December 28, 2017: Bring back the foreign volunteers

Our readers weigh in.

The Jewish-only kibbutz of Katzir, in nothern Israel (photo credit: WIKIMEDIA)
The Jewish-only kibbutz of Katzir, in nothern Israel
(photo credit: WIKIMEDIA)
Bring back the foreign volunteers
Lorde’s cancellation of her concert in Israel due to BDS action brings to mind differences in generational outlooks on Israel (“Losing a generation,” Comment, December 26).
In the 1970s, when my wife and I were a newly married, child-free, debt-free, obligation- free couple, we did what many Australians did: go to Europe. We lived and worked in the UK and used it as a base for touring, helped by the convenience of a company car.
The memories of that time spent are very much with us to this day.
But before we came back to Aussie, we thought it important to visit Israel and experience some Israeli lifestyles. We volunteered for a kibbutz in the Upper Galilee packing apples – mainly Golden Delicious, which I still love to this day. At our kibbutz (Yiftah) there were many other young people there – Brits, Americans, Kiwis, South Africans, South Americans, French and a few other Aussies like us. Most were not Jewish, but all were trying to “fatten up,” before going back to our parents in our home countries after trekking around Europe and the Middle East on cheap food, poor sanitation and dirty laundry. Israel was the place to agist and adjust before the onset of conformity and consumerism took hold.
Israel, especially the kibbutz movement, earned a lot of admiration, respect and understanding from the hundreds of thousands of non-Israeli volunteer workers. We saw for ourselves the conditions Israelis suffered under from their neighbors. Kiryat Shmona was shelled several times by the PLO when we were there, and volunteers were shown the results. Even many years later, whilst working in a state school in Australia, people would fondly recall their time in Israel.
We went back to our old kibbutz after making aliya, to see what has changed. We met up with one of our acquaintances who lived there and who remembered us. There are no volunteers there now. One-hundred volunteers were replaced with five Thai workers.
Contrast that with today. Many young people lack the perspective and understanding that we had because we lived, and experienced, Israel, even for a short time. It made many of the non- Jews supporters, admirers and advocates of Israel, and many of the unaffiliated Jews also came to learn and appreciate their heritage in a way that Birthright could not provide.
Young people tend to support social causes – something about not having a heart if you are not a socialist in your 20s. They have sided with our enemies and understood their cause, not ours, and protested and demonstrated with them. It’s not a coincidence that supporters of Israel tend to be those of our Baby Boomer generation, while those of Gen X and Gen Y are, at best, indifferent and, at worst, antisemitic.
In just our old kibbutz, rejecting a hundred volunteers, Israel has lost a hundred potential supporters of Israel. Multiply that by the number of kibbutzim, and over time the figure is huge. Young people are still traveling around Europe and the Middle East, but Israel is given a wide berth these days, and only a few mostly religious types want to see what the Holy Land is like.
Can we go back to the 1970s? Of course not, but ways should be found to encourage young people to come to Israel, from all over the world, as volunteers. What they learn will help them to understand what the problems really are in Israel.
Double German disgrace at UN
The article by Tobias Huch (“Germany ‘Judenrein’?” Comment and Features, December 21) is an extremely important analysis of where Germany is heading in its relationship with Israel.
Antisemitism is apparently back in style, reframed as anti-Zionism and reflected in abject failure to seriously combat Arab terrorism.
As if to confirm Huch’s analysis, on the same day that his article appeared, Germany changed its position on issues at the UN, and instead of abstaining on the vote to condemn the United States for recognizing Jerusalem as the capital of Israel, Germany voted for the General Assembly resolution. This was a double disgrace.
First of all, Germans could be expected to understand that they, of all people, need to exercise utmost caution in matters affecting the future of the Jewish state and its security. Preservation of a united Jerusalem is such a matter.
There is, moreover, another facet to this issue. In modern times, there have been two divided cities – Jerusalem and Berlin. Germans know only too well what it means to have a wall planted in the middle of a capital city, and how this affects the serenity and wholesomeness of life. Security Council Resolution 2334, promoted by US President Barack Obama, was preeminently designed to redivide Jerusalem. President Donald Trump’s declaration that Washington recognizes Jerusalem as the capital of Israel, while it did not designate its borders, effectively put an end to the plot to redivide Jerusalem. Bearing in mind the history of Berlin, Germany should have voted with the United States and Israel. As a minimum, it should have abstained.
A report from the field
Regarding the activities of certain city chief rabbis (“Rabbinical racket,” Editorial, December 22), the facts sounded quite familiar. I am an observant person who has lived in Petah Tikva for many years, and for most of that time I cannot say I ever came into contact with a chief rabbi or felt any influence on my life. Until recently, that is.
Since Rabbi Micha Halevi was appointed Ashkenazi chief rabbi of the city, it has been revolutionary. His presence has been felt in every single synagogue in the city. Each Shabbat he visits and lectures at least two or three.
I attend a weekly midrasha for women, where attendance is close to 200 women, and Halevi comes to lecture every four to six weeks.
Moreover, his speeches are a pleasure to listen to. Before every holiday, he puts out bulletins and lectures about the subject. He is the epitome of what I believe a chief rabbi should be.
Petah Tikva
Dedicated staffers given bum rap
Are Israeli ambassadors and the Foreign Ministry, through their alleged incompetence, “a strategic threat to Israel’s future” (“Trump, Jerusalem and ‘hidden news,’” December 24)? One would have thought that the abysmally small budget allowed to the ministry simply does not provide it with the means to do its job. Embassies in key countries are expected to function with skeleton crews. There is no full-time foreign minister. Worse, there are no clear guidelines handed down by the government.
Dedicated staffers, faced by a propaganda machine fueled by limitless money, often do not have the means to mount even a limited response. Yet they fight on grimly, trying to do the best they can for Israel. They do not deserve to be branded a threat to their country.
The writer is the wife of Zvi Mazel, former ambassador to Egypt, Romania and Sweden. She is the former chairwoman of the Foreign Ministry’s wives association.