Rambam Group Reports Back

August 5, 2016 by J-Wire Staff
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Nine Victorian Liberal Party MPs and graduates of a recent Australia/Israel & Jewish Affairs Council (AIJAC) Rambam study program to Israel addressed an AIJAC luncheon in Melbourne.Caulfield MP David Southwick kicked off the proceedings, commenting, “It was a brilliant trip, we hit the ground running…. All the speakers we had were top-notch.”

Dr Colin Rubenstein and David Southwick in red ties with the group

Dr Colin Rubenstein and David Southwick in red ties with the group

“One of the big highlights was the City of David tour… it is an absolute masterpiece, it gives the evidence that Jews were there many, many years before anyone can argue and that really is important to the whole picture,” said Southwick.

Heidi Victoria spoke of the group’s visits to Sderot and Bethlehem, adding, “it was an amazing opportunity and I thank AIJAC for allowing me to be a better informed Member of Parliament.”

Martin Dixon highlighted how universities in Israel connect with the wider business world, commenting, “The breadth of our tour was extraordinary, it was about Universities, business, religion, tourism, social life… I’ve just really been immersed in the life of Israel and that was my highlight of the trip… It’s a great experience, it’s added so much to my life personally.”

Richard Riordan addressed Israel’s security concerns, stating, “For me, the most empowering take home message was the smallness of the country, the need for security… The closeness and proximity is something Australians may never understand until they go over there.”

Further highlighting the links between Israel and Australia, Riordan added, “Israel has been known in rural Australia for a long time for its irrigation and agriculture… from my electorate’s point of view it was remarkable to see that.”

Lucinda McLeish, commenting on her meetings with Israelis, said “People still do what they do, they get on with their daily life,” commending how “everyone just gets on with their lives” even in light of difficult and challenging circumstances.

Graham Watt, remarking on his “eye-opening” visit to the Ziv Hospital where Israel is treating Syrians injured in the ongoing civil war, told the gathering that “I went because I need to, when I go back it’s because I want to”

Tim Smith, speaking of his concerns regarding incitement and extremism within the Palestinian territories, noted a Shabbat dinner with Sharren Haskel MK, a former Australian resident, as a highlight of the program.

Dee Ryall, commending “The resilience of the Israeli people… the desire to give, to volunteer,” spoke of her meetings with Muslim leaders in Abu Ghosh, noting that it was “encouraging” to meet with locals wanting to broaden engagement with Jewish Israelis.

Neale Burgess imparted to the crowd how, to his mind, “Israel is a very special place, you learn so much whenever you go there,” commenting further on Israel’s start-up ecosystem.

“Israel stands head and shoulders above for its entrepreneurialism,” said Burgess. “The fact is it’s the Israeli attitude, the attitude’s completely different to Australia… Our state needs to adopt that attitude that Israel has so naturally.”

The delegation of MPs was accompanied by AIJAC liaison Joel Burnie.

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