From the Desk of Avi Benlolo: Choose Israel

March 15, 2019

Editorial

With the brutal spate of antisemitism and defamation, it is incumbent on all of us to stand with Israel. We stand with Israel in many ways, and one of the most profound instances is to participate in Israeli life. It is the most potent tool we have in combating boycotts and antisemitism against the Jewish people.

This week, I was proud to join the Jerusalem half marathon. Running alongside 40,000 mainly Israelis was empowering. To see their strength, vitality and level of participation was moving given the daily hardships they endure.

Just last night, there was a serious rocket attack over Tel Aviv and southern Israel. The rockets were sent from Hamas-controlled Gaza. Even while many Israelis were hunkered down in bomb shelters, they prepared for today's marathon and came out enthusiastically. In fact, I have never seen a marathon post-party like this!

I joined them enthusiastically too, wearing my Canada jersey. I wanted to tell the world (and Israelis) that we are supporting them proudly. Thankfully, many Canadians participate in rides, hikes, adventures and vacations in Israel. Our presence and friendship sends a strong message to all those who wish to bring down the only democracy in the Middle East.

It's saddening and maddening that antisemitism persists at alarming rates. But this is exactly why we must fortify Israel. This week, for example, a Polish right-wing newspaper published an article specifically on "how to recognize a Jew." I am not sure how this is possible because Jews come from every race – but apparently ignorance and racism prevail.

Even former prime minister Brian Mulroney, an outspoken supporter of Israel and the Jewish people, felt the urgent need to publish an op-ed about the rising tide of antisemitism. He encouraged the government to take immediate action.

For those of you who know me, I believe that action speaks louder than words. Condemnations are one thing – but everyone must roll up their sleeves and get into the fight against antisemitism. In the last couple of weeks, for example, I suggested individuals and faculty must decide what action they can take to distance themselves from antisemitic campuses.

That's why our team at Wiesenthal is proud of our Tour for Humanity, our workshops and our direct action. We have to be present for our schools and communities in the fight against hate and intolerance. We are continuously flattered when news reports tell us the impact of our work.

“It’s overwhelmingly positive. We had one teacher earlier in the day come back and say how she could hear students talking about the presentation in the hallways,” Daniella Lurion, the education associate for the Tour of Humanity bus, was quoted saying to the Woodstock Sentinel-Review. “For high school kids, that’s pretty high praise. Students take it all in since it’s a lot, but it’s done in a way where you can see they’re learning and making the connections.”

Choosing to take action – to walk the talk – is important no matter your faith. Our obligation to Israel is not over. We must stand strong and proud – for it will stand strong for us, as a beacon of hope and humanity.  

In 2019, choose Israel! Is it any wonder that throughout our history we have repeatedly said, "Next Year in Jerusalem"?

Shabbat Shalom,

~Avi

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