UIA Gala event shines
Over 1400 members of Sydney’s Jewish community packed the auditorium at Sydney’s International Convention Centre to hear a stellar group of speakers headed by former Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper address the UIA 2017 NSW Gala Event.
Stephen Harper was joined by Dafna Lifshitz who spoke of his Neta@ program bringing hi-tech education to those who would otherwise have missed out Israel’s boom in innovation and Tzur Goldin the twin of Hadar Golding who was killed in combat during the Operation Protection Edge in 2014 in Gaza and whose body is currently being held by Hamas.
Dafna Lipfshitz heads Appleseeds Academy to unprecedented success in Israel and in Africa. Appleseed’s Academy is an Israeli non-profit that aims to bridge social and economic gaps in Israeli society by diminishing the country’s technological divide – as Israel’s high-tech industry booms and members of underprivileged communities are left behind.
Their operation covers all Israel stretching from Kiryat Shimon in the north to Eilat in the South. Dana Lipshitz, who won the prestigious Israel prize in the non-profit category.
Lifshitz told the audience that most of Israel’s high-tech companies are based around Israel’s major cities but her program is all-inclusive reaching all Israel including areas housing the underprivileged.
Appleseeds specialises in the management, implementation and operation of technological-educational programs.
Appleseeds partners with top IT companies such as Cisco, Google, Apple, Intel, and Microsoft. Under Dafna’s leadership, Appleseeds has impacted many sectors of Israeli society including women, ultra-orthodox Jews, youth-at-risk, new immigrants, and members of the Israeli Arab, Bedouin, and Druze communities. She runs several programs including the Mediterranean Youth Technology Club, Net@ Technological Youth Movement, FIXIT Community Laboratories, Community Knowledge Centers, UpWomen and Youth Forward. With over 1,000,000 beneficiaries since its founding, 350 centers across Israel and over 90 Centers in Africa, Dafna’s work with Appleseeds placed her in Israel’s Ha’aretz newspaper as one of Israel’s 100 Most Influential People.
Tzur Goldin told a hushed audience of the long two and half year struggle to recover his brother’s body. He said: “Two hours after Hamas agreed to the cease-fire, Hamas terrorists ambushed Hadar’s unit from a tunnel in the basement of garden. They dragged his body into an underground tunnel deep into Gaza.” They said Hamas has kept it “as a bargain chip” for the two and a half years. Tzur Goldin had been serving in the same unit as his brother but was not in the same location as the ambush. Tzur had been 700m from the ambush. He heard the story on the radio hearing that two soldiers had been killed and one had been kidnapped. Later he was told his twin was missing. He said that in the campaign “we uncovered the true barbarism of Hamas”.
After telling of sharing the grief with his family he told the audience: “That was when the battle in Gaza was over and when our battle began.”
He finished by saying that “Israel’s security will be assured by the strongest, the most advanced military in the Middle East. It is our fight between our values and theirs. One of our values is not to leave a soldier behind.”
During his time as Prime Minister, Stephen Harper proved to be one of Israel’s greatest friends. As a world leader, his open and unambiguous support for the State of Israel was almost unparalleled.
Stephen Harper said that as the Canadian Prime Minister “I spent a full decade in meetings among the most powerful people on earth, meetings which were very tense and at where my voice in defence of Israel was a lonely one. We repeatedly refused to be bullied into signing a one-sided international resolution against the State of Israel.” He added: “We unconditionally supported the right of Israel to defend itself against terrorist attacks. Canada was the first country in the world apart from Israel to suspend relations with the Hamas government in Gaza.”
He said that Canada shut down its embassy in Teheran following Iran’s threats against Israel and the Jewish people.
Talking about the Holocaust, Stephen Harper said it must be understood as being more than simply a historical event. He said: “It is an eternal example of the threat of anti-Semitism and the eternal danger is to fail to recognise it for what it is when it appears.”
Harper said that old forms of anti-Semitism have mutated into new strains and that the old anti-Semitism was “crude and ignorant and led to the horrors of the death camps”. He said it still exists but usually “in dark corners”.
Talking about anti-Semitism today in the western world he commented the “The old hatred has been translated into more sophisticated language for use in polite society.”
Comparing the old to the new, Stephen Harper said that in the past anti-Semites had blamed the Jews for their own problems but in the new world they declare their hatred for Israel “and blame the Jewish State for all the problems in the Middle East”.
Harper says that “most of disgraceful of all, is that people openly describe Israel as an apartheid state. It is sickening and we should denounce it as loudly as we can. The same new face of anti-Semitism targets the Jewish people by targeting Israel”.
Speaking about the hatred of Jews and Israel, Stephen Harper said those who hate Jews will eventually hate everyone adding “in too many countries it easier to scapegoat Israel than to copy its success”. It is easier to foster resentment and hatred of Israel’s democracy than to provide the same rights and freedom to their own people, The fundamental reason is their no peace and especially there is no sovereign state for Palestinians is that too many people in the Middle East, too many Palestinians, have from generation and generation, have refused to accept the right of the Jewish State to exist.”
Stephen Harper added: “I tell my friends in politics around the world, never be afraid to take the right position on Israel and never be afraid to be proud of Israel.”
The evening was MC’d by the President of UIA NSW Lance Rosenberg and ended with an impassioned farewell address by Sagi Ben-Yosef who is about to his tour of duty as the UIA’s shaliach in Sydney ahead of his return to Israel.