JNF Gala Dinner hosts outstanding speakers

November 20, 2009 by Zeev Bashan
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The packed AJC Function Centre at Randwick Racecourse in Sydney was recently exposed to the unexpected as far as Jewish community functions are concerned.

Instead of the conventional keynote speaker, highly-awarded Current Affair interviewer Jana Wendt undertook a wide ranging discussion with. former Mossad chief, Ephraim Halevy and US diplomat and Middle East expert, Elliot Abrams in what had been billed as a discussion on ‘Insights into Intrigue’

Topics covered included the threat to Israel’s security by Iran, Syria and Palestinian extremists, the changed relationship of the American Jewish community toward Israel under the new administration of President Obama, the critical subject of the future of Israel-Palestinian relations and the outcomes for a meaningful peace process.

l-r  Efraim Halevy, Harry Triguboff, Jana Wendt, Elliot Abrams

l-r Efraim Halevy, Harry Triguboff, Jana Wendt, Elliot Abrams

Some intriguing insights into the thought processes of the White House toward Middle East relationships were revealed by Abrahams, a former senior director of the National Security Council and senior director of the NSC for Near East and North African affairs.  Even more intriguing for the audience were revelations by Halevy into the workings of the Mossad and into his career as secret envoy for a succession of Israeli prime ministers.

British born Halevy played a central part in bringing the Jews of Ethiopia to Israel in the mid-1980s and in forging special relationships with various Middle Eastern countries.

Pressed for a projection on Israel’s present situation and the future, Halevy – to thunderous audience applause – vigorously stated that despite Arab rhetoric, Israel cannot and will not be destroyed and the world had better adjust itself to that reality. As to the future, he sounded a cautious optimistic note saying that economic and environmental as well as political issues will ultimately lead to a rapprochement but he declined to go into detail as to the nature of such a rapprochement.

In a spirited introduction, JNF president in NSW, Stuart Romm urged  the community to support the environmental efforts of the JNF which this year starts a new Negev project to provide urgently needed water to the Sha’ar Hanegev region, located only a short distance from the Gaza border

“While covering more than half of Israel’s land area, the Negev is home to only 8% of its population with an average rainfall of a mere 150mm per year while in the South this dwindles to a mere 25mm,” he stated.

“Without additional water resources, there is little hope for population growth, additional jobs, industry or upgraded agriculture in the Negev.

“Its challenge is to create a sustainable future for the people who live there today, for those seeking a new lifestyle and for the children growing up to live there in the future.

“The Negev’s challenge is our challenge!”

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