Anyone who as ever visited South-Florida knows that the Jewish community there is very conservative when it comes to Israel. Israel can do no wrong. And if you criticize the acts of its government? Better watch out..
The very large Israeli community in South-Florida (some would say is close to 300,000 people) is much more on the right leaning and there are many reasons for that, which I wont get into. It always amuses me to see that Israelis that chose to leave Israel are the most right wing of them all. But that’s not my main issue of my post.
Yossi Josef Ashkenazi is a dear man that passed away this week in South-Florida. Yossi was an Israeli physics professor in the University of Miami who left Israel after not getting a tenure from the Technion in Haifa. Yossi loved Israel and was always a bit heart broken that he had to live and raise his kids outside of Israel. He always spoke Hebrew.
Very much the opposite to what I saw regularly in my 2 years in the U.S. , Yossi was a true Israeli who never lost his connection and passion towards Israel. He was a real promoter of peace in his region & campus, being involved in anything from Jstreet to the local “Israeli Parliament”, a group of Israeli businessmen who meet every week to discuss current events, often being the only “left” voice represented in that group.
Yossi was so passionate about Israel and peace he started Facebook groups to promote this important agenda. He used to post daily stories and engage with people on FB and Twitter. He used to try and sit in every forum of Jews & Muslims he could find, promoting the idea of coexistence.
I was fortunate to meet Yossi somewhere, I’m not even sure how and why. But after our first meeting, the engagement was only a regular basis. First Yossi invited me to his home to talk about Israel. He often would contact me trying to add me to different meetings & groups around the region, and being the young cynical Israeli, I rarely joined those meetings, as I found myself believing less in talking and more in doing. Like Chazal would preach and value – Naase ve nishma – “We will do then we will listen”.
But all throughout the time I’ve spend in South-Florida, I have to say I had great respect for people like Yossi and his friend Jack Liberman who are committed to the cause for peace in Israel and the region. People who would give so much of their time and energy to promote these issues, even if it had financial implications and loss of working hours. At the end of the day, these actions serve people like me, who live in Israel. Not them or their friends in Florida. You have to admire people who do so much for the benefit of others. For you. For us.
Unfortunately, just like on many cases, you remember to say the things you mean to say after it is to late.
Yossi passed away this week and personally it feels like a great lose for the campaign for peace in one of the most important Jewish centers in the world, Florida and in general. When we lose good people, we also lose a part of our strength. And this campaign has yet to run its course.
I take from Yossi his unparalleled energy and involvement in anything he felt passionate about. First and foremost – Israel. Yossi was there in absolutely anything that came up. Anything that can remotely effect the efforts for Israel and towards peace, you would find him there, involved.
That is a lesson for everyone which I personally take from Yossi. Try and make every effort possible, be in every event, every forum and every group. Read, write, comment – engage. One drop and then another drop will eventually create the stream that makes us achieve our eventual goal.
יהי זכרו ברוך. Condolences to the family and friends.