keren hayesod 311.
(photo credit: Avi Hayoun)
Some 500 people from around the world affiliated with Keren Hayesod- United
Israel Appeal who were in Israel last week during the period of the 36th Zionist
Congress in Jerusalem decided to give last Wednesday’s gala plenary a miss, and
instead congregated in the courtyard of the complex of the national institutions
of the state, which prior to the inception of modern Israel, were the
headquarters of the government in the making.
No venue for Keren
Hayesod’s milestone gala could be more symbolically appropriate duet to the fact
that people were celebrating not only the 150th birthday of Zionist visionary
Theodore Herzl, but the 90th anniversary of Keren Hayesod within the framework
of the annual Keren Hayesod World Conference.
This year’s conference had
a bitter-sweet component as it was also a farewell to Keren Hayesod World
Chairman Avi Pazner, who decided to step down after twelve years in office. A
separate official farewell was held for him at the Mount Zion Hotel the
Pazner who spent 33 years in various roles at Foreign
Ministry before taking on the challenge of Keren Hayesod, has one of the longest
records of service as world chairman.
In an emotion-filled address, he
told a gathering that also comprised his colleagues from the Foreign Ministry,
the Jewish Agency and the World Zionist Organization that he had never held one
particular position for such a long period.
“This is the longest mission
I ever had,” he said.
He had previously spent ten years working with
Yitzhak Shamir, initially when the latter was Foreign Minister and then
continuing with him to the Prime Minister’s Office. Before that he had spent
seven years in Washington, where he served as Counselor at Israel’s Embassy and
was present at the Camp David talks between Israel and Egypt.
subsequently served as a spokesman in the peace talks with Lebanon in 1982-83,
after having been appointed the Ministry’s spokesman in 1981. He was senior
advisor to Shamir during the Gulf War and was involved in preparations for the
Madrid Peace Conference.
He served as ambassador both in Italy and
France. President Jacques Chirac awarded him the French Legion of Honor in
recognition of his contribution to the relations between France and Israel, Tel
Aviv Chief Rabbi Yisrael Meir Lau, credited Pazner with paving the way for
diplomatic relations between Israel and the Vatican. He had been accompanied by
Pazner, he said, when he met with Pope John Paul II in September 1993, and five
months later in February 1994, there was a declaration of official relations
between Israel and the Vatican.
There were video-taped messages from
President Shimon Peres and from Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu who had each
worked with Pazner. Peres noted Pazner’s multi-lingual talents, his charm, and
his ability to explain any situation. “He’s a good diplomat and a great
manager,” said Peres.
Netanyahu who had nominated Pazner to the world
chairmanship of Keren Hayesod during his first stint as prime minister, said in
retrospect that it had been a good choice. He categorized Pazner as “a true
professional,” who “always came out with a simple, clear message,” and praised
him “for doing an excellent job.”
Under Pazner’s watch, Keren Hayesod has
become in his own words “Israel’s number one fund-raising
No other organization can compete with us,” he
Today Keren Hayesod supports youth villages and numerous youth
programs and projects aimed at encouraging aliya, and building bridges
Israeli and diaspora Jewish youth. It also finances the renovation and
construction of bomb shelters.
During the Second Lebanon War, Keren
Hayesod together with Jewish Agency performed miracles in the north of
country according to Pazner; and more recently was doing much the same
What was amazing to him was that despite the economic crises,
Keren Hayesod keeps on beating its own records to bring in more money
resources of the Jewish people. It is not only the number one
organization, said Pazner, “it is also the number one solidarity
“You gave me a unique experience,” he told the global
Keren Hayesod leadership. “I learned to know the Jewish people – those
demonstrate their solidarity through