Ehud Barak addresses JNF dinner

September 5, 2018 by Hila Tsor
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Former Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Barak was keynote speaker at JNF’s Annual Dinner in NSW…a celebration of Israel’s 70th birthday.

Greg Sheridan in conversation with Ehud Barak   Photo: Giselle Haber

The focus of the evening was to support the Sheizaf community in Israel. Sheizaf is a significant initiative to turn Ben Gurion’s dream into a reality by expanding into the Negev. The small community, which was begun in 2012, currently consists of 15 families. The residents’ of Sheizaf enthusiasm and drive is inspiring, and their determination to succeed and grow into a flourishing community is evident through the video JNF played on the evening. 

This was further highlighted through Daffy Adler, a Sheizaf founding resident, who spoke about life in Sheizaf. She noted that residents are provided with the task of keeping everyone safe, that employment opportunities are fewer and the commute is long, that blackouts are frequently experienced and that during the spring their homes can become full of sand due to sandstorms. There is also security threats due to Sheizaf’s geographical location. However, Alder also passionately spoke of the joy in having such a diverse community close to nature. 

Daffy Adler    Photo: Giselle Haber

The Sheizaf residents envision the community as a melting pot, of both religious and secular individuals coming together and living in harmony. Their current situation is not ideal; they are living in trailers, however, they are living happily and strongly believe in the initiative. JNF is committed to raising funds to help grow the landscape, infrastructure and facilities in order to help turn Sheizaf into a vibrant town. There is currently a waiting list of residents seeking to move into Sheizaf. 

The Negev makes up 60% of Israel, with only 8% people actually living there. By expanding into the Negev, Israel will be securing its future and JNF will be helping with this important task.

The evening had a few other speakers, including Mark Sofer, the ambassador of Israel to Australia. Sofer acknowledged JNF’s immense contribution in helping ‘make the desert bloom’.

Ambassador Mark Sofer   Photo: Giselle Haber

Gita Smith, a Moriah College primary school teacher, spoke about the educational tour she undertook of Israel through the JNF and described it as a ‘life-changer’ and how big of a difference that little blue box that sits in her classroom makes. She said: ‘Thank you… for inspiring me to foster a connection to Israel in my students’.

Significantly, the guest speaker of the evening was Ehud Barak, the former Prime Minister of Israel, IDF Chief of Staff and Minister of Defence. Barak was interviewed by Greg Sheridan, foreign editor of the Australian. 

Barak said: ‘JNF has a great impact on Israel… If not for the JNF, my parents would have never met… I have a personal debt to the JNF’. 

‘We luckily enough, to this day, have pioneers like Daffy … It’s not a normal life. It’s different from any place around Sydney. They are sacrificing. They are living. I cannot talk for their children, who will never be asked if they want to grow in the desert, or a more normal place. But their parents are ready to sacrifice [this] in order to prepare a better future for the next generation, and for all of Israel. And, I think that they deserve your support.’  

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