«Jewish Observer»
January 2002
5762 Shvat

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A girl border-guard asked me surprisingly at Ben-Gurion airport: "Are you a Jew?" I understood at once that in Israel I would be taken for an American, Canadian, French, Russian and very rarely for a Jew.

At last we are in Jerusalem. Speakers at the Assembly of the World Jewish Congress (WJC) were representatives of different political movements: Mikhail Nudelman - "Our Home - Israel", Marina Solodkina - "Israel ba Aliah", Sofia Landver - "Labor party", Roman Bronfman - "Democratic Choice". The topic of the meeting, as Yosif Zisels formulated, was: "Israel today. Political and security aspects".

As it turned out there was no big difference between the parties. All of them want peace. Under certain conditions they are ready to negotiate. They differ in what cooperation with Arab countries should be. The leftwing thinks that one of the reasons of Arab aggression is the extreme poverty, which gives birth to envy, and if the Arabs are rendered assistance to increase their well-being, the aggression will go down. The right wing thinks that the reason is not the scientific and technical backwardness, but the aggressiveness of Arab fundamentalism. However, all deputies were unanimous in defining the position of the Russian-speaking aliah, which should take a more decent position in the society of Israel.

On my way to the official opening I found myself sitting close a doctor from Columbia. Thanks to Yiddish, we found common language very fast, and as it turned out, his grandmother was from Odessa, and he remembered "Borshch", "vareniki" (fruit dumplings), "kreplakh", he knew the Moscow team "Spartak", "Dynamo" from Kiev and Tbilisi. Then we and two more "Argentineans" started to sing "Lomir ale ineinem ..."

While opening the Assembly, the President of the WJC Edgar Bronfman pointed out that holding the Assembly in Jerusalem was a manifestation of solidarity of Jewish world with Israel. The President of Israel Moshe Katsav thanked the delegates for their support and promised that "Jerusalem will always be the capital of all Jews".

On the other day the discussion on development and building Jewish communities, relations with the European and World Jewish Congresses continued. That was the point of the Chief Rabbi of Kiev and Ukraine Yaakov Dov Bleich, who suggested that certain changes in the leadership of the European Jewish community should be introduced by inviting some "new people". The suggestion received little support.

On that very day we were invited to the Gertsl's museum which is being built now. There the sponsor of the construction Alexander Mashkevich was handed an honorable address. We sincerely congratulated our "Kazakhstanian" colleague.

In the afternoon we were invited to Knesset. Looking at the Jews, you can define at once, who's come from: those who are from India - are real Hindus, those are from Finland - Finns. Smiling happily and looking at my pipe, two "heroes of the Mexican soap-opera", Jews too, came up to me.

The power of our people is that remaining Jewish, we absorb the culture and traditions of the land where we live, creating the synthesis of cultures, which gives development to both - the native nation and the Jewish one.

Knesset welcomed us. One could wander around the building, make photos, drink coffee, ask deputies different questions, put forward some ideas either agree or disagree. Full democracy. At last the security take their places on the both sides of the stage. Then Sharon appears. The Premier's speech was short: "Thank you for supporting us with your coming, it makes us strong in our struggle. Israel will firmly keep its positions, it will react on acts of terrorism with force, but it will be ready to negotiable as soon as Arafat stops giving support to terrorism."

The Knesset speaker Abraham Burg pointed out that the young generation could hardly imagine how difficult it was to build up the present well-being of Israel. Many young people are in the habit of demanding something that they have not deserved.

Then Joe Herstman from Argentine informed the audience about the number of anti-Semitic actions in his country. Of course, everyone still remembers the explosion in the Cultural Center of Israel in Buenos-Aires, but Herstman spoke about the anti-Semitic articles and public anti-Semitic speeches of some high-rank officials, about big neo-Nazi organizations and of contacts between the repressive regimes and Argentine.

After Herstman's report the Assembly adopted a rigid resolution, in which it demanded that an end should be put to the anti-Semitic campaign, and addressed the UNO with a request to impose political and economical pressure on Argentina.

The meeting of the third day scattered us about different hotels. The North Americans were solving educational problems, the West Europeans - the problems of Jewish studies. We (Russian-speaking) went to meet Yuriy Stern.

Stern is a legendary personality: he was born in Kiev, studied in Moscow, a progressive Russian public figure and social thinker in the 1960's, dissident, one of the pioneers of the Jewish Renaissance in the USSR, in Israel he has become a Knesset deputy, a minister. Y. Stern is a Vice-Premier at the present time.

When he was asked "Why is the interest of Israel to Ukraine so low", Stern answered that every businessman has the right to choose a partner, and the experience of co-operating with Ukraine made many people be watchful.

The deputy's speech about the co-operation with the Arab world was also short. "Negotiations are possible but not during the acts of terrorism", - he said. Stern also spoke about closer co-operation of the political party "Our Home - Israel" with the Jewish organizations of Ukraine, Russia and other countries.

Having said goodbye to the Vice-Premier, we went to listen to Henry Heidenburg - the President of the European Jewish Congress. Yosif Zisels was right in defining the European territory as a "quiet one". "Quiet" means free of political pressure upon the governments that sometimes support Arab extremism. An appeal to the European Jewish organizations was made to increase pressure on their governments. Also a resolution concerning Poland was adopted, where the Seim passed a number of anti-Semitic bills. The reaction followed immediately - the JMF and the USA refused a favorable loan of $300 mln to Poland.

Then Joe Vogerman, President of the British Jewish Union, took the floor. She pointed out that the British newspapers were far from favoring Israel. Vogerman suggested that a counter-propaganda campaign should be started. David Makovsky, Director of Vellington Institute of Middle-Easter policy studies, supported her. He thinks that Israel self-abandoned the propaganda activities. While telling this Makovsky reproached Jeffry Goldburg with the fact that his "New-York Times" and "New Yorker" inform more about Arafat's speeches than about Israeli suggestions for peaceful regulations. Goldburg didn't agree with the fact and said that the mentioned newspapers had always been pro-Israel and reproached the Europeans for having always been preconceived.

The German journalist Ulrikh Sahm put forward the idea that Europe was tired of conflicts, having not "digested" Yugoslavia yet, and that's why the mass-media reflected the opinions of the European Counci.Let it finish soon.

That was also the point of Gideon Meer's speech - Director of the public relations department in the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Israel.

The topic of the last meeting was: "Jews are in the united front". Those, who spoke, including Vladimir Guisinsky, appealed to support actions against anti-Semitism, rejection of the Holocaust. Helena Turetskaya - chairman of the Novosibirsk United society, read aloud the resolution addressing the government of Ukraine about compensations to the relatives of the passengers of the shot-down aircraft. (The Ukrainian delegation was met with a question if we were going to shoot down anything else. It was a joke, but a bitter one) The primary variant of the resolution was quite tough, and only Rabbi Bleich managed to soften it. It was a real example of the community's protection of the state interests.


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