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The new dynamic between Israel and the Jewish world
By DVIR KAHANA
14/04/2014
It is long overdue for Israel to play a key role in the effort to in strengthen Jewish identity.
 
Over the next few weeks, the government of Israel will decide upon a crucial resolution which will have a lasting impact on Diaspora relations. The Joint Initiative of the Government of Israel and World Jewry is a new blueprint we expect will strengthen Jewish identity and bolster Israel-Diaspora ties for years to come.

While there are many programs around the world which share these goals, Israel has, up to now, only contributed a small percentage of the funds needed to keep them running. If the initiative is green-lighted, it will mean that the government of Israel agrees to raise the bar and contribute more resources over the next decade.

Under the leadership of Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu, the Ministry of Jerusalem and Diaspora Affairs has been leading the establishment of the initiative. The Jewish Agency, which originated the idea, has been a convener throughout the process. As we approach the crucial vote and solidify plans, I believe it is imperative to raise some key points about the initiative as a whole.

The natural place to start would be the rationale behind the plan. We intend to put aside tens of millions of shekels in the Israeli budget to co-support Diaspora-related programs. This is a national priority – not just for this government but for all those to come. I personally believe it is an expression of a growing national consensus as to the importance of Israel-Diaspora relations.

When the prime minister talks about this being a true collaboration, he means it. Israel is committed to face the challenges and opportunities of the Jewish people together with the Diaspora.

The initiative is a cooperative one and everyone will have an opportunity to have a seat at the table. I think that anyone who is familiar with the world of Jewish programs understands just how big a shift this will be.

It is long overdue for Israel to play a key role in the effort to in strengthen Jewish identity. That said, this initiative does not signal whatsoever that the issue is being taken over or deferred to any party. It is also not designed to put an end to any existing Jewish-oriented program. If anything, the opposite is true. Successful programs will be examined and expanded while new ones will be launched. We will experiment with new ideas as long as they are designed to nurture meaningful Jewish identity and a positive approach toward Israel.

The plan is to form a new mechanism in Jerusalem, which would oversee the various programs but not micromanage their content. Manned by Israelis and Diaspora representatives alike, it would apply one measurement system to gauge success and eventually oversee one digital platform for the Jewish world.

We expect our fresh perspective will streamline the administrative process, cutting back on the bureaucracy while allowing equal and direct access to the government, depending on the program and the backing it receives. We strongly believe that strong and substantial content is the key for any successful program. These activities will bring about the long-term impact we’re aspiring to. At the end of the day, we’re looking to enable a broad-based Jewish ecosystem and help it thrive.

There are many more points which need to be debated for the initiative to succeed. In the coming weeks, the Ministry of Jerusalem and Diaspora Affairs will be putting out more information, writing more op-eds and opening up forums for discussions using various media which we will announce. Once set up, I invite you to take part in the process and help us formulate this groundbreaking initiative which will help us achieve our goal: a thriving future for the Jewish people.

The author is the director general of the Ministry for Jerusalem and Diaspora Affairs.
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