Our Story

A few weeks ago, I travelled from London, where I live, to Israel to participate in the celebrations of the 75th anniversary of the Declaration of Independence and the establishment of the State of Israel. I joined the World Jewish Congress Jewish Diplomatic Corps delegation there, where I met many of my colleagues from the World Jewish Congress from all corners of the world. This 3-day event aimed to strengthen relationships and bridge the gap between Israel and the Diaspora. I always felt a strong connection and passion for this Land and this State; this trip was a homecoming for me. In addition, I felt exhilarated joining this 3-day event, meeting like-minded people sharing similar values and primarily the same love for this Nation and country.

There was a highly organised and thoroughly detailed agenda. One of the agenda sessions was a joint strategy session around “The Jewish Leadership Bridge for the Future”. During this session, we had to discuss and answer three questions:

  • How can Jews of different backgrounds, denominations and affiliations come close together?
  • What is our most common denominator?
  • Are these common denominators sustainable as a model for Jewish survival in the long term?

We had in our group members of the JDCorps, local Israeli community leaders, leadership professionals and members of the wider World Jewish Congress community. Each added their own perspective to the discussion.

As far as we all love Israel, Israel is not our sole common denominator, and it can’t be. We have Jews living in Israel and Jews living across the Diaspora. These Jews don’t speak the same language, don’t live in the same geographical area or country, or follow exactly the same customs and culture; however, they are all Jews, with specific tweaks and differences. We can say that we want to believe and feel that Jews are responsible for one another and that Jews support each other, especially during a crisis. Overall being Jewish feels like belonging to something bigger than yourself.

I will continue with a famous quote by Shimon Peres. Peres asked a crowd: “What is the single best thing Jews did to the world? Their main contribution? Peres said that Jews are never satisfied, Jews never rest, they always seek the next step, secular, traditional, religious Jews NEVER rest; in Israel and Diaspora, they strive to self-improve in any way. Not all nations are like that; the Jews, though, are most of them restless, always seeking the next step, the next step to improve and to achieve to rectify.

Without getting into the religious narrative, if we go to the source and trace our existence as Jews without diving into the scriptures, we have a common story, a common path through history; from antiquity, from the start of our existence until contemporary times when the Jews moved from one place to another when we experienced expulsion until when we managed to return and establish a modern State. This story unites us as a Nation.

We do indeed have a common story, a belonging, and a common denominator. But why do we feel connected to each other?

Jews, regardless of being from a different country and speaking a different language, share a common story that goes back several thousand years, and it doesn’t matter if they are religious or not religious; they all are aware of and know this story. We all know at least what Pesach is and what Rosh Hashanah is; we know all the stories of David, Purim, and the expulsion from Spain. The Holocaust, our Independence and the State of Israel, all these stories are ours; this is the common denominator.

The same story belongs to the same people. This story that we all know is a story of the struggle to survive. All the way back from Egypt to Sinai, the destruction of two Temples, Babylon, and the pogroms; we were always trying to survive. Even in Israel, where we are a majority, there is still the mentality of being a minority and trying continuously to survive because enemies surround us. This is why we have developed through the years adaptability, generation by generation, and managed to figure out how continuously to survive. Adaptability is a powerful characteristic of the Jewish People.

About the Author
Yaakov Chaliotis is a social media marketer and data analyst based in London, UK. He is actively involved in defending Israel's interests and supporting Jewish communities against antisemitism through his social media presence. Yaakov is also a key participant in interfaith dialogues where he plays a significant role in connecting the non-Jewish world with the Jewish world. Whilst he was working in the British Civil Service he was always involved into bringing people together from different faiths and cultural backgrounds. Having a deep understanding of the internal politics of communities in both the UK, Greece & Cyprus Yaakov is fascinated by the religious and cultural diversity of Jewish communities worldwide. He has a legal education and worked in central government communications and is currently working as a data and analytics advisor in the Oil & Gas industry and is an active member of the Jewish Diplomatic Corps of the World Jewish Congress.
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