Rambam in the House

September 5, 2012 by J-Wire Staff
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MLA Walt Secord has told the NSW Parliament of his AIJAC/Rambam experience.

This is what Walt Secord had to say….

Walt Secord visits Auschwitz

I note my support for the Australia-Israel and Jewish Affairs Council Rambam Israel Fellowship program.

Annually, this program sponsors visits to Israel by senior journalists, politicians, political advisers, public servants, defence personnel, trade union officials, the clergy and student leaders. As any member would agree, briefing notes can get one only so far in understanding some issues.

In many cases, one has to get out there and see things for oneself. This is what the Rambam program affords.

On Sunday night, 2 September, I attended a reception at the Sherman Contemporary Art Foundation to mark the tenth anniversary of the program. It was hosted by Brian Sherman, AM, and Dr Gene Sherman, AM, both of whom have supported the program since its inception.

The event was attended by a number of State and Federal parliamentarians, including our colleague the Government Whip, the Hon. Dr Peter Phelps; Western Australian Federal Labor Senator, Mr Glenn Sterle; and Federal member for Wentworth, Mr Malcolm Turnbull.

Over the past decade more than 400 people have participated in Rambam.

Members will be aware that in early January 2012 Rambam provided me with assistance with on-the-ground transport for two days in Israel. I paid for my own flights and accommodation; there was no cost to New South Wales or Australian taxpayers.

I visited Tel Aviv, the suburbs of Jerusalem, East Jerusalem, Yad Vashem, the Gadot Observation Point near the Golan Heights and Syria, the Jordan River, Tiberias, Nazareth, the Dead Sea, Masada, the Yitzhak Rabin Crossing Point at Eilat, Gush Etzion and Sderot. I saw firsthand the survival of the Jewish people that the holocaust was intended to finish.

I visited also Jordan, Iraqi Kurdistan and the Palestinian territories, including Jericho and Ramallah.

Despite the current stalled peace process, I am still optimistic that a two-State solution is possible and that there can be reconciliation between Israelis and Palestinians.

Visiting Israel is the best education for any parliamentarian.

I got an immediate appreciation of the urgency that Israel’s geography creates regarding threats from bordering nations. At its narrowest point this nation is 15 kilometres wide. This creates situations that we of the wide brown land cannot comprehend.

Walt Secord in Jerusalem

One discovers what a “nuclear Iran” really means to Israelis and Palestinians alike and appreciates why in Israel’s western Negev, Sderot, one does not have to wear seat belts—incredibly, for safety. Sderot is 840 metres from Gaza Strip and has experienced daily missile attacks for the past 12 years. Eight people have been killed and hundreds wounded in the town of 24,000 people. So far this year, some 440 rockets have been launched on to Sderot. If there is an air raid, one has 15 seconds to seek shelter. Ironically, wearing a seat belt is what could kill you in Sderot.

Walt Secord at a bomb shelter in Sderot

But the most chilling is a local playground in Sderot. It looks just like any in suburban Sydney, except for the giant colourful caterpillar who snakes through it. As friendly as he looks, he is concrete and he is a bomb shelter. Kids play all around him, knowing that at the sound of an air siren they have 15 seconds to race into his belly and seek shelter. As a parent, standing in that park was a truly chilling experience for me. No wonder that on 26 August Sderot opened a $26.5 million fortified, rocket-proof high school building for its 1,200 students. It has concrete walls, reinforced windows and an architectural plan all designed specifically to absorb and deflect rocket fire. I ask members to imagine if we had to contemplate such issues as part of our own education system. That is a phenomenal contrast.

Finally, a visit to the security barrier was the most enlightening. Put simply, this is a barrier against terrorism. While it is easy to debate such things from far away, the fact is that, on the ground, the security barrier saves lives. The fact is that it has dramatically reduced deaths by suicide bombing. In short, a colleague asked me if my visit to the Middle East had changed my views on Israel. I said it had. It had made me an even stronger supporter of Israel.

So I thank the Australia-Israel and Jewish Affairs Council and its Rambam program for playing a part in cementing my views on Israel.

I place on record my thanks to the following Australia-Israel and Jewish Affairs Council staff for their support and assistance: Executive Director Dr Colin Rubenstein, AM; Director of International and Community Affairs, Jeremy Jones, AM; and Israel Liaison, Mr Peter Adler.

Further, it would be remiss of me not to thank Ms Roley Horowitz, a wonderful guide. Patient and possessing the skills of an international diplomat, she was the best guide I have ever encountered.

In January 2013 I hope to return to Israel as part of the New South Wales Jewish Board of Deputies multiparty mission to Israel in my capacity as deputy chair of the New South Wales Parliamentary Friends of Israel.


One Response to “Rambam in the House”
  1. michael says:

    Kol Ha Ka Vod
    Colin , Tzvi, Jamie, Allon,Daniel,Sharyn & Helsi { & Gary NEB]
    Keep up your great work.

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