Israel Defense Forces’ soldiers to become ambassadors for Israel when they go abroad after their army service, said, “We have changed our focus since COVID to train the Israelis not for trips abroad, but to inspire our great young Israelis to share their solutions with the world. Israel has many great assets, including technology. We are the Startup Nation, and that has created resilience [in Israeli society].”

He said that “it is not the same in Buenos Aires, Rome, São Paulo, etc., so creating and sharing a hub to share our needs and solutions together is the greatest contribution Israel can make right now to the situation.”

Tom Berman, CEO of Act.IL, an online platform working to combat antisemitism, terrorism, and anti-Israel sentiment in the digital sphere, added, “It’s time to share with the world the solutions created in Israel during corona, to spread the story of the Startup Nation, to share knowledge, successes, and learning with the Jewish community.”

His platform was supported by the Israeli-American Council, IDC Herzliya, and the Abba Eban Institute.

“We want to inspire them with Israeli innovation and to create a global coalition that ignores politics, borders, and cultural differences,” he said. “It’s an opportunity to show and discuss Israel from a different perspective, and to create a sense of togetherness and a regional unity confronting the COVID-19 challenges.”

Eliana Rudee is a contributor to the Franklin Center for Government & Public Integrity. She is a graduate of Scripps College, where she studied International Relations and Jewish Studies. Follow her @ellierudee.

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