British Ambassador Matthew Gould declared his commitment to Israel and the
principles of Zionism on Thursday, at an evening dedicated to his new pet
project: raising awareness and support for Kibbutz Eshbal, a young community
in the Lower Galilee dedicated to helping children at risk from all segments of
“I hope that this is not controversial, and if anyone
believes that it is then they need to take a good look at their values and ask
why they would object to me supporting a project like this,” said Gould, who is
the first Jewish ambassador to represent Britain here.
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“One of the
wonderful things about Kibbutz Eshbal is that it genuinely wants to help young
people regardless of race, religion or background, perfectly in keeping with the
vision of the Declaration of Independence of Israel.”
Karmiel and the Misgav Regional Council, Eshbal was established in 1997 by the Dror Israel
movement – graduates of the Hano’ar Ha’oved Vehalomed youth movement – on the
principles of equality for all. It tries to address social gaps using formal and
informal educational methods.
“I think there is a certain image of Israel
overseas, which is inevitable given the conflict and the fact that bad news
always sells, but there is a lot of good news here, there is a lot of wonderful
stories here,” said Gould, who, together with his wife, Celia, “adopted” the
project soon after his arrival here last September.
“Not just Eshbal and
not just social projects but all over the country there are hi-tech and
scientific developments and many other amazing things. I think it is important
people see that side of Israel as well,” he said.
According to kibbutz
secretary Tomer Abudi, the 88 kibbutz members aim to address the crisis of
values in Israeli society through a wide variety of educational programs
including a live-in boarding school on the kibbutz and a high school in
“We want to see equality in Israeli society,” said Abudi,
describing how most of the boarding school children are from the Ethiopian
immigrant community, which faces deeprooted social problems in Israel caused by
the difficult absorption process.
The kibbutz also runs outreach programs
for youths in several Arab and Beduin villages in the area and often brings Jews
and Arabs together for dialogue.
“We want to unite Israel and help youths
with difficulties that no one else wants to help,” he said.
“I took on
this project because when we went to visit the kibbutz we were blown away by the
young people running it and their determination to take on and look after
children who had been abandoned by the system or been given up on,” Gould said
about his decision to adopt Kibbutz Eshbal. “I was so impressed by the results
they get and genuinely moved by the inclusive Zionist vision, something the
founders of Israel would have immediately recognized and applauded.
help everyone regardless of their background.”
He continued: “I don’t
think it’s unheard of for an ambassador to take on such a social project,
although I think often ambassadors take on overtly political projects or those
with a political angle.
“As far as I am concerned there is nothing
political at all about Eshbal, that is one of the joys of this project, it is
about a group of young people creating a society for Israel they want to live
in,” said Gould, who has also taken on a social project aimed at helping
“There are a million projects in Israel doing
amazing things – that is one of the amazing things about Israel that there is so
much social entrepreneurialism.
But Celia and I realized that if we
wanted to make any difference we needed to focus on a few things,” he
One of the aspects that most impressed the ambassador was that in
contrast to other charities, where funds are spent on the administrative offices
or where there is “a lot of marble and plaques,” at Eshbal “there is nothing to
look at, the buildings are not smart and the members make a point of living in
the same or similar conditions to the youths they take care of,” he
“What strikes you most is the passion that these people have for
doing what they are doing,” Gould said. “They found an abandoned kibbutz; people
told them they were mad but they set up a boarding school for youths that the
rest of the system had abandoned and have managed to turn them into young adults
with self-respect and ambition. It is incredible what they are doing we are proud
we can support them.”
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