Israelis are marking a week-long celebration of Diaspora Jewry with a series of events at the presidency, in amphitheaters and in bars and clubs across the country.
The country’s diaspora minister, Nachman Shai, was due to mingle with drinkers at a Jerusalem bar as part of the initiative, which he said would help remind younger generations that most Jews live outside of Israel.
He told Jewish News: “I want every day of the year to remember and associate with Jews living outside the country, but since that doesn’t happen, we have decided that at least for a week we would focus on the Jewish Diaspora. relationship and see how we can improve it.
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“For young Israelis in their twenties, the diaspora is something they don’t really know. What does it mean to be a Jew out of the country?
“The majority of them were born in Israel.”
Former Jewish Agency head Natan Sharansky will accompany Shai on the bar tour.
“We will spend a few hours with young people who come to the bar, and if they are interested in the relationship between Israel and the Diaspora, he will probably tell them his personal story,” Shai said.
“Few people remember who Sharansky is and how he came to Israel after nine years in Siberia.”
Other events included a gala celebration in Jerusalem, a series of educational lectures for schoolchildren and IDF soldiers, and a reception hosted by President Isaac Herzog.
The ongoing war in Ukraine has “suddenly highlighted the importance of the diaspora” among Israelis, the minister added.
“A series of conversations with Jewish leaders outside Ukraine – Chabad rabbis, other leaders – have actually represented to Israelis that there is Jewish life outside of Israel and that Jews live in these countries and do not necessarily dream of coming to Israel – [although] many do, but under certain pressures they arrive as refugees.
In the interview, Shai also reiterated his frustration with the Israeli government’s failure to revive a plan for an egalitarian prayer area in the Western Wall plaza.
The plans, first presented by Israeli Prime Minister Naftali Bennett when he was diaspora minister, were frozen by Benjamin Netanyahu’s government following objections from strictly Orthodox groups.
But Bennett kept the project on hold, saying it could not be delivered by Israel’s diverse left-right coalition.
In recent years, many progressive Jews, especially women, have been physically assaulted as they attempt to pray — under the guise of breaking rules set by the Orthodox authorities who run the holy site.
Shai said: “I am frustrated because I had high hopes when we took power that we could finally implement Kotel’s plan – which, by the way, was appointed by Benjamin Netanyahu and approved by his government. .
“I know it’s not just my frustration, but the leaders of the Reform and Conservative movement who have come to Israel and expressed their disappointment about this.”
But the minister said he believed the reforms would eventually happen and it was a matter of when, not if: “it will happen. There’s no way to stop the train here. The train will continue and eventually it will be done, but it takes time.