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Friday, April 18, 2014

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Consul general asks community to unite for Yom Hazikaron

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DJ Schneeweiss

TORONTO — A show of solidarity with Israel from Diaspora communities is particularly resonant in the Jewish state when it occurs on Yom Hazikaron.

That’s the message DJ Schneeweiss, Israel’s consul general to Toronto and Western Canada, wants to convey to the community.

As such, he’s asking Toronto area Jews and ex-pat Israelis to come together again this year to commemorate Yom Hazikaron.

Building on the successes of past events, Schneewiess told The CJN in a recent interview that he believes both communities will turn out en masse again this year to honour Israelis who have served their country and paid dearly, sometimes with their lives, for its protection and survival.

This year’s consulate sponsored Yom Hazikaron event, a memorial ceremony for the fallen soldiers and victims of terrorism, will take place at Congregation Beth Tzedec at 7 p.m. on Sunday April 14. Doors will open at 6:15 p.m. to allow for security screening.

According to 2012 Israel statistics, since the state’s founding in 1948, some 22,993 Israeli soldiers and victims of terrorism have died, and there are 10,524 bereaved families, including 2,396 orphans and 4,992 widows.

The estimated numbers of wounded Israelis is 75,000, and nearly 100,000 Israelis are considered disabled army veterans.

When Diaspora Jewish communities acknowledge and partake in the sombre occasion, Schneeweiss said, it has a profound effect on Israelis.

It shows empathy for the hardships and sacrifices Israelis make daily for the future of the country, he said.

Diaspora communities have both “a tangible and intangible impact on Israel,” he said.

“The occasion marks a sense of belonging together and [the consulate’s] role is to help enrich the Israel component here.”

Jewish communities could not thrive as they do without a strong and secure Israel, he said. And while celebrating happier holidays such as Yom Ha’atzmaut also helps to “enrich and empower” Israel in the international community, days such as Yom Hazikaron are “less accessible” Schneeweiss said.

“That’s why it’s so important to try to build a bridge towards greater involvement in this part of Israel,” he said.

“It’s not just about heroism… it’s about the sacrifices the families also make. Israeli’s are always ‘on the line.’ And there’s a permanent preparedness that’s quintessentially Israeli,” he  said.

And when Canadian and other pro-Israel communities pay respects to Israelis on Yom Hazikaron, the message resounds in the Middle East.

“It resonates throughout Israeli media, its blogosphere… [for Israelis] to know that there are people who understand them” allows Israelis to feel a sense of “shared fate.”

The Israeli sense of being understood in the Diaspora is especially amplified when it comes to the Canadian community, Schneeweiss said.

“The confluence of values between Canada and Israel… is something which is unique,” he said. “The story of Israel is something that is part of the unity, strength and thriving nature here. I’m not sure I could say the same thing if I was sitting in an Israeli consulate in America. We need communities like Canada to set an example and stand up for Israel.”

Yom Hazikaron, more than other times, is a prime occasion to be moved and uplifted by the “great national project of this era: Israel,” he said.

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