Between April 19th to 21st, I had the honor of participating in the Zionist Congress in Jerusalem, the same Congress which first convened in Basel 125 years ago, and is a gathering of Zionist delegates from communities around the world. The participants spent several days together discussing the most pressing issues for Israel and the Jewish people around the world, and this specific Congress also held special programming marking Israel’s 75th Independence Day with celebratory events. It was moving to see that what Herzl started in 1897, indeed is a dream that turned into a reality thanks to generations of dedicated men and women who joined the Zionist movement.
As the co-founder of Students Supporting Israel, I attribute tremendous importance to working with young leaders. This is why one of the most moving parts of the congress was to see the efforts taken to involve future generations in Zionist activism and education. At the Congress, alongside the main events for the official delegates, there was a Zionist Youth Congress where teen participants from Israel and other countries came together for round table discussions and were also able to participate in some of the main events, including an evening ceremony in the presence of the President of the State of Israel, Mr. Isaac Herzog. Seeing these future leaders singing and dancing to Israeli songs is something every current community leader needs to keep in mind when thinking about why we do the work we do. If anything, the biggest reason to care about the Jewish State is because of the future, making sure we build a strong and secure home for our children.
Another wonderful experience the Congress offered its participants was the opportunity to meet delegates from communities around the world. There were more than 2,000 people who attended the congress, from 40 countries. I had the chance to speak with Zionist activists from France, Brazil, Russia, Ukraine, Canada, Great Britain, and many other locations. We spoke about each other’s communities, shared ideas for local events, discussed challenges, reviewed opportunities, and were genuinely happy to learn that while we live many miles away from each other, there are similarities between us as we share the same interests and care for the Jewish state. When speaking to the Israeli attendees, we reiterated the bond between Israelis and Jewish communities in the diaspora, noting the need to keep this connection strong and unbreakable.
Lastly, an important part of the Congress I’d like to note was the expressed call to unity offered at the official panels, a precious reminder that despite internal disagreements, we need to come together as a nation. At the opening plenary, the Chairman of the World Zionist Organization, Mr. Yaakov Hagoel, stated that Zionism is the glue that unites us. Indeed, over 75 years of the existence of the State, and the 50 years of Zionism that predated the creation of the state, we only grew stronger and like Ben Gurion wanted “made the desert bloom” by building a thriving state. In the early days of Zionism, different people may have disagreed on the route that should be taken, but the goal remained the same, to build a state for the Jewish people. I truly hope that at the conclusion of this latest Zionist Congress, each delegate and participant left with the commitment to remember the big picture and our love for Israel, and was motivated to strengthen the country and continue to educate others about the beautiful story of the Zionist movement.