Double Opportunity

BY ROI ABECASSIS

October 7 shook Am Yisrael’s security and social foundations to the core. Nevertheless, despite our pain, suffering and fear, we are now facing two great opportunities.

First, the pre-war divisions within Israeli society seemed to be insoluble, with each side stubbornly standing its ground in a way that would inevitably lead to a head-on collision. But then, lo and behold, we suddenly witnessed a huge outpouring of unprecedented mutual responsibility. Differences and divisions were forgotten and a feeling of forgiveness emerged on both sides. All the volunteer projects – donating, caring, giving – in Israeli society gave us a special sense of togetherness and unity, while the arguments about legal reform were left by the wayside.

Second, Israel-Diaspora Jewry relations have suffered in recent years, with much tension around explosive issues such as the Western Wall agreement, the Law of Return and the legal reform. Here too, it seemed the chasm between Israel and world Jewry was becoming dangerously wider. And then, lo and behold, October 7 gave birth to a sweeping sense of unparalleled global Jewish solidarity, with more than one billion dollars donated to Israel, hundreds of solidarity missions, and hundreds of thousands of Jews all over the world doing, praying and demonstrating support for Israel. 

In addition, the rush of global antisemitism has also brought Israeli society and world Jewry together, strengthening our mutual resilience, responsibility and destiny. We must not let these two opportunities pass us by!

Since its very inception, the Mizrachi movement has been a bridge between the different camps in Israeli society and between Israeli and Diaspora Jewry. Now, Mizrachi must grab these two opportunities and lead the recovery process on both fronts.

 About a month ago, there was a changing of the Religious Zionist guard in the National Institutions in Israel. Gael Grunewald became Head of the Chativa LeHityashvut, which strives to develop the country, Rabbi Doron Perez was appointed Head of the The Center for Religious Affairs in the Diaspora, which works to promote Torah and Zionist values among Diaspora Jewry, and I became Head of Education in the World Zionist Organization (WZO), a department responsible for more than 260 shlichim all over the world.

I am excited about the privilege I have been granted. For more than two decades I have been involved in the world of shlichut – first as a young shaliach, then as Mazkal of World Bnei Akiva and lately as the person responsible for the WZO’s Shlichim Department. Over this time, I have been honored to serve Mizrachi in the myriad challenges and opportunities facing the Jewish people.

Here are just some examples of what the WZO’s Center for Religious Affairs in the Diaspora and Education Department, and Keren Kayemet LeYisrael (KKL) have been doing recently:

“My Home is Your Home” – we connected hundreds of Jews with apartments in Israel with families of the hostages and families evacuated from their homes, who were able to live in these apartments, rent-free, for three months.

We produced more than 30 video clips – “The Spirit of Our Nation” – in which leaders and educators spread uplifting messages of strength and hope, garnering hundreds of thousands of views. 

Over 1,800 overseas yeshiva and midrasha students here in Israel spent solidarity days in the south, visiting kibbutzim, Sderot and Ofakim, volunteering in the fields and helping arrange meals for IDF soldiers.  

The Education Department ran a convention in New Jersey for 170 shlichim in North America. Hundreds of shlichim are serving schools and communities around the world, with many having temporarily returned to Israel to fight in the reserves. Our shlichim are a ‘living bridge’ between Israel and Diaspora Jewish communities, who are thirsty for a meaningful connection to Israel at this time. 

KKL has invested hundreds of millions of shekels in strengthening the communities in the Region of Revival (Gaza Envelope), supporting the emergency response teams, and absorbing evacuated families in hotels even before the government stepped in. In 2024, it plans to invest massively in rehabilitating the Region of Revival and in deepening the newly solidified connections between Israel and Diaspora Jewry.

The Jewish people have always known how to grow and become stronger from their crises, courageously displaying faith, hope and resilience.

B’ezrat Hashem, if we stay united, together, we’ll come through this time as well.

Am Yisrael Chai!

 

Roi Abecassis is Head of Education at the World Zionist Organization and a representative of World Mizrachi in the national institutions.

© 2024 World Mizrachi

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