Women unite for common cause

Ambassador Belaynesh Zevadia speaking at the UIA NSW Women’s Division gala event. Photo: Giselle Haber

Headlining the United Israel Appeal (UIA) NSW Women’s Division events was Israeli ambassador to Ethiopia Belaynesh Zevadia – the first Ethiopian olah to become an ambassador representing Israel – who shared a message of perseverance with her audience on Sunday evening at the Four Seasons Hotel and on Monday at Watsons Bay’s Dunbar House.

“My father told us if you work and study very hard, you’ll be someone,” said Zevadia, reflecting on her experience of growing up in Ethiopia before making aliyah at 16 years of age. “We kept our Judaism like it was written in the Torah and dreamt that one day we will be in Israel.”

Zevadia completed her academic studies at the Hebrew University in Jerusalem, and prior to serving as an Israeli ambassador, she held Israeli consulate posts in America.

“When things are difficult for me, I pray and remember my father’s words,” remarked Zevadia. “Throughout my life I have experienced the unknown, but have had success.”

Also speaking at Sunday’s gala evening – held in honour of Israel’s 70th birthday – was senior defence correspondent for Israel Channel 10, Alon Ben-David. A leading television and print journalist, Ben-David delivered his relatively positive take on Israel’s current geopolitical situation.

“When I look at Israel now in 2018, the middle of our 70th year of independence, strategically in the new Middle East that emerges around us, I think we’ve never been in a better place,” he said. “There is no force in the Middle East capable of changing the fact that we exist – a nation of nine million people that has a national product per capita of over $40,000 – which is more than France. I think in our 70th year, we truly have an opportunity to deepen our roots and secure our existence for the next 70 years.”

Ben-David also commended the US administration for “[correcting] the 70 years old wrong of not recognising our capital”.

Of the Australian Jewish community he said, “I don’t think I’ve ever encountered a community that is more engaged and supportive of Israel” – a sentiment echoed by Zevadia, who commented, “I have heard a lot about Australia’s Jewish community – only good things, you are doing a lot.”

Though she shared no words, the third special guest, Sheli Ben Nun, was equally captivating, mesmerising the audience with a Jewish and Israeli-themed animation using sand and light, and most evidently, her vivid imagination.

Proceeds from this year’s UIA Women’s Division events will help to enrich Israel’s social fabric through “A Profession for Life”, a program that offers life-changing opportunities for new immigrants to requalify in their profession, and assist in supporting victims of terror, new olim and vulnerable communities.

SOPHIE DEUTSCH