Israel engagement — it’s Closer than you think


A year-long initiative to increase British Jews’ engagement with Israel is being launched to coincide with Yom Ha’atzmaut.

Intended to involve all strands of the community, Closer to Israel has been developed by the Board of Deputies, UJIA and the Jewish Leadership Council to promote and co-ordinate hundreds of local events. Its website will include a calendar of activities, plus resources for event organisers, who can also call Cassie Matus at UJIA for advice.

“It’s real grassroots stuff,” said Board of Deputies senior vice-president Laura Marks. “The phrase came from a speech by the ambassador [Daniel Taub] who is very much behind this.

“We want people to do something in a way that’s right for them. For example, a JSoc could hold an Israeli technology day. A synagogue could do a food festival. We are inviting Israelis living in London to do something. Mitzvah Day will do an Israeli social action project.”

More ambitiously, another possibility was a birthday party for 65-year-olds to celebrate their connection to Israel in its 65th anniversary year.

The first events announced include a series of discussions organised by the Union of Jewish Students and the Holocaust Survivors’ Centre on what Israel means to different generations. The Reform Movement is bringing together five communities for a Yom Ha’atzmaut party with guest speakers reflecting on their experiences of Israel.

Last year, the Being Jewish in Scotland project found 344 Israeli-born people living there who were largely unknown to the community. Closer to Israel will aim to build meaningful links with such people.

Reiterating his support, Mr Taub said this week: “There have never been so many ways to explore and deepen a relationship with Israel. It can be through music, sport, literature, technology or tikkun olam.”

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