Dear Becky – a letter to WIZO’s founding mother

 

On the eve of WIZO’s 96th anniversary, I write a letter to WIZO’s founding mother, Rebecca Sieff z”l   in which I ask the question, “how are we doing?”  An earlier version of this letter appeared in the WIZO Review in 2010.

Dear Becky,

It is human nature to seek the approval of our elders. From that very first crayon drawing that we thrust wide-eyed into our mothers’ hands when we skipped out of nursery school as children to be met with a “well done, darling – how clever you are!” Such affirmation spurs us on to do more, to reach further and to aim higher. So, indulge us, dear Becky, when we ask you, “how are we doing?”

Through your vision and steadfastness, you bequeathed a legacy of incalculable worth to the women and children of the State of Israel and in so doing, you placed upon the shoulders of your WIZO daughters and granddaughters the enormous responsibility of safe keeping such a precious gift. You entrusted us with the wellbeing of a nation.

Ninety-six years ago, when you stood up at the International Women’s Zionist Conference at the Russell Hotel in London and brought your brainchild into being, could you have known how that first seed would take root and grow?

Sieff-Rebecca

When you rolled up your sleeves and said, “Let the men get on with it and we’ll do the real work,” did you ever stop to analyse the weight of that declaration? No. You just got down and did it.

The Irish dramatist of the 17th century, George Fabricius said, “Death comes to all, but great achievements raise a monument, which shall endure until the sun grows old.” But, dear Becky, the sun will never grow old, and like 250,000 WIZO chaverot in 50 federations around the world, the sun rises each morning and shines on the State of Israel.

Your legacy in our hands and those of our daughters and granddaughters places rainbows over every child attending WIZO day care centres, schools and youth villages – nurturing and educating them. Through a network of some 800 projects and services, WIZO supports, guides, protects and empowers. WIZO affords mothers the opportunity to work, knowing that their children are in the safest of hands – WIZO hands. WIZO gives those women the confidence and tools to retrain and make their difference in this world.

In your image, and that of all who walked with you in those pioneering days of pre-state Israel, thousands of women no longer take ‘no’ for an answer in the home and workplace. WIZO throws its full weight into the fight for women’s rights. It stands strong and defiant in the face of domestic violence and provides sanctuary and therapy to victims of abuse and their children. WIZO campaigns tirelessly on both the national and global stage against the discrimination of women in all its forms.

As pertinent as Fabricius’s words are, to call WIZO a monument conjures up visions of an immobile structure. Nothing could be further from the truth. Time and terrors, wars and circumstances have left scars on the face of Israel that WIZO strives to erase. The changing and ever-increasing needs of society, economic factors, the cost of terror and a widening poverty gap all command a hefty price, which WIZO pays every day, in every way.

 

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Helena Kagan (l) and Rebecca Sieff (r) at the opening of the Jerusalem Baby Home in 1955 with the home’s director.                   Photo courtesy of WIZO Archives, Tel Aviv

 

WIZO mobilises, renovates, modernises and re-establishes itself to address new and different challenges, spearheading social activism and shaping society.

Becky, we do not rest on our laurels. You would not have approved of that. The organisation that you founded 96 years ago moves forever forward, keeping up the momentum with an evolving Israel and a changing world, and it is no easy task. Just as we, here in Israel, invest heavily in the security of the people, the phenomenon of anti-Semitism and anti-Israel sentiment rises in the Diaspora. Jewish communities across the globe have become all too familiar with campaigns to smear Israel’s name, to ignore her excellent record of Tikkun Olam and life-saving innovations and to paint her in a less than flattering light.  We must work ever harder to raise the profile of our beloved State of Israel, to spread truth where lies permeate and to advocate and support her as best we can.

And we do our best because first and foremost, we care for the people of Israel. We are a sisterhood of women gathered under the WIZO banner in their service. The strength of the people determines the strength of the nation. The strength of WIZO depends on all our endeavours.

Waiting to take up the gauntlet are the young and focused Aviv members, committed Zionists whose passion for the State of Israel match their desire to take WIZO into the future, to further evolve and perpetuate. Women all over the world join hearts with their mothers, daughters and sisters in Israel to close the generation gap and volunteer for WIZO, and they do it, as we all do because Israel is central to our Jewish soul – and WIZO is the Zionism of the Jewish mother.

So, Becky, as we gaze upon your portrait hanging in WIZO Federations all over the world, can we assume that behind that resolute and stern persona, there lies a smile of approval? I do hope so.

With deepest respect and affection.

A WIZO Chavera

Tricia Schwitzer serves on both the World WIZO Executive and the Executive of Friends of WIZO.  Tricia also serves on the committee of Truth Be Told, an advocacy group countering misinformation relating to Israel. Special projects undertaken for World WIZO include Israel advocacy, social media marketing material and promotional writing. 

 

But later never came

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Mama is standing behind me as I sit at the dressing table. In the mirror I see her reflection. She is brushing my hair and smiling. She twirls ribbons through my curls and we giggle like naughty school girls.

I love school and I am a good pupil although I would rather play outside with my friends than do my homework. When Papa comes home from his office, he always says, “Leah, you must study. You can be a somebody if you learn. There will be time to play later!”

But later never came.

I am in the garden at the back of our house in Lodz It is the summer and the flowers are blooming. I love the flowers. My brother is tickling me. I fall on to the grass and curl up in a little ball, laughing uncontrollably. I hate to be tickled but I do love my brother. He is older than me, he has just celebrated his Bar Mitzvah. In the great synagogue, Papa beamed and Mama looked like a film star in her beautiful dress and fine hat. They invited the whole town to a fairy-tale ball and we ate a banquet and danced until midnight. “Mazeltov! Mazeltov!” I heard that word a thousand times that night. I had never seen my mother dance with such gaiety.

She never danced again.

I am just a child. I am frightened. I want to hide behind my mama. I want Papa to hug me and I want my brother to stand in front of me and act big, just like he did when the children in the town spat at me. I don’t understand why they did that. What did I do? They were my friends.

We are in Grandma’s house now. It’s September, 1939. I can smell that delicious aroma of chocolate cake rising in the oven. I can hardly wait for it to cool. Grandma is not her usual jolly self today. She cannot understand why her neighbours have stopped talking to her. She’s telling Mama all sorts of things in loud, breathless whispers. Mama puts her hands over my ears. “Not in front of the children,” she says.
Something is wrong. I just know it. Grandpa is sitting in his armchair holding his head in his hands. He was never young, I know that, but he looks so ancient today. His face is pale, his moustache twitches and he clenches his fists. Tears wet his eyes. Why is Grandpa looking so sad? Is he poorly? I was hoping that he would tell me a story later.

But later never came.

I can hear the local boys and girls laughing and playing in the street and I want to join them. Mama forbids me to go outside. “No,” she screams at me, and I am confused because I have not been naughty and Mama is never angry with me. She is now. Oh well, maybe later.

But later never came.

Mama packs my case, hurriedly. “Are we going on holiday?” I ask Papa. He does not answer me. I bring my teddy bear to Mama to put in the case. Why is she crying? My best friend, Clara, the daughter of the local priest, sent me a note. She wrote that she was no longer allowed to play with me but she was still my friend. I didn’t understand. I would show it to Mama and she could explain it to me later.

But later never came.

Little Leah was just one small child among over one million Jewish children murdered by the Nazis. For every child that perished in the Holocaust, there is another child who grows up in an atmosphere where incitement and loathing of Jews is still rife. There are those who even have the audacity to say that the Holocaust did not happen. There is no credible argument to counter an ignorance that believes its own truth.
That great lie and distressing insult is like a knife to the collective heart of the Jewish people. It is a travesty to the six million Jews, and millions of others who were so callously murdered and to the families that mourn lost loved ones, and to the survivors who lived to bear witness to the darkest days in modern history, who relive the nightmare until their dying days.
We remember, not just today on Holocaust Remembrance Day, but every day. We hold them in our hearts. Here in Israel, we stand upright and silent as the siren wails. We may bite our lips to stem tears that inevitably fall but we remain stoic.
Never again is having the courage to care. Never again is non-negotiable  and just as the natural passage of time takes our most enduring survivors of the Holocaust, we are charged with a mission to perpetuate the memory, to stem the tide of this vile phenomenon that erased our people. We must do this now.

There is no ‘maybe later’ because later never comes.

The malignancy that pervades a blighted Britain

 

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Ken Livingstone

There is something very unsavoury about those elected to civic office in the UK and Europe who use that public platform to spread their contempt for the Jews and then when confronted with charges of anti-Semitism become offended.  Their beef, they explain, as some half-cocked apology, is not with the Jews but with the Zionists and as if to endorse the statement, they proceed to Israel-bashing, that convenient scapegoat that must absorb all blame for the evils of the world. And yes, I am writing of my total abhorrence not only at comments made by the unsavoury lefty left UK Jew-baiters and haters but of the sheer lunacy of the British people to accept this outrageous effrontery. The Labour party, traditionally a friend to Israel, has been hijacked by the hijab.  Harold Wilson would turn in his grave.

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Harold Wilson

 

Time was when the British working classes took to boycotts and pickets to protect their pay-packets and privileges. Back in the day, the miners went on strike for the miners and hard-line trade unionists cared far less about some tiny, far-flung fledgeling Jewish State than they did about protecting their jobs.  The issue was having enough dough to put bread on the table at the end of a long day down the mines. It was all about jobs and fair play and milk for the schoolkids. Time was when foreign policy was all about protecting the interests of the UK to the benefit of the UK.

IslamicRepublicOfBritainNot anymore. In a bid to be a multicultural beacon, Blighty  (Great Britain) all but invites Islamic seeds to take root and grow and flourish in British soil. As a fast spreading weed, it strangles tender plants in its wake. It’s now a case of the soon-to-become minority of right-minded folk having to put up and shut up if it wants to survive in this last bastion of the empire that free falls into the abyss of political correctness. A bizarre identity with Islamization is the new political tool of lefty left MPs who use it to appease local constituents as they set out their ‘new world order’ telling their minions what they want to hear.

The British Jew, traditionally hard working, patriotic to Queen and country and religiously and spiritually connected to the State of Israel once again finds himself a target for scorn. Anti-Semitism, once exclusively the domain of the politically incorrect, is endorsed by a haphazard collective of intellectually contorted extremists forming a coalition of hatred that feeds off the idiosyncrasies of the other. This unholy collective focusses on the Jewish State, the State of Israel. And by doing so, they gain legitimacy because it is OK to criticise a country. It is a democratic human right that one enjoys when living in the West – freedom of speech. In short, demonising Israel is the more politically correct form of anti-Semitism these days.

13083343_10210150728471497_6607443144213802397_nHuman rights? Interestingly, many of those who engage in zealous criticism of Israel hail from countries where human rights do not exist, where repression rules and freedom of speech comes with the death penalty.  The likes of George Galloway, Ken Livingstone and yes, even the leader of the Labour Party, Jeremy Corbyn, flagrantly wield a patently anti-Jewish agenda.   They share the same malignancy and happily stand on the same stage with those who screech ‘death to Israel’ and ‘free Palestine’ alongside white supremacy groups, neo-Nazis sporting Swastikas and the dubious self-hating Jew – she who pours scorn against the very holy land, Israel, towards which she faces when she prays in the synagogue. This slapdash collective spew revulsion on Israel from the capitals of Europe and find friends in high office who condone their actions because they are united under the veil of ‘it is OK to criticise a country.’  

whose-law-members-of-islam4uk-leave-a-london-press-conference-in-januaryWhen opinion is skewed by ignorance, when loyalties are greased by a well-oiled Pallywood propaganda machine and when informed and credible facts fall on deaf ears, as they so often do, it is no wonder that London has become Londonistan as Melanie Phillips most prophetically named it some ten years ago, in her book of the same name wherein she evidenced that radical Islamic demands are being appeased by multiculturalism rather than challenged by common sense. Londonistan, Paristan and all the other Europanistans are just one heartbeat away from the next big terrorist attack and yet, the greatest ally of the free world in this war on terror is lambasted because she is the State of Israel – the Jewish State.

The State of Israel puts the security of its citizens above all and does it in the most humane way possible given the daily, hourly, minute by minute knife-wielding walking threats that pervade its peace. I would think that this is a policy to be envied not held in contempt.

It begs the question, is the rabid anti-Israel stance a symptom of the malignancy that pervades a blighted Britain?

 

 

 

We are the people

We are the people; the mothers, fathers, sons and daughters that the haters, the anti-Semites and the anti-Zionists refuse to acknowledge. We are the people whose integrity, whose values, whose right to be is called into question by those who, for reasons unfathomable and ominous, choose to point a bloody finger. We are the people who, surrounded by sworn enemies, refuse to be intimidated.

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We are the people who live by the Talmudic teaching: ‘for whoever destroys a soul, it is as if he destroyed an entire world, and whoever saves a life, it is as if he saved an entire world.’ Yet we, in honouring our own basic human right to survive are compelled to fight the war on terror on two fronts, here in Israel and on the world’s stage.

Tikkun-Olam-Repairing-the-World

We are the people for whom Tikkun Olam (healing the world) is a prerequisite. We teach our children to respect the other and the world around us. We are the people whose army operates by a code of conduct that demands purity of arms and an unprecedented level of humanitarianism in our defence while facing an enemy that thrusts its women and children in the line of fire, that goads and taunts. We, who must rise above and beyond the call of duty, refuse to be defined by the warped perceptions of the inciteful and the incited and those deceived ones who would do us harm.
We are the people who when mourning our dead also mourn the casualties of our adversaries. We are the people who, no matter how committed or otherwise we are in our faith, will ask forgiveness from God even when we are not at fault.

We are the people who, when disaster strikes anywhere in the world, are first on the front lines, mobilising medical, search and rescue squads and post-trauma experts to repair the shattered lives of devastated populations delivering them from catastrophe to reconstruction and rehabilitation. Whether it be famine in Kenya, outbreaks of Ebola in Sierra Leonie, typhoons in the Philippines, earthquakes in Japan, tornadoes in the USA, it is we who will dig deeper and delve further in order to save a life, even the lives of sworn enemies who pray for our demise.


We are the people who speak the universal language of healing, of caring. Since December 2013, Israel Defence Forces (IDF) have medically treated more than 2,000 Syrian casualties of the Syrian civil war, many of them women and children, and sent them to Israeli hospitals for further care. When dehydrated refugees looking for safe haven from the Syrian battle ground landed on the shores of Greece, it was a team of volunteer Israeli medics that came to their aid. As Former Israeli President and Nobel Peace Prize winner Shimon Peres said, “We are all human beings. Who can be indifferent to the sight of this horrible massacre, the sight of children in small coffins, and of screaming mothers?” Medical assistance to Syrian civil war casualties, the IDF says, is a humanitarian initiative.

We are the people who, despite suffering a daily onslaught of indiscriminate car ramming, shootings and knife attacks, persist in saving the lives of babies and children with life-threatening heart defects from Gaza to Tanzania. Children and their families from developing countries as well those from Syria, Iraq, Tanzania, Ethiopia and Romania are brought to Israel for life-saving surgery by top paediatric surgeons regardless of religion, race or creed. Israel, in her humanitarian mission, does not discriminate.

We are the people who have little choice but to abide the slander, to deflect the poison pen arrows and victimisation of our people with diplomacy and good deeds, lest we offend the meek critic.  The world watches us and waits to trip us up. Erroneously  described by a former French Ambassador to the UK (Daniel Bernard) as, ‘Israel, that shitty little country,’ we are more inclined to be defined by the great Greek philosopher Plato when he coined the prophetic  phrase, ‘Necessity is the mother of invention.’  Israel, so poor in natural resources, has had no option but to pool its brainpower in order to survive and thrive and to support those who need our help, because we are committed to salvation.

We are the people who deliver. From ground-breaking irrigation and water purification processes to agricultural advancement, from life-saving cures to terror-busting cyber security and from technological and scientific breakthroughs to ecological and life-enhancing inventions, we lead where others follow. Many millions of people around the world owe a debt of gratitude to that uniquely Israeli chutzpah that compels us to push the boundaries of discovery to new frontiers and to share it, loudly and proudly, with a world that needs Israel more than it cares to admit.

We are the people, the citizens of the glorious yet tiny State of Israel – one of the smallest nations on the planet. Half her area is desert and only 20% is arable, and so it is that we, the people have replaced the mantra, ‘location, location, location’ with a far more fitting description:’ innovation, innovation, innovation.’

And thus, we the people of the State of Israel ask you, beg you, the people of the rest of the world not to define us with ridiculously ill-fitting and ill-willed labels as you often do. In this tiny strip of a country, we unite as a force for good to heal the world. Ours is a positive, life-enhancing, life-saving contribution. We are the people who believe in saving the world. Let us be defined for that.

We are the people. Am Israel Chai

Israel needs bums on seats

Not the colloquial unwashed, no-hoper bum, you understand. I am talking about the physical attendance of the ‘bring more chairs’ type, and it’s not just bums on seats either., it’s heads out of the sand, too.  Sit down and listen but don’t be afraid to stand up and speak. Israel needs you to be present. She wants to hear your voice and she wants to stick her very lovely blue and white flag in your hand and see you wave it with gusto, with pride. And you will. I know you will because you, like me, stand in solidarity with the Jewish nation.

And yet, there are those Jews who take issue with such sentiments. They, who blatantly force  anti-Israel rhetoric, who stand under a banner of hatred for Israel, who call Israel out for being racist, for being apartheid (like they even understand the meaning of the word) and who actively and vociferously rage against Israel from an angry platform built on ignorance and self-loathing.

I recall one rather heated exchange some years ago between a Jewish lady draped in the Palestinian flag, part of a group boycotting Marks and Spencer’s in Manchester, and my Israeli husband, the son of Holocaust survivors, where she insisted that the Holocaust was a myth and the Palestinians were subject to conditions far worse than the Jews under the Nazi regime.  She was merely spouting the warped narrative of incitement. And that incitement is still alive and kicking  as the  Jewish anti-Zionist camp  walks aimlessly with like-minded folk who call for the demise of Israel.

Deafening in their silence are the non-committals; those  ‘I’m alright, Jack’ Jews who scurry past  the crowds of anti-Israel boycotters who ply their evil trade in Jew hatred in every European city. These are the Jews who hide their Magen Davids at the first sight of confrontation, they who keep their heads down and remain silent in  the face of growing anti-Semitism, growing anti-Israel sentiment. They  prefer not to draw attention to themselves, they ‘don’t like to make a fuss’ – well neither did the six million who believed that this, too, will pass.

And don’t think for one minute that I have not suffered  soft blows from social media friends who tell me that my Facebook page is all a bit much   – “promoting all that Zionism stuff” – what do they want, that I should post pictures of my dinner or pouting selfies that accentuate my wrinkles?

Israel and the Jewish people  face a growing phenomena of unashamed hostility on all platforms, on all fronts. Typically, the hard and soft core enemies of truth will aim at the very heart of the Jewish world – the State of Israel – with knives and words.   It is lamentable that the passion of those who aim to demonize Israel is far greater than that of those who seek to defend her.  We are, alas, a minority but we MUST redress the balance,  gather our wits, our forces, pick up our pens and  our megaphones, and use every platform to advocate for Israel.

We stand just weeks away from a global hate-fest that will spread its tentacles far inside our universities. Now in its 12th year, Israel Apartheid Week will kick off in the UK with a series of lectures and rallies aimed at portraying Israel as a rogue state of dubious integrity. Since its inception in Toronto in 2005, this insidious strategy to delegitimize Israel and garner support for the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions campaign has gathered considerable strength. It has spread to at least 55 cities around the world including prestigious universities in Australia, Austria, Brazil, Botswana, Canada, France, Germany, India, Italy, Japan, Jordan, South Korea, Malaysia, Mexico, Norway, Palestine, South Africa, the United Kingdom, and the United States.

Under the cover of academic freedom, Israel Apartheid Week uses a dangerous cocktail of ignorance and intolerance to single out Israel and her supporters as ‘racists’  while continuing to turn a blind eye and deaf ear on the real apartheid – the appalling massacres and human rights violations that have reached intolerable heights in countries such as Syria and Iran.  No doubt that the Israel Apartheid Week organizers  will wheel out a motley crew of  self-hating Jewish and Israeli academics to give some warped credence to their arguments as to why it is Israel that should be castigated as the perpetrator of ALL that is evil in the world.february-26-2014-israel-apartheid-week-web

The travesty of Israel Apartheid Week is that it does a great injustice to the word ‘Apartheid’ –  which is defined as a policy of separation and segregation, a description that does not fit into the ethos of Israel, a country (in fact, the only one in the Middle East) that embraces  gender, sexual, religious and political diversity.

Our bright young Jewish students will have to face off  the hostility and bullying tactics of this finely tuned and, yes I have to admit, the well-oiled propaganda machine that is Israel Apartheid Week. It is my hope that our kids have the guts and the tools to counter lies with truth, myths with facts and coercion with courage.

Heaven forbid, they are rendered speechless by the vitriol. And woe betide them  should they take the path of least resistance.  Putting up and shutting up is not an option. Never has been – never will be.

For Israel, for ourselves, we must advocate on all platforms, and where there is no platform, then we should create one. Every Jewish/ Zionist organization must have an effective, educational  and vibrant section devoted solely to Israel advocacy. It is imperative that we engage, educate and encourage others to do the same. The more the merrier. That way, we’ll get those bums on  seats and heads out of the sand.

 

The collective power of WIZO

(This article appears in the January 2016 print-only  edition of the World WIZO Lapid newsletter)

‘Individually we are just one drop, but together we are an ocean,’ these words by Japanese writer Ryunosuke Satoro, are the very essence of the WIZO  (Women’s International Zionist Organization) movement. WIZO transcends oceans in an ingathering of Jewish women from all over the world who proudly wear her badge and for whom WIZO is their vehicle of choice, in which they steer with steadfast determination towards Israel, towards her people. WIZO women all over the world know that by strengthening the people, the State of Israel itself is fortified.

And so it is with WIZO. Her strength is in the sheer numbers of her volunteer/fundraising force scattered over continents, poles apart and yet simultaneously together. This passionately Zionist sisterhood sings from the same song sheet at full throttle in a unified voice, as she stands shoulder to shoulder with not only her Israeli counterparts but also every man, woman and child, who comes under the protection of WIZO’s vast welfare umbrella in Israel through its 800 welfare projects.

The WIZO chavera, whether she lives just around the corner in Tel Aviv or down under in Sydney or any place in between, knows that she is an integral part of something much larger than herself and that her inclusion and unity is as crucial to WIZO’s success as that of any other woman who serves the movement. It is only in the collective strength of unity under the WIZO banner that  WIZO maintains its edge in answering the calls from an increasingly needy Israeli society whose challenges are great.
The WIZO chavera is, bar none, an ambassador for the State of Israel. She is an agent for social change in Israel. By her membership to WIZO  she has pledged loyalty to the people of Israel, by wearing a WIZO badge she holds the megaphone and articulating loudly and proudly that she is one of many who care enough to belong, who care enough to volunteer and who care enough to be visual, audible and, above all, credible in her passion for this worthiest of causes. For who are we, if we are not for our own people?

WIZO is a collective, a global community comprised of  Jewish women from all walks of life, of all ages and cultural backgrounds. Some 95 years after her inception, she continues to realize the ideology of her founding mothers but at the same time, WIZO has evolved to address the issues, and provide effective, manageable solutions for a growing and diverse population. The weight of such a huge burden on her shoulders is distributed evenly throughout the entire WIZO world; some 50 federations, comprising of around 250,000 volunteers each with their commitment and fair share of the load.
The largest federation, WIZO Israel, works directly with and on behalf of the local population, including those of minority communities. Her aims are to advance the status of women, defend their rights and achieve gender equality in all fields; to combat domestic violence; to assist in the absorption of new immigrants and to contribute to family and community welfare, with special emphasis on single parent families, women, children, and the elderly. Elevating the status of women has always been a priority of the Israel federation. The Equal Rights for Women Law of 1952 was passed on the initiative of then WIZO Israel chairman Rachel Kagan, who represented the organization in Israel’s first Knesset. Today, WIZO remains active in this field.

Lapid Dec 2015Together with WIZO Israel, under the World WIZO umbrella, worldwide federations strive to donate much-needed revenue for the movement, both for the provision of crucial benefits to Israeli society and in the support of their own sponsored projects. The engagement of the Jewish heart into giving is reinforced by identity with the people of Israel. WIZO is the embodiment of the Jewish mother looking after her brood. These days, as anti-Israel sentiment rages and anti-Semitism rears its ugly head in frightening proportions around the world, the defence of Israel’s integrity is a crucial precursor and it is important that WIZO chaverot are active in their Zionism in order to educate and enlighten and bring value to the WIZO table – not just as a fundraising organization but as a movement proud of its underlying principles. Constant regeneration of commitment, of passion and ultimately of membership, is key to preserving WIZO as the powerhouse that she is today. World federations actively network with local Jewish and non-Jewish members of their communities in social and fundraising events, thereby increasing exposure to WIZO’s endeavours both on the ground and on social media platforms.

On the world’s stage WIZO is recognized by the United Nations as a non-governmental organization with consultative status with the UN Economic and Social Council and the International Children’s Emergency Fund. She is a member of the World Zionist Organization and has the power to influence decisions crucial to the wellbeing of all sectors of the population of the Jewish State.
WIZO is a peoples movement, she cares deeply for the baby, the child, the adolescent, the young parents, the unmarried mother, the abused woman, the great grandmother – her family. She cares for all the people, without prejudice towards creed or colour, providing in equal parts, wherever the need arises. WIZO’s strength lies in her emotional appeal to every Jewish woman, everywhere. She is the win-win, go-to movement for any woman who cares about her family, who cares about Israel. It is easy to identify with WIZO’s ethos. It is the ethos of every Jewish mother who treats her children equally while striving to strengthen the weakest and nurture the neediest.

As relevant as ever, and needed even more so,  as spirited and as forceful, WIZO constantly looks to the future with the engagement of young Jewish women to take up the gauntlet to become the leaders of tomorrow and on whose shoulders the weight of responsibility for the world’s largest women’s Zionist organization can, and will, rest easily. The State of Israel and her people deserve no less than that.

 

Clowns to the left of me, jokers to the right

Advocate IsraelClowns to the left of me,  jokers to the right,  here I am stuck in the middle with you, crooned Stealer’s Wheel in 1972. And here I am, in Israel in the year 2016 – and all the jokers and all the clowns are busy blogging, posting and tweeting their political differences when, in fact, what is really needed around these parts is, dare I say it, more unity and less bitching about the political leanings of the other.

Don’t get me wrong. Free speech is good, actually, it’s great and it is the very underpinning of  democracy, one of the principles upon which the State of Israel stands. Political persuasion is a matter of free choice and not forced upon us by dictatorial regimes, as practiced by the near neighbours. Here in Israel,  we listen to the political jargon of would-be leaders, we evaluate promises, false or far reaching, we watch party political broadcasts and we make our own informed conclusions, whether rightly or leftly and echoing the mantra of whichever party we happen to trust at that crucial moment of the polls. And then,  we go into the booth and cast our vote.

And that is as it should be. The criticisms and rants that ensue when one or the other politician says something remotely daring are to be expected. Below the belt jibes make for entertaining TV viewing and the more ambiguous a remark the better for the popular press that love to jump on a ‘he said, she said’ bandwagon. Sensationalism sells and  a good old rummage through the dustbins of power to see what naughty bits can be unearthed is the stuff that copywriters dreams are made of. Any Brit who ever watched Prime Minister’s Question Time is used to the slings and arrows of the game, set and match of the liberals, left wing and  right wing.

But you know what? Now is just not the time for heated exchanges on everything that is wrong with us as a nation. Not here in Israel, when we are all bleeding from the same wound. Now is the time when the Israeli nation needs to chuck its political differences out of the window and stand united against terror. In its fight for survival, Israel needs to put her best foot forward and practice some good old fashioned unity.

With the exception of the January 1st atrocity when two young men were murdered and seven others were injured in a little pub on Tel Aviv’s Dizengoff Street and many of us changed our Facebook status to ‘We are all Tel Aviv’ and ran to light memorial candles at the scene of the crime in an outpouring of sympathy, we no longer wring our hands in despair when yet another attack is reported. No. Some of those among us give credence to the perpetrators citing human rights issues – as if we Israelis are not deserving of the most basic human right – to actually be alive.

In the past three months, Israel has suffered the most horrific terror attacks imaginable. Horrific in their sporadic frequency, their simple brutality  and almost effortless execution. This wave of terror that has taken the lives of 30 people and rising, that has ruined the lives of scores more and that threatens every Israeli everywhere, escalates – and with it so does our immunity.

Are we, as a nation, so naive to think that criticism of political figures, of blaming the government, of  pointing the finger at our leaders will actually put an end to this terror? Are we really so foolish that  we effectively anaesthetize our own pain and our own fears and yet deal with great sensitivity those who openly and brazenly call for our destruction?

Oh I see, you’ve raised your eyebrows. How dare I say that? Doesn’t every Israeli bleed when another Israeli is mowed down, stabbed, run over or shot? Don’t we wring our hands, look up to the skies and plead with God to make this torment stop? Well, yes we do but with each passing  attack,  we reinforce our own personal defence mechanism of detachment and thank our lucky stars that we were not there, at that time in that place, because we could have been and will be again.  And as the frequency of these evil attacks peaks, our reaction reaches new troughs.  And by that fact, we are as  guilty as the world’s media for ignoring Israel’s reality. And why? Because as much as we try, and we have tried, we just cannot fathom it. To our Western values, to our moral compass, it is beyond our power of reason. It is incomprehensible, as inconceivable as  Palestinian Authority leader Mahmoud Abbas’s credibility as a partner for peace when he quite openly states that stabbing and mowing down Jews in Israel is justified, and who incites terror with every word he utters and as incomprehensible as the apologists amongst us who make feeble excuses for the perpetrators of this terror based on some misguided belief that somehow it can be avoided if we appease the dragon.

So, without answers to the real issues, we resort to playing the blasphemy game –  defaming the politicians that we did not vote for and besmirching their policies, their ethics and in doing so, we invite the contempt of an already fuming world, frustrated by its own shortcomings in dealing with a peril so much larger than we are.  We invite them to look into our transparent world of democracy and find us wanting.

As we with one hand  sift through the dustbins of those who swear allegiance to the state,  and with the other hand we hold out an olive branch to those who spit in our faces time after time, isn’t it time we looked in the mirror and saw the Jew staring us back in the face?  And as Jews, shouldn’t we march proudly shoulder to shoulder into the fray instead of bickering between ourselves on political technicalities?

As history has proved, as Jews we will not be judged by our political affiliations When we are marched, we are marched as Jews. As one.

Tricia Schwitzer serves on both the World WIZO Executive and the Executive of Friends of WIZO. Prior to joining the executive, Tricia is also on the committee of Truth Be Told, an advocacy group countering misinformation relating to Israel. Special projects undertaken for World WIZO include Israel advocacy, social media marketing material and promotional writing.