(By Michael Ordman)I have just attended a two-day conference on the above subject at Bar Ilan University. It is THE most important problem for Israel to solve at the moment. There were well over 40 speakers from the top echelons of Israel’s infrastructure. They represented our leaders in the fields of politics, military, academia, media, high-tech industry, manufacturing, culture, business, marketing, communications and NGO advocacy. Each presented their view of the problem Israel is facing but their perceived solutions were inconsistent and failed to convince the audience.
They all knew the goal – Stop the de-legitimization of Israel in the world before it is too late. A few - mainly in the political and cultural echelons- didn’t think the current situation was that bad, or at least not yet. However, everyone understood that something needed to be done quickly. Many excuses were given for why it has taken so long for Israel to get its act together. All the speakers had ideas and most were working on their own separate programs. But hearing the details of the solutions being implemented did not give me much confidence that Israel’s global image is going to improve in the near future.
The renowned journalist Melanie Phillips said that there was an “Elephant” in the room - a huge issue that we were all ignoring. We had conceded the argument and lost the narrative of our legitimacy. She, and others, said that we must go onto the attack and shout out our truths to the world, without minding who we upset. They were right of course – but all the speakers had missed another “Elephant” in the room.
What element of Israeli society did I miss out from the list in my first paragraph? Of course there was no mention of any religious element whatsoever. Religious Jewish leaders are simply viewed by most the above groups as part of the problem with Israel’s image and therefore have nothing to contribute. Two of the speakers (rightly) stated that Israel successfully markets to China as “The Nation of Einstein” but not as “The Nation of Moses.” The Shanghai Expo 2010 project was implemented brilliantly and successfully. But the Chinese have never had a problem with our image. Our problem is within Europe, South America, Africa, Australasia and the USA. And Einstein is not going to help us, unless someone can work out how to go back in time and prevent the exile of Jews from our land 2000 years ago.
We have some amazing modern, religious Zionist leaders and thinkers. More than any others, they appreciate the necessity for a Jewish homeland. Amongst them, there are many who are out there daily – spreading positive messages about Israel to the world.
The political leaders at the conference knew the goal certainly, but they didn''t appear to know how to implement a PROJECT to get to that goal. They had poor VISION, confused STRATEGY, flawed PLANS and limited RESOURSES. And without that, any solution can only be considered to be a tactical maneuver to try to get us out of a crisis – better known as CRISIS MANAGEMENT. Yes, Israelis are good in a crisis – but only when they work together. Without any religious perspective, we are contributing to our own de-legitimization.
Our religious Zionist leaders have VISION, IDEAS and can call upon impressive RESOURCES. And they should be right here at the centre of this PROJECT. They certainly cannot help us if they are not included and given a voice.
In his keynote presentation, public diplomacy expert Professor Nicholas Cull of the University of South California said that public diplomacy begins with listening, and the first duty of public diplomats is to LISTEN. In our world where Israel is at the forefront of research into the smallest particles of matter, we must now listen to those that best understand our Jewish DNA. Our religious Zionist leaders can help us listen to the still, small voice that calls on us to build and transmit the message of Israel’s Jewish mission – our Global Project, to transform this world.
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