If I learnt anything from the recent commemoration of Tisha B’Av it was that the destruction of the Temple and our subsequent exile was because we as a people were unable to ‘get it together’. So I found it inspiring to see many examples in last week’s news of situations where Israelis are getting together to make the world and the Jewish State a better place.
On Tisha B’Av itself, a special program brought together secular and religious Israelis in Petah Tikva to talk about Jewish unity. And a Facebook page designed to break haredi and secular stereotypes was honoured in the Knesset. Two archaeological discoveries together reminded us of the time when we definitely were not together. A Roman sword and a menorah scratched on a stone were revealed on the eve of Tisha B’Av in an ancient drainage tunnel under Jerusalem. The artefacts were from the period of 2nd Temple destruction. You can also now click here to get a sonic reminder on-line as a recording has been made of the sound that a recently discovered 2000 year-old garment bell makes.
The lessons of the past have been recognised by Tel Aviv University students who are broadcasting the cohesiveness of Israel’s cosmopolitan society. Is.real is a new docu-reality series that shows the lives of 4 diverse citizens of the Jewish State. See this video or go to the site to meet Savannah, Shay, Yair and Ayman. We know that Israelis are thirsty for knowledge, so an initiative that brought together academic lectures with a few friendly drinks went down very nicely in the bars of Rehovot. The Festival of Beer, Science and Good spirits was organised by the staff of the Weizmann institute.
The glue that binds us only gets stronger when we welcome new Olim such as the 100 young Jewish adults from US, Canada who will join the Israel Defence Forces immediately after arriving in Israel on Aliya this week; nearly all of them want to be combat soldiers. The IDF defends our people, but it also works together with the environment. This was demonstrated ably when Environmental Protection Minister Gilad Erdan presented awards to soldiers and army units for outstanding environmental projects.
Some important individuals have showed that they stand shoulder-to-shoulder together with Israel. Philanthropists Sheldon and Miriam Adelson are giving a $5 million matching grant to Taglit-Birthright Israel to allow Jewish 18-26 year-olds to visit Israel for free. And Glenn Beck made a powerful speech to the Christians United For Israel – the section from the 30-minute point of this video will silence many of those sceptical of his motives. 81 congressmen - roughly 20 percent of the US House of Representatives - will visit Israel over the next three weeks during Congress’s summer recess. I wonder who’s minding the store?
Israel’s social scientists established important international links when 31 Urban planning professionals from 15 countries came to Israel to learn how to upgrade their ‘poor urban areas’ – or ‘slums’ as we usually call them. Also, the organisation Strong Women, Strong Girls launched in Israel its international programme to empower disadvantaged schoolgirls using inspiring female role models from all fields and ages.
Getting together in Israel to improve slums
We mustn’t forget the importance of Israel’s business community in bringing the Jewish State closer together with its trading partners. Israel Chemicals has just announced that it is to deliver another 415,000 tons of potash ($203 million) to India for its expanding agricultural industry. And we learned that Israeli exports to China in the first half of 2011 were worth more than $1 billion – a 33% increase compared to the same period last year. China is now Israel’s 4th largest export destination. Israel’s economy appears to be holding together. S&P downgraded the US’s credit rating but it re-affirmed Israel’s. It is good to see that Venture Capitalists are still getting IT together with Israeli Internet start-up companies. Investment soared by 300% in the second quarter of 2011 compared with the same quarter in 2010.
Finally, it takes an outsider to sum up what unity really is. Detroit Pistons Basketball star Will ‘the thrill’ Bynum showed he understands the meaning of ‘togetherness’ when he returned to Israel to repay those at Maccabi Tel Aviv who gave him the opportunity to kick-start his NBA career. He brought Israeli children together by hosting a basketball summer camp.
Let’s get together again next week. Until then, B’Yachad!
Michael Ordman writes a weekly newsletter containing Good News stories about Israel.