‘Future leaders of our community’ in Israel

Yesh program participants at Israel’s Foreign Ministry.

CURRENTLY in its fourth year running, the Zionist Council of New South Wales’ (ZCNSW) unique Yesh Israel program recently took a group of young leaders to Israel.

Participants of Yesh are mostly post-university (ranging from ages 22-31), and the purpose of the program is to make them better advocates for Israel, while deepening Israel’s bond with Australia.

During the 10-day trip, the group met with Israeli officials, including from the Foreign Ministry, the Ministry of Strategic Affairs and the Jerusalem City Council.

Participants visited the SodaStream factory in Beersheba.

In addition to a strong focus on Australia–Israel bilateral relations, some of the issues discussed included the Israeli–Palestinian conflict, the threat of Iran and the US peace plan.

The group was also exposed to the latest in Israeli technology and innovation, including at the Peres Centre for Innovation and the Australian Innovation “Landing Pads”.

They held a round-table meeting with the Australian ambassador to Israel, Chris Cannan, and visited many co-existence projects between Israelis and Palestinians.

Courtesy of ZCNSW affiliates, JNF Australia, United Israel Appeal, Magen David Adom and the ZDVO, the group saw many inspiring projects that the Australian community helps to fund in Israel.

Asked why he thought it was important to go on this program and be a pro-Israel advocate, Daniel Giesser said, “It is important for the Diaspora to do their part, however small, in supporting Israel. Being able to advocate for Israel and hopefully shifting public sentiment in favour of Israel has the potential to make a real difference.”

One of the aims of Yesh is to expose young leaders to a side of Israel they would not normally experience as tourists or on other organised programs.

Participant Yehuda Bassin remarked, “I wanted to become a better advocate for Israel and see another side to Israel that I haven’t seen before.”

As the trip concluded, many participants were visibly moved at the breadth of unique experiences and people they met.

Violetta Chalmieva perhaps encapsulated it best, echoing the great Jewish sage Hillel, when she said, “This is our country at the end of the day and if we are not going to be for it, then who is? So, it’s important to educate ourselves and learn as much as possible, so that we can be the best advocates.”

ZCNSW president Richard Balkin said, “These young adults are the future leaders of our community, therefore it is incumbent upon us to do everything possible to empower and equip them with all the necessary tools in order to be the most informed and effective pro-Israel advocates. The ZCNSW is deeply proud to be leading this effort.”