Victorian MPs report on Israel trip

November 2, 2017 by J-Wire Staff
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Four Victorian state Liberal MPs and a senior adviser, headed by leader Matthew Guy, defied exhaustion to tell an AIJAC lunch about their recent study visit to Israel as part of AIJAC’s Rambam program.

AIJAC’s Joel Burnie, AIJAC Executive Director Dr Colin Rubenstein, Scott Pearce, The Hon. Matthew Guy MP, Tim Smith MP, AIJAC National Chairman Mark Leibler, Andrew Katos MP

 

The five came to the October 20 lunch straight from an all-night parliamentary session. The other members of the delegation were Shadow Minister for Education and for Scrutiny of Government Tim Smith; Shadow Minister for Energy and Resources, for Innovation and for Renewables David Southwick; Shadow Assistant Minister for Geelong Andrew Katos; and Matthew Guy’s chief of staff Scott Pearce. They were accompanied in Israel by AIJAC’s Joel Burnie.

Mr Guy related how a leisurely stroll through the Old City of Jerusalem with Scott Pearce on his first morning there lasted longer than expected when the Old City was locked down following a terrorist attack in which two police officers were murdered. He said that Jerusalem really felt to him like the centre of the earth, and condemned the attempts by various UN bodies to “airbrush” thousands of years of Jewish history. He expected the country to consist largely of “biblical scenes” dry and arid sand and stones, but found the reality to be very different, with land in the Negev and elsewhere becoming increasingly arable with agricultural exports, and modern cities. Going from Jerusalem to Tel Aviv was, he said, like going from the Middle East to the Mediterranean, over a distance the same as Melbourne to Pakenham. He also commented approvingly on the entrepreneurial culture of Israel, where, unlike in Australia, if you fail in business, you just try again, noting that Victoria could learn from Israel’s water, energy and security policies and its ambulance procedures.

He finds the press coverage of Israel to be so different from the reality as to be “utterly infuriating”, adding that Israel needs its friends to stand up for it, and that in the Victorian parliament, Israel has lots of friends prepared to tell the truth about it, including the good work the people there are doing to build a democratic state. He concluded that he is proud to say as a Zionist that so much is happening in Israel, and proud of the kind of state Israel is, where the importance of the rule of law differentiates it from all its neighbours. He assured those attending that he is a Zionist leading a proudly Zionist party, and proud to be a friend.

Andrew Katos also noted that Israel is the only true democracy in the Middle East, was struck by the agriculture and innovation that Israel has achieved despite the land not being arable, and, as a Greek Orthodox Christian, enjoyed the many churches.
Tim Smith, who has now visited Israel four times in the last three years, noted that, while we are about to celebrate the 100th anniversary of the pivotal Battle of Beersheba, the campaign against the Turks lasted a further year, with Australia ultimately making a fundamental contribution to driving out the Ottomans. He added that Israel has taken in minorities like no other Middle East country could ever do.

Scott Pearce noted the security challenges facing all Israelis, adding that defenders of freedom must support each other, and he has come back from Israel an even stronger supporter. He took note of Israeli programs to help the disadvantaged, and noted many ways in which we could learn from Israel to better serve our own community.

Finally, David Southwick, who assisted in organising the visit, spoke about going to the Yad Vashem Holocaust Remembrance Centre as a sombre beginning to the program. He described an intense schedule which included meetings at many organisations, and programs, hospitals, universities, tech parks and the Knesset. The group was exposed to Israeli innovation and start-up culture, and learnt many things they could bring back here.

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