KNESSET SPEAKER Yuli Edelstein addresses conference participants at a dinner event at the Knesset yesterday..
(photo credit: KNESSET SPOKESMAN'S OFFICE)
“We believe there is no contradiction between a strong state and strong Jewish communities,” Jewish Agency Chairman Natan Sharansky said Monday evening at a dinner event at the Knesset to begin the International Seminar on the Diaspora-Homeland Relationship.
Dozens of senior representatives of over thirty countries gathered in Jerusalem to attend the event. Hosted by the Jewish Agency for Israel in partnership with the Knesset and the Foreign Affairs Ministry, the seminar is designed to share Israeli expertise on Diaspora relations with other countries.
Billions of dollars flowed from the Diaspora to build the first settlements, first kibbutzim and first towns of the Jewish state, he said. “The mobilization of world Jewry when the state was created was unbelievable... and when the state became strong enough, one of the first things it began investing in was the Diaspora,” he emphasized.
Sharansky also noted that in today’s world, there is a growing belief that there is a conflict between nationalism and globalization. “Globalization brought a lot of good things, but it also brought a question mark about the national state...
and people say we have to choose one or the other, but I say that’s absolutely wrong.
“Democratic countries as a rule understand that when citizens are strongly connected to their faith communities, it only makes them better citizens.
And that’s why there is no contradiction,” he continued.
“Not only is there no contradiction, it reflects two deep desires of every individual – to be free and to belong.”
Delivering the opening speech, Knesset Speaker Yuli Edelstein spoke about his tenure as diaspora affairs minister. “A Jewish leader told me when I was diaspora affairs minister that I was also the representative of the Diaspora in Israel,” he recounted, stressing the importance of the mutual relationship.
He added that Israel has always opened its doors to Jewish immigration, and noting that it enriches Israeli society.
“We send a clear message – your place is right here with us,” he continued.
Participants in the seminar include deputy ministers, ministry department heads, ambassadors and senior parliamentarians, who will visit Jewish Agency programs, interact with members of Knesset and attend practical workshops on Israel’s experience maintaining ties with Jewish communities around the world to gain insight that may help them with their own Diaspora relations.
Liviu Dragnea, president of Romania’s Chamber of Deputies spoke of his country’s Diaspora. He described Romanian immigrants in Israel as “esteemed members of society” who have a great connection with their country of origin and continue to speak Romanian.
Over the course of the twoday seminar, participants will attend practical workshops to discuss their experience in relevant fields, exchange ideas and information and draw conclusions relevant to their particular national contexts.
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu could not attend the event himself, but left a message which was delivered to the attendees. “As the prime minister of the only Jewish state, I am committed to strengthening bonds between us even further. I’m certain that other nations can learn from our experience,” he said.