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Jeffrey Levine
CFO | Seeking a just world I Author

5th June. 6th June. Journeys to a better world

June 5th marks a significant moment in history. On June 1st, 1967, the Six-Day War began, leading to the reunification of Jerusalem on June 5th—a symbol of hope for religious freedom for all faiths. Perhaps coincidentally, June 5th is also recognized as World Environment Day, a reminder of our commitment to environmental sustainability.

For me, Jerusalem Day represents a new hope for Israel, a new hope for tolerance, and a better world underpinned by religious and social freedom. Unfortunately, this message is often lost, overshadowed by ongoing wars and fanaticism. Today, we face a contrasting narrative, which this blog will explore through the lens of journeys toward a better world.

Penning these words on June 6th—D-Day—invokes reflections on the significance of this date. D-Day marks the liberation of Europe, the beginning of the end of Jewish persecution, and honours the 150,000 soldiers who landed in Nazi-occupied France on June 6th, 1944, altering the course of 20th-century history.

How different things appear now. Despite decades of European vows of “never again,” war has returned to the continent with Russia’s full-scale invasion of Ukraine.

In this blog, I delve into the theme of journeys. I first reflect on this week’s parsha, examining ancient travels and trials and comparing them to contemporary challenges. This comparison underscores how pervasive evil can derail our aspirations for a better future. I share thoughts on ESG and World Environment Day in the second part. This juxtaposition emphasizes how current events can distract us from the potential for a more sustainable and equitable world and Israel’s crucial role in creating this better world.

“This week’s Parsha, Bamidbar, invites us to contemplate the theme of journeys, deeply ingrained in the Torah’s narrative. Both Shemot (Exodus) and Bamidbar (Numbers) chronicle the journeys of the Israelites, yet they fundamentally differ: Shemot is about a journey from, while Bamidbar is about a journey to.

Shemot recounts the dramatic escape from slavery in Egypt, a story of departure, withdrawal, and leaving behind a life of bondage. The name “Exodus” encapsulates the essence of escaping oppression. In contrast, Bamidbar depicts a journey forward towards a new destination. Having left Egypt far behind, the Israelites now look ahead to the Promised Land. They have received the Torah, built the Sanctuary, and are poised to move on, focusing on the promise of their future rather than past dangers.

If we were unfamiliar with the Torah, we might expect the second half of this journey to be more relaxed and filled with optimism and hope. However, the reality is that the journey to a new beginning is seldom simple. Just as the Israelites faced struggles in the desert, our own journey towards establishing and maintaining an independent Jewish state is fraught with challenges. Our quest for peace with our neighbours and acceptance in the world mirrors the ancient trials faced by our ancestors. History seems to repeat itself as we encounter wars and tribulations on our path to fulfilling our aspirations.”

Credit and more reading – Rabbi Saacks https://rabbisacks.org/covenant-conversation/bamidbar/two-journeys/

Reflections on the Modern Journey: From Diaspora to Independence

The journey of the Jewish people back to the land of Israel after millennia in the diaspora is not without its own difficulties. October 7th is a poignant reminder of the wake-up call for our generation and the world. Our history in the 20th century alone saw the horrors of two World Wars, the rise and fall of communism, and the unparalleled atrocity of the Holocaust. Education and modernization, which surged in the 1800s, brought significant changes to human life and unleashed nationalism and capitalism with all their complexities.

Today, we live in a post-modern world where the remnants of historical struggles still affect us. The Jews, often scapegoated throughout history, continue to face unique challenges. Countries with dark histories of colonialism and internal conflict, like Spain and Ireland, sometimes project their unresolved guilt onto Israel and the Jewish people. This scapegoating reflects a broader societal issue that needs addressing.

However, I want to reflect on the journey of the last 150 years. Today, we celebrated Jerusalem Day, where the unification of the Jews during the Six-Day War led to freedom of religion for all faiths and an economic boom. With a population exceeding one million, Jerusalem is thriving and growing—something unimaginable 150 years ago. We are on a journey in the right direction.

As I was singing Hallel today, I pondered how one can say Hallel in uncertain times. The events of 1948 and 1967 were big miracles, and even though the cup may be half-full to three-quarters-full, and we don’t yet have all we desire, we must thank God. Hallel is full of praise for God, yet as you delve into the text, you see references to Jordan and Egypt—countries still around today. When looking at Israel and Judea, why is our right to this land questioned when it’s from the dawn of civilization?

Further reading of Hallel reveals a sentence: “I said in my haste, all men are evil.” When you see today’s world, it’s easy to worry and ponder why that is.

The Evil in Media Coverage: Reflecting on the Global Response to Conflicts

As I sit here in Jerusalem, witnessing another beautiful sunrise, I am deeply troubled by the news. A quick glance at my phone reveals headlines that boil my blood and lead me to reflect on the nature of evil in our world.

Consider the ongoing Ukraine war, with a staggering annual budget of $66 billion and civilian casualties exceeding 30,000. Yet, where are the protests, the anger, or the intense reporting? Now contrast this with Israel, a country fighting enemies on multiple fronts—enemies sworn to its elimination. In Israel’s case, there is a global social media war, calls for divestment, and actions in the UN and international courts.

Let’s have a look at some of  these headlines:

In the North, Israel is battling Hezbollah, leading to the evacuation of over 100,000 people. Towns are closed, livelihoods are affected, and Hezbollah is targeting civilians, farms, and forests. Yet, there is barely a word in the media. For instance, a recent direct hit near the Druze town of Hurfeish in the Upper Galilee wounded at least 11 people.

 

 

 

 

But what did the BBC headline on the same day?

BBC’s headline: “Israel launches new military operation in central Gaza. Medical charity MSF says 70 dead people have been brought to a central Gaza hospital since Tuesday.”

Arutz Sheva’s headline reads: “Terrorists who took part in October 7 massacre eliminated in IDF strike in Gaza. IAF fighter jets strike Hamas compound inside UNRWA school in Nuseirat, eliminate Hamas and Islamic Jihad terrorists who directed terror attacks from the compound.”

 

The Jerusalem Post reports: “IDF airstrike hits Hamas base in Nuseirat UN school, Hamas claims 27 killed. The IDF claimed that the school was being used as a base for Hamas and Palestinian Islamic Jihad fighters, in particular terrorists that participated in the October 7 massacre.”

 

 

So, which version reflects the truth? Maybe all three. War is a messy business, and innocent loss of life is a part of war. This is sad. But at least have some honest and balanced reporting.

At the Jerusalem Post’s NY Conference, WJC President Ronald S. Lauder stated that the world’s response to Hamas attacks was planned and called this “the first premeditated social media war against a people and a nation.”

Despite this, we must praise God and thank Him for what we have. The famous words in Hallel are, “Please God, save us now, please God, bring us success.” This prayer is powerful when reflecting on today’s troubles. We chant for salvation, success, the safe return of our soldiers, and the release of our hostages. May we achieve permanent peace with those who hate us, and may they turn their swords into ploughshares, realizing the dream of a better world.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Part 2: The Journey to a Better World: Embracing ESG

I want to delve deeper into another journey—our collective pursuit of a more sustainable and equitable world through Environmental, Social, and Governance (ESG) principles. ESG represents both a destination and an ongoing voyage towards a better world. However, this path is fraught with challenges and complexities, much like the Israelites’ journey in the desert.

What is ESG?

ESG stands for Environmental, Social, and Governance. It is an integrated approach that considers these factors in the context of business operations, aligning with the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). ESG embodies humanity’s collective effort to transition from a history marked by colonialism, slavery, and exploitation towards a more just and equitable global society.

The Historical Context: From Colonialism to Capitalism

Historically, humanity has grappled with different models of societal organization. The 21st century witnessed a titanic struggle between communism and capitalism, with capitalism emerging victorious. However, capitalism’s triumph has often been accompanied by unchecked corporate greed and self-interest. ESG challenges this status quo, advocating for a more balanced approach prioritizing societal well-being over mere shareholder wealth.

The Vision of ESG: A Call for Compassionate Capitalism

ESG calls for a paradigm shift, urging corporations to transcend the pursuit of excessive profits and embrace a holistic responsibility towards society and the environment. Large corporations, with their substantial profits and global influence, bear a specific responsibility. They must invest in corporate social responsibility (CSR) initiatives that support local communities, particularly in developing countries where they source their products.

 World Environment Day

June 5th, 2024, marked World Environment Day, dedicated to “Land restoration, desertification, and drought resilience.” This year’s theme underscores the critical need to address land degradation, which affects a significant portion of the planet and directly impacts millions of people. Yet, this vital issue received little media attention, overshadowed by the relentless tide of negative news.

Israel’s Key Contributions

Amid this, Israel stands out with its remarkable contributions to combating desertification and promoting sustainable land management. Despite its arid climate, Israel has become a leader in this field through innovative technologies and practices:

  • Agricultural Innovations: Advanced techniques like drip irrigation and water-efficient crops boost productivity while conserving water and preventing land degradation.
  • Afforestation and Reforestation: Efforts by the Jewish National Fund (JNF) to plant millions of trees have transformed barren landscapes into thriving forests, preventing soil erosion and enhancing biodiversity.
  • Water Management: Israel’s expertise in desalination, wastewater recycling, and efficient irrigation is crucial for maintaining agricultural productivity and mitigating the effects of drought.
  • Research and Development: Israeli institutions are at the forefront of developing sustainable agricultural practices and land restoration techniques, with international collaborations amplifying their impact.
  • Global Collaboration: Through initiatives like MASHAV, Israel shares its knowledge and technologies with other countries facing similar challenges, promoting global environmental sustainability.

Conclusion: Pursuing a Better World Amidst Challenges

In conclusion, while current events may overshadow our efforts, we must not lose sight of our goals for a better world. Embracing ESG principles can guide us on this journey, helping us navigate adversity and stay focused on building a more sustainable and equitable future. As we continue this journey, let us draw inspiration from both ancient wisdom and modern innovations, striving for a world where compassion and sustainability prevail over conflict and negativity. This journey, though challenging, holds the promise of a better world for all.

 

A final word

 Before October 7, I had just published my first book, Upgrading ESG.

Essentially, for me, ESG  is:

  • E- Healing the Planet.
  • S- Empowering People.
  • G – Elevating God. (Goodness)

While my country and people are in a war against Evil, we (I) cannot let this destroy our desire and dreams for a better world.

 

Readers  are invited to learn more about ESG on my website or by my book: https://www.upgradingesg.com/book

 

I took the photo in the Arava. Images from social media.

About the Author
Jeffrey is a CFO | Seeking a just world I Author -living in Jerusalem. He is a young grandfather who has five kids and seven grandchildren. Jeffrey is promoting a vision for a better and fairer world through https://upgradingesg.com and is the author of Upgrading ESG - How Business can thrive in the age of Sustainability
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