HALIFAX — “It’s been great to be in Canada, to meet Atlantic Canadians, to experience your great heart and your love for Israel. We’ll miss you.”
With those words, Joel Lion bid his farewell July 7 to Halifax members of the Atlantic Jewish community after three years as Israel’s consul general to Quebec and the Atlantic Provinces. He returns to the Middle East early next month.
“He’s been more dedicated to the Atlantic region than most consul generals in the last many years,” said Kathy Zilbert, a past president of Atlantic Jewish Council, of the man who visited the region many times in his term. “He met with everyone, from politicians to the everyday people, visiting Camp Kadimah each year, attending special events in the region.”
Lion stressed in an interview that his mission has been to “serve, promote and watch over the interests of Israel and to represent the Jewish community wherever I go. I’m proud to be part of the State of Israel and part of the Jewish People, a moral, ethical Jewish People.”
Struggling to recall special highlights from so many events, Lion mentioned a Yom Ha’atzmaut celebration in Halifax last May when more than 200 people gathered. “We had the lieutenant governor of Nova Scotia, mayor of Halifax, and chief of police among the crowd, and that showed such a strong relationship between Israel and the general Halifax community.”
When he first arrived in the region, Lion said he had no idea what to expect but was overwhelmed by the involvement of the community for its size.
“It was incredible in every way, from enthusiasm to financial support for Israel. I am so glad to see the economic co-operation between the region and Israel. I see ZIM [shipping] containers all over Halifax. There’s been a trade mission between Nova Scotia and Israel, attended by and supported by [former N.S. premier] Darrell Dexter, and a strong educational commitment between Dalhousie University and Ben-Gurion University. In May, I met with [current N.S. Premier] Stephen McNeil, and he wants to strengthen the relationship started by Mr. Dexter.”
Also on July 7, Lion visited Camp Kadimah for the last time and spoke with about 30 Israeli young people attending camp as counsellors and counsellors-in-training. He encouraged their enthusiasm to bring Israeli culture to Canadians.
“It’s wonderful to see the commitment of Atlantic Canada to protect the future of the Jewish People through camp experiences,” he said later. “It’s more than normal what this community is doing to keep Kadimah strong. “
During his visit, Lion helped open an art exhibit titled Tel Aviv Moment at Halifax City Hall. The consul general had chosen 20 photos to bring to Canada from a collection of 100 photographs taken by residents from around Tel Aviv-Yafo, work by professionals and amateurs in a variety of mediums, from still shots to film, focusing on different demographics such as young, old, religious, or secular. It shows various locales from Yarkon Park to the boardwalk to Old Jaffa and Rothschild Boulevard and Herzl Street and Tzmoret Park.
“The exhibit [which is in Halifax until July 18] shows the spirit of Tel Aviv and the values we share with Canada – freedom, democracy etc.,” Lion said.