United Israel Appeal Chairman Avi Pazner leaves after 12 years.
By GREER FAY CASHMAN
Some 500 people from around the world affiliated with Keren Hayesod- United Israel Appeal who were in Israel last week during the period of the 36th Zionist Congress in Jerusalem decided to give last Wednesday’s gala plenary a miss, and instead congregated in the courtyard of the complex of the national institutions of the state, which prior to the inception of modern Israel, were the headquarters of the government in the making.No venue for Keren Hayesod’s milestone gala could be more symbolically appropriate duet to the fact that people were celebrating not only the 150th birthday of Zionist visionary Theodore Herzl, but the 90th anniversary of Keren Hayesod within the framework of the annual Keren Hayesod World Conference.This year’s conference had a bitter-sweet component as it was also a farewell to Keren Hayesod World Chairman Avi Pazner, who decided to step down after twelve years in office. A separate official farewell was held for him at the Mount Zion Hotel the following evening.Pazner who spent 33 years in various roles at Foreign Ministry before taking on the challenge of Keren Hayesod, has one of the longest records of service as world chairman.In an emotion-filled address, he told a gathering that also comprised his colleagues from the Foreign Ministry, the Jewish Agency and the World Zionist Organization that he had never held one particular position for such a long period.“This is the longest mission I ever had,” he said.He had previously spent ten years working with Yitzhak Shamir, initially when the latter was Foreign Minister and then continuing with him to the Prime Minister’s Office. Before that he had spent seven years in Washington, where he served as Counselor at Israel’s Embassy and was present at the Camp David talks between Israel and Egypt.AdvertisementHe subsequently served as a spokesman in the peace talks with Lebanon in 1982-83, after having been appointed the Ministry’s spokesman in 1981. He was senior advisor to Shamir during the Gulf War and was involved in preparations for the Madrid Peace Conference.He served as ambassador both in Italy and France. President Jacques Chirac awarded him the French Legion of Honor in recognition of his contribution to the relations between France and Israel, Tel Aviv Chief Rabbi Yisrael Meir Lau, credited Pazner with paving the way for diplomatic relations between Israel and the Vatican. He had been accompanied by Pazner, he said, when he met with Pope John Paul II in September 1993, and five months later in February 1994, there was a declaration of official relations between Israel and the Vatican.There were video-taped messages from President Shimon Peres and from Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu who had each worked with Pazner. Peres noted Pazner’s multi-lingual talents, his charm, and his ability to explain any situation. “He’s a good diplomat and a great manager,” said Peres.Netanyahu who had nominated Pazner to the world chairmanship of Keren Hayesod during his first stint as prime minister, said in retrospect that it had been a good choice. He categorized Pazner as “a true professional,” who “always came out with a simple, clear message,” and praised him “for doing an excellent job.”Under Pazner’s watch, Keren Hayesod has become in his own words “Israel’s number one fund-raising organization.No other organization can compete with us,” he boasted.Today Keren Hayesod supports youth villages and numerous youth programs and projects aimed at encouraging aliya, and building bridges between Israeli and diaspora Jewish youth. It also finances the renovation and construction of bomb shelters.During the Second Lebanon War, Keren Hayesod together with Jewish Agency performed miracles in the north of the country according to Pazner; and more recently was doing much the same in the South.What was amazing to him was that despite the economic crises, Keren Hayesod keeps on beating its own records to bring in more money and more resources of the Jewish people. It is not only the number one fundraising organization, said Pazner, “it is also the number one solidarity organization.”“You gave me a unique experience,” he told the global Keren Hayesod leadership. “I learned to know the Jewish people – those who demonstrate their solidarity through
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