Israel at 140
“Eretz Israel shall only be built by an industrious people, rich in substance and spirit, who come to her from afar after history has proven the essential need to create for itself a Homeland, equipped with the tools of modern science and technology and prepared at all costs to transform wilderness and ruin into a blooming oasis of agricultural produce, cultural wealth and a growing population.”
- David Ben-Gurion in 1915
It’s hard to believe that even David Ben-Gurion, the first Prime Minister of Israel, could have anticipated how true his vision would be as Israel begins its 70th year as the eternal home of the Jewish people. The trajectory and accomplishments of the tiny nation are well documented. Israel is a leader in technology, biochemistry, medicine, agriculture, humanitarian relief, solar power, desalinization and Israel is a first-tier innovation hub, second in the world only to Silicon Valley in its concentration of start-up companies.
I remember fondly my first trip to Israel as a young 13-year old boy. I participated in our communities Youth to Youth trip connecting teens from Mazkeret Batya Israel with teens in Calgary, Canada. The four-week trip to Israel imprinted a love of the land and her people that stays with me today. It also helped me understand and learn about the complexities of life in Israel, a process that grows with each visit.
Our Jewish Community Federation of Richmond has invested tens of millions of dollars in the land and people of Israel over the past 70 years. Our connection to Israel is the backbone of our work, and continues to evolve and grow. Support for Israel has taken many forms over the years; supporting Lone Soldiers – IDF members without immediate family in Israel – infrastructure building, assisting and supporting new immigrants, social and educational support, and most recently developing and strengthening personal connections between Israelis and Richmonders.
In a diverse and vibrant community such as ours, we have equally diverse and varied views on Israel. It is what makes Israel such a dynamic place. Have a conversation with three Israelis and you are likely to get five opinions about politics, the economy or the price of real estate; the same is true of Jewish Richmonders. This fact has always been true, Jews have always enjoyed a good robust discussion. It is the tone and nature of the conversation that has changed in recent history.
Our ability to listen, learn and consider the other when discussing Israel or the local Jewish community has devolved in recent years. The trend is mirrored in the general community, however, I worry that for us, as Jews, the consequences are more severe.
Our present and future as a people, and Israel’s as a country, relies on our strength and ability to work together. That doesn’t happen without a lot of listening, exploring and learning. Today, we have to work a little harder to listen and learn. We have to look outside of our curated social media timelines and favorite news sources. We have to engage in conversation, open up to views that may be foreign and may even make us a little frustrated. It isn’t always comfortable, but important things rarely are.
Our Federation will be working to create those conversations and build and strengthen our connection to Israel and with each other. This January, we will participate in an exciting new opportunity for physicians in Richmond to connect directly and personally with colleagues in Hadera Eiron, our Partnership 2Gether community. In addition, we will be traveling together to Zaporozhe, Ukraine, in April to see how we are building and sustaining Jewish life first hand. You will see an increased Federation presence out in the community in the form of parlor meetings, listening sessions and education opportunities. Our expanded Israel and Overseas missions program in the coming years will focus on facilitating deeper connections between Israel and our agencies, Synagogues and general Richmond community.
We hope you will get involved, host a discussion or parlor meeting or reach out to learn, share and listen.
We look forward to engaging in conversations and experiences that are rich in substance and spirit and equip us to celebrate the next 70 years of Israel and our people together.
Chazak, Chazak, V’nitchazek, “Be strong, be strong, and we will make an effort.”
To reach me, call (804) 545-8622 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.