This is a guest post by Jonathan Sacerdoti
The press conference room of the Israeli Ministry of Foreign Affairs will be a familiar sight to some. I’d seen it on television and in the newspapers whenever Israeli ministers had hosted their foreign counterparts, and issued joint statements—usually about conflict. It wasn’t a room I associated with good news. Until last week, that is.
On Thursday 15th July, as the Israeli working week drew to a close, I stood on the dais between the two podiums in that room with 35 other delegates from 25 different countries, singing Hatikvah. Each of us holding our own country’s flag, we were proud to reinforce the message delivered to us 11 days before by Deputy Foreign Minister, Danny Ayalon: there is no such thing as dual loyalties when it comes to disapora support of Israel. All 36 of us standing there that day were loyal citizens of our home countries. But at the same time, each of us has our own identity in a modern and pluralistic world. The wellbeing and security of the Jewish people links diaspora Jews together, and the wellbeing and security of the Jewish people is linked with the security and wellbeing of the state of Israel. This is a fact, whether others understand or not.
As Ayalon said “We have one state. And it belongs not only to Israelis, but also to the Jews of the entire world. This is firmly recognised legally even in the UN resolution creating the state. Israel has a right to self identify as a state for the Jewish people. This extends the definition of Jewish beyond the religious. It is cultural and ethnic as well. This does not deny non-Jews the right to live [t]here with full rights. This requires loyalty from minorities, but we understand that, as a people who spent so long as a minority in the states we live in, where we were loyal.”
Conducted under the auspices of the Department for Jewish Communities at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, the Diplomatic Seminar for Young Jewish Leaders is a study program conducted annually by the Israel Ministry of Foreign Affairs. The Diplomatic Seminar imparts analytical tools for understanding the political and national security challenges facing Israel, and insight into the society, economy and culture of the Jewish-democratic state. From the northern borders with Syria and Lebanon to the southern site of the Eilat-Eilot Renewable Energy Intiative, we travelled the length and breadth of Israel, meeting mayors and ministers, kibbutzniks and soldiers, professors and medical miracle workers. Each one offered something new to help us understand their country – our people’s country – and the way it rises to the enormous challenges it faces. Be it desert weather conditions or vicious hostile attack from terrorists, Israel’s creative energy provides solutions that have helped the nation not only to survive, but to contribute to the world countless technological, humanitarian and democratic advances.
Maybe it was the flags, maybe it was the room, maybe it was the song. Whatever it was, the experiences we had shared during the days running up to that moment in the press conference room resulted in an heart-warming feeling of international solidarity, and a shared resolve to work together as Jews, and together with non-Jews, on Israel’s behalf, no matter where we live.