View from Netanya

ELKAN’S VIEW 25h March 2015

Last Sunday I went to the all-day conference entitled “We Believe in Israel” which attracted over 1000 delegates including some from Radlett who also presented.

After an opening plenary in which Chief Rabbi Mirvis, Michael Gove MP and Michael Dugher MP took part there were five breakout sessions each of which had 14 or more alternatives. These included such matters as education on defending Israel against lies, countering the BDS (Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions) movement, and telling good news stories about Israel of which there are thousands that go untold. There were sessions considering the attitude of younger Anglo-Jews towards Israel, how to lobby and to deal with the press, anti-Semitism and Christian perspectives towards Israel and various useful sessions on Israeli attitudes to these problems.

I found some of the presentations unsurprising but disturbing. The very close connection and pride that my generation had towards Israel can no longer be automatically assumed. There is still a strong religious connection to Israel, and the number of religious young people who spend a gap year there and make Aliyah holds firm, but the figures for the less committed are falling. This of course may change in the UK if anti-Semitism really gets a grip as it has in France; I know that even people who are fully committed to living and working in the United Kingdom are beginning to think that a holiday home in Israel is not a bad idea.

The conference closed with a rousing plenary addressed by Gideon Sa’ar a former MK, Lorna Fitzsimons the charismatic “atheist Gentile Zionist”, and the wonderful Israeli Ambassador Daniel Taub.

He pointed out that Israel is flourishing economically and culturally, with more patents and museums per capita, “more new trees per acre, more milk per cow, than any other country”. It helps people to “rise from their wheelchairs with REWALK, diagnose illnesses with Pillcams, and avoid traffic jams with WAZE”. Israel is “one of the 10 happiest places in the world. This is the Israel that our opponents cannot stand. This is the Israel we believe in. “