Shabbat Candlelighting 9:00 p.m.                                             Friday, July 8, 2011/ 6 Tammuz 5771

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Flotilla in Rough Waters
Pro-Palestinian activists from various countries have been working in recent months to mount another flotilla of ships to break the Israeli naval blockade of the Gaza Strip. The blockade was imposed by Israel to prevent the importation of weapons (mortar and rocket equipment) that have been used in recent years against Israel’s civilian population. Through diplomatic and legal means, Israel has been successful in disrupting many of the ships from getting underway, and according to news reports, many of the activists are abandoning the effort, which has clearly failed.

For a cogent analysis of Israel’s case that the blockade is legitimate within international law, see Amos Guiora’s column in the LA Times. Guiora was in Vancouver last year under the auspices of the Canada-Israel Committee, speaking at a public event and at a meeting of lawyers in our community.

Of particular note is the role played this week by the Greek government, which sought to achieve a peaceful solution that meets the needs of both Palestinians and Israelis alike. We encourage you to commend the nation of Greece for its efforts, which you can do by contacting the Greek Ambassador to Canada, Eleftherios Anghelopoulos.

Aharon Valency Honoured in Germany
Aharon Valency, mayor of the Galil Elyon Regional Council, has been a key force in establishing and nurturing our partnership with his region over many years. We were therefore very proud to learn that he recently received a medal of honour from the German Republic for his promotion of Israel-German relations and relations between Jews and Germans. Instituted in 1951, the medal of honour is presented every year by the German Prime Minister to individuals who have made major contributions to the German Republic and the development of German democracy. The medal is nearly always given to German citizens, and this is one of the rare times a foreign citizen has received it.

Valency has established an extensive web of relations, twin city partnerships and exchanges of Israeli-German delegations of teachers, youth and public figures. The Upper Galilee Regional Council is twinned with Ludwigsburg County, in southern Germany, in the state of Baden-Württemberg. In his address, Dr. Rainer Haas, County President of Ludwigsburg, noted that “it was not an evident thing for a Jew who was born in Lyons in 1941, during the chaos of World War II, to devote himself to promoting Israel-German relations and relations between Jews and Germany. In spite of the Holocaust, our common memories and the ugly Nazi government which ruled us, human beings will develop, within a formal alliance between regions, deep relations between individuals and, primarily, between youth whose future is still before them and who learn that, through encounters and dialogue, we will succeed in coping with our common history, without ignoring our past.”

National Advocacy Reorganization
After an intensive process of consultation with stakeholders, and with the support and partnership of the Jewish Federations across Canada, Jewish advocacy in Canada is being reorganized within a single national organization. CIJA - the Canadian Council for Israel and Jewish Advocacy - has thus transitioned from a coordinating and funding structure, to setting the strategic direction in collaboration with the local communities on advocacy issues. This includes those formerly handled by the Canadian Jewish Congress, the Canada-Israel Committee and the Quebec-Israel Committee. Already this week CIJA has responded to findings coming out of the publication of the final report of Canadian Parliamentary Coalition to Combat Anti-Semitism’s (CPCCA).

The transition has resulted in a streamlining of the organizational structure across the country, and this is an inherently difficult and painful process. In particular, it means saying farewell to a number of dedicated professionals who have provided devoted service to the Jewish community for many years. Among those leaving is Romy Ritter, whose involvement with local Jewish advocacy most recently included three years of service as director of Canadian Jewish Congress, Pacific Region. In an earlier five year period Romy served as its community relations director. Romy provided meaningful service to our community over many years, in particular bringing Holocaust education to remote communities across British Columbia, managing community security issues, and reaching out to build bridges between the Jewish community and many diverse groups in our broader community.

Federation leadership has been working over several months with local volunteer leadership from Canadian Jewish Congress and Canada-Israel Committee, and with CIJA’s national leadership, to determine how best to reorganize local advocacy services and programs in our area. These efforts will be completed as quickly as possible in order to ensure an effective local and regional structure is in place to support and leverage the national advocacy program.

Parashat Balak
In this week’s parasha, the sorcerer Balaam is engaged by Balak, King of Moab, to curse the Israelites. Instead, when Balaam’s mouth opens, words of praise for the Israelites come out. Ever looking for a connection between today’s events and the biblical text, the story had me thinking about the organizers of the flotilla. Planning a massive publicity stunt to embarrass and delegitimize Israel, they ran into a series of complications due to the fact that many Western governments consider Israel’s blockade to be on the right side of international law. Unlike last year, when they succeeded in creating embarrassment for Israel, this time the flotilla organizers have embarrassed themselves and their cause.

The path back to the negotiating table will not be eased by demonizing or delegitimizing one side or the other. But, it may be helped by actions and behaviors that open dialogue and build trust.

Shabbat Shalom!

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