Jewish Federation NEPA Executive Director, Daniel Chejfec, Ph.D.
Arriving in Israel is always a very emotional experience, regardless of how many times I go. It just never grows old. Arriving as Israel is preparing to celebrate 75 years of Independence makes the opportunity to be here even more remarkable.
Traffic in Tel Aviv competes with Manhattan, and Israeli drivers appear to believe they are commandos in a life-or-death battle. They do indeed remind me of drivers in my native Buenos Aires or Rome. But they get you there in time and safely!
The first day of the GA was relatively short. While we had originally on the schedule as speakers President Yitzhak Herzog and PM Benjamin Netanyahu, Bibi notified the organizers he could not make it. Herzog spoke about the pride of celebrating 75 years of the State (he is third generation Sabra) and his pride in being a Jew. He made a passionate call for civility in the discussion of our disagreements and the need for dialogue. He announced his intention to promote the formation of a Jewish Council with Jews of all walks of life to discuss the strategic challenges confronting the Jewish people and come up with ideas on how to address them.
The opening program also included testimonies of a terrorist attack survivor, a new Olah, and a participant in Birthright Israel. It also showed the reactions of people remembering their first time in Israel – including a 103-year-old!
It was a celebration of what we have done and do to support Israel and the Jewish people; a reminder that the job is not yet done, and may never be – because we are always striving to help more, to do more. We are after all, in the words of the late Shimon Peres, a perpetually unsatisfied people… we always want to make the world – and the Jewish world especially – better than it is today. And that is the Federation’s core mission!