Throughout last week, I was very fortunate to spend my time at Shimon Peres''s Presidential Conference for a Better Tomorrow. The conference displayed accomplishments, goals, and visions of the Jewish State in the name of a better tomorrow.
Though I have major criticisms of the conference, it was a great reminder, and example of what the Zionist project always envisioned and accomplished. Building a country that would capitalize on the national genius of the Jewish people, and through its accomplishments, become a light unto the nations.
More than anything, by the end of the conference, I walked away feeling more proud to be a part of the Jewish people than ever before.
The final session of the conference was very meaningful. Peres, Netenyahu, and Sharansky were the keynote speakers. Natan Sharansky shared his hopeful outlook for the recent Arab Spring, and the need for all people to live in free societies. Bibi gave a speech, sharing the difficulties of accepting a two state solution, given his strong attachment to Eretz Yisrael. Then discussed his optimism and hope for a real future peace with the Palestinians. Along with the need for mutual recognition between Jews and Palestinians, in hope of our two peoples living side by side in two separate democratic states.
Finally, Shimon Peres shared stories of days gone by, and Ben-Gurion''s dream of absorbing more Jews into Israel. Then later discussed his hopes for a future Palestinian state living in peace next to Israel, being the first Arab state to enjoy real democracy.
No matter what anyone wants to say about the current administration, in my opinion, there is no way you can say they don''t want peace. It was all they talked about.
Though there is much to boast about concerning the conference, it lacked many things as well. Many of the young professional women I came in contact with in the press, production crew, and those in attendance, complained of a lack of female presence amongst the keynote speakers and panelists. Though I remember seeing lots of female panelists, it was clear that men were in majority.
Here is my biggest criticism. This conference was centered around the idea of tomorrow, to be more specific, a BETTER TOMORROW! But the conference lacked the real voices of tomorrow, the youth. There were few people truly representing the 18-35 year old age group of Jews. Yet the conference was full of people who had no problem speaking on their behalf. For me, since I am part of this demographic, I can say it’s quite annoying, and something I have see on a regular basis at most conferences concerning Israel.
In my opinion it''s time for the current generation in charge of pro-Israel organizations to stop patting themselves on the back for being "good Israel supporting Jews." They need to begin to recognize they caused a lot of damage, and failed to transfer a connection and love for the Jewish state, culture, religion, and people. If they did, would we have a "distancing" or assimilation problem?
No matter what, you cannot ignore the actual voices of a generation. We are the ones who have to deal with the peace process if not finalized in the next coming years. We are the ones that have to face the challenge of re-Jew-venating the Jewish people; due to the major lack of substance in Jewish education, assimilation, and overall apathy of what are know as liberal American Jews.
For a better tomorrow, we must begin to listen to those who will inherit tomorrow. Leaders are emerging, ready, for the responsibility of having to reconcile the one thing that is pulling at either side of the Jewish identity. The need at all cost for us to live in peace and achieve peace, while reconciling and maintaining Jewish statehood, and discovering what it truly means to be Jew yesterday, today, and tomorrow.
If we are not for ourselves, then who will be for us!
Adam Scott Bellos is the co-founder of the Israelist movement, and Oleh Hadash, and Tour guide for the JNF USA projects Israel. Follow him on twitter:adamscottbellos or email: [email protected]