OTR’s new responsibility.
This would have been my address had I attended the OTR Conference that took place in Berlin.
Berlin, the German capital, sadly, has been the place where too many Israelis have fled to make new homes and careers. They are becoming assimilators rather than ambassadors. They throw themselves into their new environment, gathering among themselves too often to criticize Israel’s harsh economic life.
They may have cause, but this is selfish and introvert behavior. It will lead, in future generations to a disenfranchisement in their kids and grandkids as they grow older and more detached from the Jewish State. Pity!
It was this way in America, the Golden Medina. The figures are unknown, but between 400,000 and a million Israelis are estimated to have emigrated from Israel to The States.
In the main, they live there detached from the local Jewish communities, their synagogues and JCC bases. They become Israelis in the sense that they still are able to speak Hebrew and, maybe, keep up with the Israeli news which some use to justify the reason they left.
But now, in America, a new organization has taken root. The Israeli American Council (IAC) is driving a new agenda to convert these new Americans into advocates and ambassadors for Israel.
At their recent annual conference in Washington DC, 3000 Israeli-Americans attended. They heard a woman Dr. Miriam Adelson, the wife of American billionaire, Sheldon Adelson, “What has happened to the embarrassment some Israelis felt in leaving Israel? Has it disappeared with them becoming Sabra-Americans, and why is IAC celebrating this new identity of the Israeli-American?”
Thank goodness Miriam is an intelligent and eloquent woman who answered, “Who better to fight for Israel than native born Israelis living abroad who feel Israel is in their bones and in their soul, and who have fought in its wars.”
It is far better to inspire them with national ad religious responsibilities and train them to represent and fight for Israel than the non-Israeli citizens of the countries in which they find themselves.
This should be a central task of OTR.
Israelis abroad cannot, must not, leave the battlefield of Israel’s demonization and delegimitization to the goyim and the local Jews.
Instead, Israelis abroad must trust themselves to the forefront of the battle for the hearts and minds of the citizens of the countries they find themselves.
They should become Israeli first responders, the Israeli reservists on duty, in the hasbara sense, even if they choose to live abroad.
For far too long, Israelis stayed on the sidelines in foreign countries as Israel was assaulted, slandered, and ridiculed. They were too busy building their new lives in countries removed from Israel.
It was strange to me to see Israelis abroad remove themselves from the turmoil and politics of Israel while watching radical Arabs from the Middle East leading massive protests and demonstrations against Israel in South Africa, Britain, Europe, Canada and the United States.
Generally, Israelis abroad are divorced and unresponsive to efforts to publicly support Israel.
The need and opportunity for Israelis resident abroad to add their voices to the pro-Israel chorus was lost for so many years.
The Israeli government didn’t help. They ignored ‘yordim’ as if they were lepers. To be honest, speaking as someone active in grassroots hasbara in overseas countries, the Israeli governmet has also ignored our non-Israeli local and vocal supporters.
What a waste!
Now, in America, at least, things are changing. Now, thousands of Israeli-Americans are acting up and speaking out. They attend workshops and conferences on topics such as “Jewish Peoplehood, Israel, and Zionism” and “How to Fight Anti-Semitism and Anti-Zionism.”
These events are not promoted by the Israeli government, nor by the WZO. They are organized by NGOs such as IAC.
This is a vacuum that must be filled by Over the Rainbow.
Barry Shaw. Senior Associate for Public Diplomacy at the Israel Institute for Strategic Studies, and a consultant and supporter of OTR.