Rabbi Stephen Wise says he loves Israel so much he would even jump out of a plane to promote the country.
He did exactly that in Dundas, Ont. on Sept. 27, in conjunction with the release of his new book, Israel: Repairing the World. Holding a copy “as though my life depended on it,” he jumped 10,500 feet, releasing the book as his parachute deployed.
“Some lucky fan is going to have a book drop on their front lawn,” he quipped.
The large, slim $11.99 paperback, with many tidbits of information about Israeli innovations, is geared mainly to youngsters in grades 3 to 7. There is also an interactive iPad app available from the publisher’s website (blueappleworks.com) for $9.99.
“I’ve always wanted to get the message across to kids about the great things Israel has been doing in the world today,” Rabbi Wise, a father of three, told The CJN.
The 38-year-old spiritual leader of Shaarei Beth-El Congregation in Oakville, Ont. was inspired in part by hearing Amir Gissin – then Israeli consul general to Toronto and Western Canada – speak about the message his office wanted to get across.
Gissin was instrumental in having the new book placed in Israeli consulates around the world, Rabbi Wise said.
In a back-cover endorsement, Gissin wrote, “Though the international news media tends to focus on conflict issues, much of the real news – that is, news about cutting-edge, up-to-the-minute developments – gets overlooked.”
The rabbi is passionate about the subject of his book. “Israel is considered the best place in the world for research and development outside of Silicon Valley. We don’t have natural resources. We have difficult borders, and difficult neighbours. The climate is not great. We don’t have water, we have desert, but look at what Israel’s done,” he said.
“We have farming and irrigation techniques that are incredible. They’ve given these technologies to sub-Saharan countries. We don’t hear about that in the news.”
The rabbi said he was “blown away” on his first trip to Israel at age 11, when he realized that “what I was learning at Bialik Hebrew Day School was coming alive before my eyes.”
Since then, he’s been back more than a dozen times, including a year of study as a rabbinical student at Hebrew Union College and more recently, to lead trips and do a charity bike ride.
He spoke of Israeli medical teams helping countries around the world in crisis, and the development of the “Israeli bandage,” which can double as a tourniquet and is used by American soldiers. “Israel is contributing all these gifts to the world,” he said.
Probably his favourite, he added, is an electric car system and a country-wide network of battery charging stations that’s been set up in Israel.
Rabbi Wise, who began working on the book in earnest in the spring, said he’s been collecting articles about Israel for years, and has used the information in sermons and lectures.
“I felt like I’ve got to get this all together into one place,” he said.
Over the coming months, the rabbi has speaking engagements lined up in several North American cities. In Canada, he’ll be at the Leo Baeck Day School Book Fair in Toronto, Oct. 30-31; Temple Israel in Ottawa, Nov. 3; Temple Emanu-El-Beth Sholom in Montreal, Jan. 18-19, and Shaar Shalom Synagogue in Thornhill, Jan. 27.