Stronger together: UIA and ZFA Leadership Solidarity Mission to Israel

December 11, 2023 by J-Wire News Service
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UIA Australia President Esther Frenkiel and Zionist Federation of Australia President Jeremy Leibler, together with a delegation of Australian Jewish leaders, recently embarked on a whirlwind four-day solidarity mission to Israel.

The delegation at the kibbutz

The delegation included UIA CEO Yair Miller, UIA State Presidents, David Ossip, the President of NSW Jewish Board of Deputies, the Chair of the Australian Zionist Youth Council, Co-Chairs of UIA NSW Women’s Division and the Co-Chair of UIA NSW Young Leadership,

From 28 November to 1 December 2023, the delegation’s efforts were focused on providing strength and encouragement to the People of Israel at a time when Israel needs it most.

Mission delegates began the mission by delivering a statement of solidarity to Israeli President Isaac Herzog on behalf of the Australian Jewish community and allies. President Herzog responded by saying “to welcome you all the way from Australia was a powerful reminder of how wherever we are, the Jewish heart beats as one. The outpouring of love and support from our Jewish sisters and brothers has been a true source of comfort.”

The delegation had an emotional and powerful day in the South of Israel the following day. They met with Amir Cohen, Police Commander of the Southern District and one of the heroes of the October 7 massacre. This was followed by a visit to Kibbutz Reim, a briefing from the head of kibbutz security at one of the horrifying attack sites, and a visit to Kibbutz Nir Oz. There, delegates saw firsthand the total devastation, where 60 people were killed and another 70 taken hostage.

Meeting President Herzog

To show the solidarity of our Australian community, a generous lunch was provided for some of the brave soldiers who have been fighting in Gaza, many of whom have not been home for a month. Delegates also met with victims of the horrendous attacks and heard from Ayelet Nachmias-Verbin – Chair of the Victims of Terror Fund, which has been the beneficiary of UIA’s fundraising initiatives since the war began.

Day three commenced with a briefing by and discussion with Amira Ahronoviz – CEO of The Jewish Agency for Israel. The group then met evacuees from Netiv Ha’asara, one of the Moshavim attacked on October 7, who are living in the Royal Beach Hotel in Tel Aviv. After a moving memorial ceremony and hearing from residents, delegates visited children in the hotel’s makeshift kindergarten, established to provide some routine for youth who have already suffered so much.

Meeting hostages’ families

The delegation met with Israeli Government Spokesperson – Eylon Levy, who has been advocating for Israel and debunking misinformation across various media platforms. Then, delegates were taken to a forum with two families of the hostages currently still held captive in Gaza. One of the hostage’s family members is Moran, the Director of the Ramat Hadassah Youth Village, a project supported by Keren Hayesod-UIA, whose nephew is being held captive. The day ended with briefings from Doron Almog- Chairman of the Executive of The Jewish Agency for Israel as well as former Israeli Prime Minister – Naftali Bennett.

On the fourth and final day, the delegates worked in a centre in Tel Aviv, run entirely by volunteers distributing goods to displaced evacuees and soldiers, before returning to Australia.

At the Kotel

Reflecting on her experience, UIA Australia President Esther Frenkiel said: “On my return home from Israel, I am casting my mind back to the entire spectrum of emotions that we experienced: At one end, overwhelming sadness and distress at the devastation we saw firsthand. And at the other, admiration and awe for the Israeli citizens who are beacons of resilience, unity, courage and hope. And it is these people who have given me strength to continue the vital work of KH-UIA. We are one people and one nation, and we must stand strong in our fight against evil. Am Yisrael Chai!”

Echoing these sentiments, Zionist Federation of Australia President Jeremy Leibler said: “Meeting with survivors of the Hamas massacre of October 7 and our brave IDF soldiers was one of the most profound experiences of my life. I went on this trip with the hope of bringing strength to our brothers and sisters in Israel but ended up receiving that very strength from them. At times like this, it is not easy being a Jew but the strength and resilience of the Israeli people and our shared sense of purpose as one people has never been stronger. I return to Australia with far more hope than despair. It is clear that we will overcome these challenges, but the road will not be easy and more than any other time, the Australian Jewish community must continue to stand in solidarity with Israel.”

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