Home Consulate Three-day whirlwind: my enlightening mission in Israel to show my solidarity for a shared society

Three-day whirlwind: my enlightening mission in Israel to show my solidarity for a shared society

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Arab Mulsim fourth grade students. In the background on the right is the school principal, Dr Sirin Magli-Knana.

Rabbi Asher Lopatin writes about his quick trip to Israel to show solidarity and show that we in Detroit care about our Jewish brothers and sisters in Israel and everyone in Israel.

Just days after the rockets stopped hovering over our brother and sisters in Israel, I got a call from the Israeli consulate in the Midwest asking if I could possibly go to the Holy Land to show solidarity. The Israeli foreign minister called the consulate to ask as many federation and JCRC leaders to show that America’s Jewish community supports Israel.

After giving a thumbs up, I booked my flight. Didn’t know there were COVID PCR tests to take, forms to fill out and an antibody serology test in Israel that would have to be positive to avoid a two-week quarantine.

With Yuval Bedolah and Sharon Avis from Totzeret Haaretz.
With Yuval Bedolah and Sharon Avis from Totzeret Haaretz.

I actually booked the trip for one day at first, but my wife Rachel persuaded me to extend it, and I changed my booking for three days: arriving on Monday morning – in order to test and quarantine until results come back – then have two days to explore my second reason to go beyond solidarity: to determine for myself that Israeli society is shared – between the Jews of Israel and the Arabs of Israel – was alive and well and meeting the challenges of riots in mixed towns all over Israel.

Hamas said: “The shared society and coexistence in Israel has been destroyed. I went to prove them wrong.

A thousand-year-old hotel in Lod.
A thousand-year-old hotel in Lod.

We are fortunate in Detroit to have the perfect partnership region to explore coexistence – the Central Galilee: Israel’s largest Arab city, Nazareth, nestled in the Galilean hills right next to Nof HaGalil, Migdal HaEmek and a crowd of other small Jewish and Arab towns, villages and kibbutzim in the Jezreel Valley.

We are also fortunate to have the most incredible leadership in the Israel office and Jewish Federation oversight: Jennifer Levine as head of the Detroit department, and our people on the ground, Yoav Raban, Naomi Miller. Rockowitz and Noa Noff. Together, this amazing team organized a miracle trip for me for my two days in search of a shared society.

With Eyal Betzer from the Jezreel Valley Regional Council and his wife, and Yoav Raban from the Federation.
With Eyal Betzer from the Jezreel Valley Regional Council and his wife, and Yoav Raban from the Federation.

I am also deeply grateful to Consul Daniel Aschheim of the Israeli Consulate in the Midwest, who helped organize a great meeting with the mayor of Umm al-Fahm, the third largest Arab city in Israel.

I came to Israel to show solidarity; show that we in Detroit care about our Jewish brothers and sisters in Israel and everyone in Israel – Jews, Muslims, Christians or Druze – who together are building an incredible state.

With the mayor of Nazareth, Ali Salam, and Eli Barda, mayor of the neighboring Jewish town, Migdal HaEmek.
With the mayor of Nazareth, Ali Salam, and Eli Barda, mayor of the neighboring Jewish town, Migdal HaEmek.

What I found in Israel was an inspiration: people who did not abandon the shared society in Lod, despite the violence and collapse; mayors, teachers, school principals, community activists, high tech specialists and entrepreneurs, all committed to Jews and Arabs to make the modern Jewish state work.

I came back energized and inspired by the fact that we too in Detroit can work with diverse communities and build a shared society right here in Motor City. Israel is a land of miracles; Galilee is a land of wonders – from the days of Elijah until today.

In front of the Israeli Arab Primary School, Al-Qastal in Nazareth with Samia Basul, Head of the Department of Education of Nazareth;  Samia Abu-Alrab, Deputy Mayor of Nazareth;  Lior Scher, programming director for
In front of the Israeli Arab Primary School, Al-Qastal in Nazareth with Samia Basul, Head of the Department of Education of Nazareth; Samia Abu-Alrab, Deputy Mayor of Nazareth; Lior Scher, programming director for “A New Way,” which sponsored the shared company; and Noa Noff, Director of Partnerships, Central Galilee.
Adorable children from Al-Qastal school.
Adorable children from Al-Qastal school.

May the great achievements of shared society and mutual respect that I have found among the students of the Al-Qastal Arab Primary School in Nazareth, towards the high school students – Arabs, Jews and Christians – of the Givat Haviva International School permeate our divided world and teach us how people can work together despite different narratives and different stories.

Israel with all of its challenges, external and internal, will always be the land that inspires us to be better, to dream bigger, and to be proud of who we are as Jews – Jews who are a light to the whole world.

Rabbi Asher Lopatin is Executive Director of JCRC / AJC.

15 cities; 3 days

I went to 15 cities in three days: My quarantine day in Jerusalem; Netanya and Ramat poleg; then Tel Aviv (meeting with the mayor of Umm al-Fahm); Lod: where I saw a torn and dilapidated city that has not given up on the 70% Jewish and 30% Arab goal of building a thriving city together – with the help of years of philanthropists in Detroit; Kfar Kassim – a charming Arab town that tried to help me find my destination, Givat Haviva International school; Tel Aviv – the Namal, the Old Port – one of the coolest places in the world; night in Hadera and then to Nazareth, meet the mayors of Nazareth and Migdal HaEmek; then at the Migdal HaEmek restaurant “Shehechiyanu” to meet activists from the local community – Jews and Arabs – working in Nof HaGalil, and small Bedouin and Jewish towns to build a shared society for all. Then in the small Arab town of Manshiya Zabda meet local leaders – Jews and Arabs – from all over the Jezreel Valley, in the Al-Roaa Arab school with special needs. Of course, how could I go to Israel without visiting relatives in Modiin, then to Ben Gurion airport.

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