venezuela kfar saba 298.
(photo credit: Courtesy)
As delegates from Venezuela's Jewish community toured the town of Kfar Saba Thursday, Freddie Pressner, president of the Confederation of Jewish Associations of Venezuela, talked exclusively to The Jerusalem Post about the importance of the State of Israel to the Jews in his country.
"The reason we are here is to show a relationship of solidarity that we have for the State of Israel," Pressner said, adding that despite growing unrest in Venezuela and the purported anti-Semitism of its President Hugo Chavez, making aliya is a very private decision.
"Aliya is an old word, it does not have the same meaning today as it used to," he continued. "Moving here is a private decision to be made by the individual and not the whole community."
However, he added that it was important for young Venezuelan Jews to visit here and experience what Israel has to offer.
"We want to show the young Jews in Venezuela that there are some good options here in Israel and that coming here is not a bad thing," he said. "It [sending young people here] is something we have been doing for a very long time. Our Jewish high school program brings students here for six months a year so they can see for themselves how life is here. We want to give them the opportunity to be here. That is what the Jewish state is all about."
Pressner also told the Post that Jewish community leaders had met recently with Chavez and that he had assured them he does not hold any anti-Semitic sentiments, nor would he tolerate any in his country.
"We told him our fears," said Pressner. "He told us that he is a man of peace. We accepted what he said and asked him to transmit that message to other government officials. We asked that his policy be put into practice by everyone in the government. He is the president of the country and he sets the tone of the policies regarding anti-Semitism and Israel."
Pressner said that a group of 80 non-Jewish officials from Venezuela had toured Israel last week as guests of the Israeli Embassy in Caracas.
"They saw the realities of this country with their own eyes and took those impressions back with them," he said.
Earlier this week, the media reported Chavez was planning to sell fighter jets to another country, perhaps Iran. Even though the reports were later denied by the country's defense minister, the US has refused to lift a ban on arms sales to Venezuela.
"Even if we do not like [Chavez's] international policies, we as citizens have to go along with him. We do not intervene," said Pressner.
In Kfar Saba, Pressner said he was impressed by the large number of cultural and sporting activities in the town, which has been assigned by the Jewish Agency as the place to absorb immigrants from Venezuela.
"There is a high level of energy and a great push behind this project," said Pressner. "It is one of the nicest towns in Israel."
The mission arrived in Israel on Tuesday and has met with the President Moshe Katsav in Jerusalem and viewed a special program for Spanish-speaking students at Tel Aviv University. On Sunday the delegation is scheduled to meet with Jewish Agency Chairman Ze'ev Bielski.
"Our objective is to meet with a variety of different people," said Pressner, adding, "We will now go back and tell our community how proud we are of Israel. We will also invite people - Jews and non-Jews - to come here and see these things for themselves."