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Saturday, December 20, 2014

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Arabs urged to copy Israel to succeed

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Rabbi Daniel Gordis [Peter Waiser photo]

OTTAWA — Israel is locked in conflict because the Arab world would rather destroy the Jewish state than copy it, Rabbi Daniel Gordis said in his keynote address at the kickoff of the Jewish Federation of Ottawa’s annual campaign.

“Israel models something to the world, something the Palestinians ought to copy, not destroy,” said Rabbi Gordis, the Koret Distinguished Fellow at the Shalem Center in Jerusalem.

In spite of the many and constant threats to its existence, what Israel has accomplished in its relatively short history is something to be emulated by the very neighbours who seek to destroy it, he said.

Rabbi Gordis, an American who moved to Israel in 1998, is a prolific author and dynamic speaker. His address was based on his latest book, The Promise of Israel:  Why its Seemingly Greatest Weakness is Actually its Greatest Strength.

Describing the many personal challenges and fears involved with day-to-day life in Israel, Rabbi Gordis posed the question, “Is it worth it?” 

“I would like to propose to you this evening that that conversation about whether or not it is worth it – and, more important, why it is worth it – is a conversation we are not having… the conversation about Zionism has effectively been hijacked, and we have allowed it to be hijacked,” he said.

In the past, when Israel was thought of only as a place of refuge, and the Jews considered underdogs, the conversation was very different, he added.

Today’s Jews are comfortable discussing the Arab Spring, “but there is nothing we can do about what happens in Egypt… or in Syria,” he said. 

“We can affect how it is that Jews think about Israel… to begin to frame a conversation in which I remind myself why does the country matter… Our obligation tonight and beyond, as people who care deeply about Israel, is to re-frame the conversation.”

Because of the State of Israel, Jews around the world can stand tall and hold our heads up, he said. Israel today has much to offer the world and should serve as a model to other countries, an example of what can be accomplished by such a small country even in the midst of tremendous stress and turmoil.

The campaign kickoff, held Sept. 9 at Centrepointe Theatre, was attended by Miriam Ziv, Israel’s ambassador to Canada, as well as local MP Pierre Poilievre. Ian and Randi Sherman and their three sons, Jonathan, Matthew and Adam, chaired the event.

The 2013 annual campaign chair Michael Landau and women’s division chair Susan Viner-Vered, urged members of the community to become involved as both volunteers and donors.

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