Last week I had the great privilege of meeting all my co-workers around North America- all the Shlichim (emissaries), for a conference held by the Jewish agency for Israel, our partners in the Shlichim programs all over the world.
And it was wonderful!
Beyond the fact that I got to meet so many of my friends and hang out with them after being away from each other for so long, we had the most interesting workshops, discussions and lectures that went through 9 am to 9 pm and it was crazy!
We talked about our connection to Israel, why and how. I realized, like a lot others that are in their second year, that the connection to Israel has changed a bit; it grew dipper- and more than that, I feel like it is a more mature connection now.
We had some amazing speakers who worked with us on how we represent ourselves and how to work a crowd, as well as how to build a good discussion and how to deal with different age groups.
We discussed the main values that lead us through our Shlichut and tried to map it in our mind so it would be clearer to us when we go back to our communities.
For those who are in their second year (or more), we had some more specific activities, designed to also enrich our knowledge in general and in particular about our missions here.
One of the greatest things about these conferences (besides the hotel facilities J) is the chance to meet Natan Sharansky, the chairman of the Jewish Agency for Israel. Mr. Sharansky sees the Shlichim (emissaries) program as one of the most important projects of the Agency and joins us every single year. Sharansky's life are filled with true Zionism and leadership; after being a human rights activist who spent many years in a Soviet prison for allegedly spying for the Defense Intelligence Agency, he made Aliyah and became a political activist and later on a member of the Israeli Knesset. He even received the Ronald Reagan Freedom Award from President George W. Bush. (More information about Natan Sharansky here)
I left the conference inspired.
But the most important aspect of this annual conference for me, is the ability to share stories, ideas and notions about our communities and our personal challenges.
And what I found out during this conference about my community, you guys.. was amazing.
Most Shlichim try to connect their communities to Israel, to make people understand the need and the importance of the bond with Israel for both sides. This is a struggle a lot of Jewish communities have around the world.
But here, in my beautiful Rockland, the connection exists. And it is strong.
Yes, we all have our own challenges, but this challenge? This one doesn’t exist here. And it's not even because of the Shlichim program, we are here to enrich and strengthen the connection… But the connection itself? It's all you.
What a great community. What a great group of people.
During the conference we also heard that we will have elections in Israel soon, the government dissolved and now we need to wait and see who would be running as what. (For more reading: elections)
Last year Sharansky and the Jewish Agency for Israel fought for the Shlichim in the Knesset and passed a law; now, for the first time ever, Shlichim can vote during their time here… I can vote!
You know, Rockland… I was in that conference for only 5 days- and I missed my home here with you guys so bad. In 6 months I'll be finishing my term and be heading back home to Israel to start my grown-up life (such a scary thought). If after 5 days I miss you this much… what would happen then?
In the spirit of thanksgiving that was just celebrated a week ago- I realize how thankful I am for my position here, how thankful I am for you guys. And I assure you Israel is thankful for you all as well. You stand with Israel so strong and stable that you leave me in awe.
Oh Israel… small, but outstanding.
Hope you'll have a great weekend! J
The last gathering of the conference- all of the Shlichim together.