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?

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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. 

 

A voice for our children

A timely and most poignant blog by Rolene Marks. I am pleased to share it with you.

Roro's Rantings

The summer school holidays in Israel should be a time of lazy morning lie-ins, fun with friends and driving parents crazy trying to find activities for their children to do.

For sweet Hallel Yaffa Ariel, asleep in her bed, this was not the case.  Last week her safe sanctuary, the one place that was sacred, was brutally invaded when a 17 year old terrorist broke into her room and stabbed her multiple times. She passed away from her wounds. Hallel was just 13 years old.

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Hallel Yaffa Ariel, z”l

Raised on a steady diet of hate, from breast to school, her murderer was glorified as a martyr by his mother who celebrated his act of terror. “My son is a hero. He made me proud. My son died as a Martyr defending Jerusalem and the Al-Aqsa Mosque. …Allah willing, all of them will follow this path, all the youth of…

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Occupier Barbie and the Jewish Jezebel

Well said. I totally agree!

Roro's Rantings

I am a firm believer of the tome, “promote what you love, do not bash what you hate”. It is with this philosophy in mind that I approach Israel advocacy and my social media activity. It may not be everybody’s cup of tea or approach but I honestly prefer wherever possible, to take a more positive angle.

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Social media is fabulous. Most of us are active on Facebook or Twitter or whatever medium you like to connect with your friends and family or share copious amounts of cat videos. I have found Facebook, Instagram and Twitter to be excellent tools not just to educate people about Israel or show a side to the country that many are not aware of but also to create community. My tribe, if you will.

Most of us who are active in this field have a following who enjoy what we post or engage in…

View original post 791 more words

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.

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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

Pawns in an evil game

Wicked are those who rob the livelihoods of the very people that they claim to help and no less shameful is their total distortion of the truth. They claim that theirs is a just cause rooted firmly in a desire to secure human rights for the oppressed. They spout platitudes about the victimization of the underdog, and yet it is them – these architects of BDS campaigns, who consistently call out the one and only Jewish state as the sole target for their evil agenda. It is they who are playing the racist card so expertly. It is they who by bully tactics are practising their own unique brand of apartheid by singling out Israel and steadfastly ignoring all manner of human rights abuses by larger, Jew-free countries in the region and around the world.

One can easily argue that boycotting Israeli goods is impossible. Israeli ingenuity has an imprint on virtually anything and everything of use to us on this planet and beyond because Israeli ingenuity is far-reaching. But, even in its absurdity, the consequence of this thinly veiled hate-fest against Israel is indisputable.

Let’s take SodaStream for example. The eco-friendly bubbly soft drink dispenser for home use has been the target of aggressive international pressure from the BDS hounds, for some years now. Following this unwarranted pressure, SodaStream was forced to close its plant in the Mishor Adumim Industrial Zone in Judea and relocate to a new factory in the Negev. Hailed as a total victory for the BDS camp, there was no mention of the 500 Palestinians who lost their jobs in the interim as a result of the BDS bullying tactics.

BDS

These proud conscientious Palestinians who had worked side by side with their 350 Jewish Israeli and 450 Arab-Israeli colleagues in total harmony and who enjoyed the same elevated wages (almost 500% higher than the average paid by Palestinian authorities) and generous social security benefits were suddenly thrown into an economic wasteland, caused by the very same activists who claim to be working for their benefit.

Did the BDS camp cry for them as they picked up their final paycheck and hugged their workmates with tear-stained farewells? No. SodaStream CEO Daniel Birnbaum cried for them. He was sorry, actually heartbroken, to be forced to let them go from his company, which had been applauded as a ‘model of integration’ and held up as a justly fine example of co-existence.

Now, with the final closure of the factory, the remaining 64 Palestinian workers mourn the loss of employment, salary and benefits and the Jewish workmates with whom they enjoyed close and warm relations. Again, there were tears, but not from the BDS camp.

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The pushers of BDS do not concern themselves with the agony of the people. They concern themselves only with mud-slinging – and only slinging that mud at Israel.

The scurrilous perpetrators of BDS have excelled themselves this time. What they hail as a victory has caused even more misery and economic hardship for a people already crushed by Hamas, their own malevolent government; a government whose mission is not to build a healthy Palestinian State but to wipe out the Jewish State.

Had the BDS camp really cared for the plight of Gazans it would have turned on Hamas, the despotic god that keeps its people lean and desperate. It would have exposed the true agenda of a government that promotes incitement and hatred and breeds fear and insecurity in its own people. It would take issue with the gross misappropriation of foreign aid into terrorist activity and call for change for the good of the economic, social and educational needs of the people of Gaza. It would call for an uprising, not against Israel but against Hamas.  It would empower the people and strengthen the ‘Palestinian cause’. Yeah right, as if…

So who is being victimized here? The Jews, of course. Israel bears the brunt of BDS hostility but the Palestinians are no less pawns in the evil game.

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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.