Jason Langsner

My Bond with Israel

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu with the Israel Bonds New Leadership Delegation
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu with the Israel Bonds Leadership Delegation

Much is said and much is known about the historic link between the King David Hotel and the modern State of Israel.  But what I did not know about the King David, ironically and indirectly, led me back to the Jewish State on what would become a nearly two week journey to further my connection with my homeland.

A plaque hangs on the wall of the Reading Hall in the King David.  Inscribed over a copper finish are these words:

In this hall on September 3, 1950, a conference convened by Prime Minister David Ben Gurion and attended by members of the Israel Government, The Jewish Agency and fifty American Jewish leaders representing national organizations devoted to Israel, made the historic decision to establish THE WORLDWIDE ISRAEL BOND PROGRAM to promote the economic development of the State of Israel.”

It was then a fledgling nation.  Two years young.  Its identity was the symbol that it stood for – the Jewish State – in a time when much recovery was needed from World War II and the War of Independence.  Its identity was not yet a bustling metropolis of innovation.  Its population was approximately 1/8th of today.  But in this hall, a discussion led to an idea and an idea led to a “bond” with Israel for those living in the Diaspora.

64 years later another discussion was convened at the King David.  I was a part of that discussion… more on that below.

The idea that was born in September 1950 has matured into Development Corporation for Israel (e.g. “Israel Bonds”) and we have collectively invested over $37 billion worldwide in Israel bonds since the first bond was issued.  And we returned to the King David in September 2014.

This discussion was one small symbolic event of a broader delegation of 100 Israel Bonds leaders from three continents who participated in meetings across Jerusalem, Tel Aviv, Herzliya, and other Israeli cities.

The delegation met with President Reuven Rivlin, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, Finance Minister Yair Lapid and Defense Minister Moshe Ya’alon, and visited such sites as the Ariel Sharon Memorial Park on Hariya, high-tech start-ups and venture capitalists in Tel Aviv, and a large multi-national high-tech business that has an R&D facility in Israel.  These meetings had us explore all sides of Israel’s thriving economy.

We came to Israel to share a couple messages.  First, a simple but important one:  we stand with Israel.  For many of us, this visit was the first since Israel’s challenges during Operation Protective Edge and My Brother’s Keeper.  Our second message was our community’s response to those challenges:  Israel Bonds proudly facilitated $250 million in Israel bond investments during the 50 days of Operation Protective Edge and collectively the organization has generated over $900 million in U.S. sales so far, in this calendar year.

We left Israel with a finer appreciation for the country and a confidence that our investment creates a positive return.

I won’t be the first to ever say what makes a delegation strong isn’t always the meetings and activities on the agenda, although our agenda was incredibly rewarding, but it is that coupled with the people that are a part of the group.  Of the 100 Jewish leaders representing three continents, 30 of us were young professionals.  I was one of those 30.  Our goal in our home communities is to create engagement opportunities for New Leaders, those between 18 – 45 years old, so they – like us – can make an investment in Israel’s future.  For me, this is the most tangible thing that I can do as a Jewish young professional living in the Diaspora to support Israel (excluding making Aliyah).

And that takes us back to the King David Hotel in Jerusalem and the new discussion about Israel Bonds, 64 years after its founding and 66 years after the modern State of Israel’s independence.

Our voices represented many of the largest Jewish communities in the United States – New York, Chicago, Miami, Los Angeles, Philadelphia, Texas, Boston, DC, etc.  Through a peer-to-peer dialogue we exchanged ideas and opportunities of how we can share the story of our bond with Israel with those in our communities.  We spoke of strengthening our communities’ connection to Israel.  We expressed our passion for the country.  We were all volunteer leaders for Israel Bonds with other day jobs as lawyers, financial advisors, salesmen, technology professionals, political wonks, and non-profit leaders, but our differences in geography and occupation aside, we were there together to represent our communities’ standing with Israel.

We spoke, we laughed, we exchanged ideas, we recapped the meetings of the week, and we connected with each other and furthered our connection with Israel.  We ended our peer-to-peer discussion by welcoming in two of the established professionals in the delegation who shared stories of how they used to sit around a similar table, just like the one we were sitting around.  A former chairperson for Israel Bonds and its first female chairprson expressed the importance of Dor L’Dor and mentoring our generation.  She shared with us a strong message at the King David – one that I’ll always remember – that before Israel needed the world; but today the world needs Israel.  It is a simple message but a message that epitomizes the difference between the 1950 discussion at the King David with Ben Gurion and last week’s discussion at the King David.

This is my bond with Israel – a bond that continues to strengthen and continues to develop, and a continued investment of an idea.

Israel Bonds New Leadership Delegation at Ariel Sharon Memorial Park with Gilad Sharon and his children
Israel Bonds New Leadership Delegation at Ariel Sharon Memorial Park with Gilad Sharon and his children
About the Author
Jason Langsner is an active member of the American young Jewish professional community. He is a published author about Israel and American-Israeli affairs and regularly blogs and speaks at conferences about the intersection of communication, culture, politics, and technology. He formerly ran the digital strategy for B'nai B'rith International, the Global Voice of the Jewish Community, and currently serves as a lay leader with various pro-Israel organizations. Mr. Langsner received a Masters at Georgetown University and studied International Business Management at the University of Oxford.