UIA Yom Ha’azmaut Mission

July 4, 2016 by  
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UIA’s Yom Ha’atzmaut mission to Israel was an unparalleled experience for all its participants.

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Rabbi Yaakov Glasman reports: “Like many, I have been to Israel numerous times and visited the major attractions. However, attending as one of the leaders of this year’s UIA Yom Ha’atzmaut mission gave me something I’ve never had before – access. Given Keren Hayesod’s contribution to the fabric of Israeli society – every city in Israel has a street named “Rechov Keren Hayesod” – they have access to people and places inaccessible to regular visitors – which our group took full advantage of!

We visited Latrun, where etched into a wall are the names of 23,447 soldiers and victims of terror who have fallen since Israel’s establishment.  Standing with our group were 5,000 Jews from different countries, speaking different languages, harbouring different political views and practising different levels of religious observance. But for those two hours, we were not different!  We stood as one people with one heart, sharing the intense pain of the families of those who sacrificed their lives so that we, the Jewish people, can call Israel our home.

We were privileged to meet many high calibre speakers including Col. Dani Tirza, architect of the security fence, Brig General Res Gal Hirsh former IDF Northern Region Commander, Khaled Abu Toameh, Israeli Arab Journalist and Professor Arnon Sofer well-known high profile demographer.

parti400We participated in a sensational evening honouring four UIA stalwarts from around the world who received the prestigious Keren Hayesod Yakir awards. They were presented by Rabbi Israel Meir Lau, Israel’s former Ashkenazi Chief Rabbi,  current Chief Rabbi of Tel Aviv and youngest survivor of Buchenwald Concentration Camp.  It was an absolute honour and privilege to have spent time with one of the most remarkable Jewish leaders of our time.

Without doubt the most gut-wrenching experience was our visit to Yad Vashem.  As highlighted by our exceptional tour guide, for the first time since our Temple stood, we can now defend ourselves on our own land to ensure the atrocities of the Shoah are never, ever repeated.

Our spirits were lifted during Shabbat in Jerusalem at an inspirational Friday night service at the Kotel and Shabbat day service at the famous Great Synagogue.

We visited an Absorption Centre hearing a firsthand account of one of the 8,000 Ethiopian olim who came to Israel during Operation Moses saving them from terrible persecution they experienced in Ethiopia. She told her harrowing story of travelling on foot through the Sudan desert to reach the aeroplanes which would fly them to Israel. Many died on the way due to dehydration and exhaustion. When they finally arrived, they faced the stark realisation that their different language, traditions, religious practices and total ignorance of modern society made it almost impossible to successfully integrate.  UIA addressed this problem by funding absorption centres across the country to support, educate and provide the new olim the tools needed not only to live in Israel, but to integrate and succeed.  Seeing firsthand the work of the UIA and the support the families receive was amazing!

On a personal note, I can truly say this mission was one of the most inspirational and transformative experiences of my life. By the end our group had become a family. We bonded through shared experiences and a common love of our spiritual homeland. We sang, we danced, we laughed and we cried together.  It was an experience that will be etched in my mind and heart for the rest of my life.” Rabbi Yaacov Glasman.

Sagi Ben Yosef, UIA Shaliach added: “As an Israeli, it was a true honour and privilege to be part of this exceptional lifetime experience. To witness the strong bond all formed with Israel, was for me personally heart-warming, evoking an indescribable emotion. This journey together with each and every participant will be a memory I will cherish forever.”

 

 

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