AIJAC welcomes MPs on their return from Israel

May 14, 2016 by J-Wire Staff
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The Australia/Israel & Jewish Affairs Council (AIJAC) has played host to ALP Victorian government MPs recently returned from a study visit to Israel.

MPS with AIJAC executives

Vicki Ward, Lizzie Blandthorn, AIJAC chairman Mark Leibler, MarshaThomson, AIJAC executive director Colin Rubenstein, Josh Bull, Don Nardella, Ros Spence, AIJAC policy analyst Allon Lee who accompanied thegroup, and from Marsha Thomson¹s office Nomi Kaltmann.

The tour was organised by AIJAC’s Rambam Israel Fellowship Program together with MP Marsha Thomson.

The MPs – Lizzie Blandthorn, Parliamentary Secretary to the Premier Colin Brooks, Josh Bull, Deputy Speaker Don Nardella, Government Whip Ros Spence, Ms Thomson and Vicki Ward, had travelled with their parliamentary colleagues Paul Edbrooke, Nick Staikos and Gabrielle Williams, together with AIJAC’s Allon Lee and Nomi Kaltmann from Ms Thomson’s office.

AIJAC Executive Director Colin Rubenstein said the purpose of the trips is to expose participants to various aspects of Israel, and to the complexities of both Israel’s  and the Palestinians’ situation, and to help with their understanding of the region. To that end, the MPs were given the opportunity to see many parts of the country, including Tel Aviv, Jerusalem, Be’er Sheva, the Golan, the Gaza border, Bethlehem, the Dead Sea and Masada. They also met with many speakers who discussed current affairs or Israeli business practices around innovation. In fact, one MP said the group had received a master class in innovation. Palestinians representatives also spoke to the group.

The group understood that Israel’s security issues were complex, saying that, on that score, they came back with more questions than answers. They had far more certainty on Israeli business practices, however, stating that there is much Australia could learn from Israel including the prominent role taken by the Chief Scientist in leading and even funding innovation, and how Israelis encourage risk rather than condemn failure. They were keen to see Australians take advantage of economic opportunities to work with Israel. There was also a suggestion that, conversely, Israelis could learn from our love of sport as a way of bringing diverse communities together, although they were impressed with the way the numerous religions coexist in Jerusalem.

The group remarked on the “compact” size of Israel and the resultant close proximity of security threats, especially in Sderot in the south, where residents receive 15 seconds warning of incoming rockets, and where the group visited a moshav from which they could hear Hamas conducting military manoeuvres across the border.

The security dilemmas were brought home to them when they were visiting a Magen David Adom dispatch centre when there was a bomb attack on a bus in Jerusalem, so close they could see the smoke from the explosion.

Other aspects of the visit to leave a strong impression included Yad Vashem, the historical City of David, the work of Australian doctor Michael Harari at the Ziv hospital in northern Israel, where his colleagues are saving the lives and limbs of victims of the Syrian war, the huge diversity of the country, and the Israeli food.

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