The KH conference began with the 2012 Yakir Award Ceremony where six outstanding KH leaders from different countries were awarded for their services by President Peres . At the closing cabinet meeting reports on recent KH activities and future plans were discussed and Gabi Ashkenazi, former Chief of Staff brought a message of hope regarding the future security of Israel.
I was fortunate to represent the IUA Pretoria at these exciting conferences. The KH conference theme was “Year of the Activist” and the President’s theme was “Machar” (tomorrow). Leaders, workers, activists and volunteers from 40 countries participated. Israeli music and a delicious dinner set the tone for the KH Yakir awards ceremony held at the Israel Museum.President Peres presented the awards and addressed the audience recognising the role played by KH over the last 92 years in strengthening Israeli society.
Emotional accounts of the challenges facing Jewish Communities in countries such as Greece and Mexico were regaled by the 6 Yakir award winners. The Ra’anana Symphonette Orchestra ended off this magical evening.
The President’s conference opened with a panel of esteemed speakers including Shimon Peres, Tony Blair, Henry Kissinger and the Mayor of Jerusalem. President Peres awarded fellow statesman Henry Kissinger with the President’s award, to the delight of the audience. Throughout the week, various plenary sessions, lectures, debates, forums and other activities brought together a world class group of speakers from Israel and abroad including Dr Ruth who gave a lecture to a packed audience on the future of sex! The highlight for me was the opportunity to shake hands with President Peres and briefly inform him of the work carried out by the IUA in Pretoria. He thanked me and I must confess I was so overwhelmed, I had to sit down!
President Peres’s speeches often referred to the vital role played by KH and other organizations in the support of Israel’s underprivileged and focused on the future leadership of these organizations. The Arab Spring and the threat of Iran was discussed in detail and emphasis was placed on the role of the Diaspora Jews and non-Jews in keeping Israel strong in the midst of a Middle East in crisis.
KH runs a multitude of projects in the fields of education, Aliyah, care of the elderly and youth programmes. We were taken to visit a few of these projects . As Pretoria IUA supports the Youth Villages and lone soldiers, it was extremely meaningful for me to visit an army base where students from disadvantaged backgrounds study computer technology and learn English via the Net@ program. A visit to Yachini, near Sderot, one of 14 Youth villages in the Negev and Galilee and part of the Ayalim (rural development) programme, confirmed the importance of the work carried out by KH and supported by IUA organisations globally.
“These projects, which include helping the disabled, focus on understanding the problems facing weaker communities and make a difference between despondency and opportunity.“ They (KH) build Jewish identity and ensure that outlying areas are inhabited by Jews thus ensuring ownership of the land. Yachini is within firing range of Gaza, but residents are strong and fearless and their dedication to building up communities on the periphery is inspirational. Lunch was shared with students and staff and it was obvious how proud they are to be working the land and ensuring that Israel remains a strong, Jewish state.
Keren Hayesod is working closely with the Israeli government on combined projects in numerous fields concentrating on preserving past heritage and future undertakings that will ensure an independent Jewish State. I hope to report on this and more in a future article.
Witnessing first-hand the achievements of Keren Hayesod through dedicated workers and generous donors has made the task of raising funds for Israel more meaningful and more urgent. I can report with certainty that funds donated to Israel via the IUA, are highly valued and used in the development of numerous projects, strengthening Israeli society and ensuring that future generations will always have a Jewish home without which, Jews would wander in a wilderness of anti-Semitism, radicalism, danger and G-d forbid annihilation. Giving the youth something to hope for and work towards is the greatest gift any of us can give to the future Jewish nation.
“THE ACHIEVEMENTS OF KH ARE ENGRAVED UPON THE VERY SOUL OF ISRAEL AND TREASURED IN THE HEART OF THE ISRAELI NATION” (BEN GURION)
Read more about KH-UIA 2012 annual conference