Jewish Agency Chairman Natan Sharansky and Israeli Minister of Education and Diaspora Affairs Naftali Bennett speak to Jewish students around the world from Jerusalem, Tuesday, December 20, 2016.
(photo credit: SASSON TIRAM FOR THE JEWISH AGENCY FOR ISRAEL)
Education and Diaspora Affairs Minister Naftali Bennett and Jewish Agency Chairman Natan Sharansky hosted an online discussion with Jewish children and teenagers in three different continents Tuesday night to mark the first-ever Week of Strengthening the Connection to Diaspora Jewry.
The cabinet announced the launch of this initiative in July, deciding to dedicate a week every year to Diaspora-Israel ties in light of “the many complex challenges shared by the Jewish nation in Israel and the world.”
The conversation between Sharansky, Bennett and the Jewish youngsters was conducted via a video conference held at the Jewish Agency’s situation room in Jerusalem.
The discussion focused on the connection between Israel and world Jewry, and included participants from five schools – in New Jersey and Florida in the US, in Safed, Merhavim and Beit Shemesh in Israel – as well as youths at Bnei Akiva summer camp in South Africa.
This was not the first time the students were meeting each other, as their schools are all part of the Jewish Agency’s Global School Twinning Network, which pairs Israeli schools with Jewish schools throughout the world. 650 schools on six continents are currently connected through the program, involving tens of thousands of young Jews in the endeavor.
“Israel and the Jewish world are attached and dependent on one another in the two great Jewish battles of our generation: the battle against assimilation for the sake of the Jewish people’s future, and the battle against delegitimization for the sake of the State of Israel’s future,” Sharansky said. “We will prevail only if we work together in full cooperation, and it is important that this conversation starts among schoolchildren.”
The twinning program started with just three schools four years ago, he said, and he hopes to see it continue expanding until all the Jewish children in the world are connected in an active dialogue with each other.
Bennett said: “I am pleased to see the success of the Jewish Agency’s Global School Twinning Network, which strengthens connections between Israel and Diaspora Jewry... I am minister of education for Israeli students, but as minister of Diaspora affairs, I also feel a sense of responsibility for the education of Jewish students around the world. I see great importance in strengthening the ties between all Jews in Israel and in the Diaspora. We are one big family."