February 18, 2007 / 30 Shevat 5767
The gathering of the Jewish Agency's Board of Governors, held in Jerusalem on the 11th through the 13th of February, marked the mobilization of the Jewish Diaspora in assisting in the rehabilitation of northern Israel after the destructive effects of the second Lebanon war, as well as in the assistance we are offering to residents of Sderot and the Gaza perimeter communities.
During the three days of Board meetings we held discussions and presented reports concerning plans for advancement of social and educational topics throughout communities in the North and around the Gaza perimeter, and for the leveraging of economic growth in those regions with the help of our friends and partners at the UJC and Keren Hayesod. This was yet another opportunity to praise the solidarity shown by worldwide Jewish communities during the war - as well as today - with residents of the North and Gaza perimeter communities.
At the General Assembly of the Board of Governors we had the honor of hosting two leading figures of the Israeli economy, Nochi Dankner and Benny Landa. These two people - in their support, commitment and contribution to Israeli society in general and to the residents of the Galilee and Negev in particular - are an inspiration and example to us all.
Nochi Dankner, chairman of IDB Group, who toured the North from the first day of the war and onwards and conducted various Board of Directors meetings in the bombarded region, honored us with his presence as a symbol of the partnership formed with the Jewish Agency on a number of projects where we will invest together millions of dollars in the Galilee and Negev.
Benny Landa, president and founder of Indigo, moved the audience with the story of his childhood in a poor family. He spoke of his determination and love for the Jewish people that brought him to the peak of global hi-tech. Today he invests time and resources to develop young leaders and strengthen talented youth in development towns around the country through the Atidim project in which we are partners.
Benny Landa and Nochi Dankner join a growing list of Israeli businessmen and philanthropists – some of whom are members of our Board – who have invested in our efforts in Israeli society during the last few years. For this we are eternally grateful to them.
At the Closing Assembly we hosted the families of kidnapped soldiers Gilad Shalit, Eldad Regev and Ehud Goldwasser. We saluted their courage and pledged our commitment to continue our support for their sons’ releases. Karnit Goldwasser, wife of Ehud, called upon those assembled to raise their voices throughout the world so that their plight will remain in the public and international awareness. "We want a sign of life from them," she implored, and not one eye in the audience stayed dry. She concluded with a promise that the families will never lose hope, and thanked the Jewish Agency and especially Carole Solomon and worldwide Jewish communities for their ongoing support.
Also at the Assembly, we saluted the achievements of Rabbi Yechiel Eckstein, founder and president of the International Fellowship of Christians and Jews, on his longstanding support of the "Bnei Menashe" group and his contribution to the activities of the Jewish Agency, especially in immigration and absorption.
The convention ended with the unanimous election of Richard Pearlstone as the new chairman of the Board of Governors of the Jewish Agency. He will replace Carole Solomon during June of this year. Upon his election, Richard emphasized his commitment in leading the Jewish Agency in its drive to strengthen the partnership between Israel and worldwide Jewish communities, and to strive to increase the Jewish Agency's resources for the fulfillment of its goals in the Jewish world.
Today, besides the commitment we have taken upon ourselves since the outbreak of the war for the assistance in the rehabilitation of the Galilee and Gaza perimeter communities, we are compelled to continue focusing on broadening our activities in other strategic areas. These include: encouraging immigration; developing immigration programs for youth and families from the West; improving absorption processes; entrenching Jewish education and affinity to Israel through various projects – primarily MASA; increasing resources and partnerships with benefactors in Israel and abroad; investing in the development of young leadership in Israel through the reduction of educational gaps in the Galilee, Negev and Jerusalem areas; and fighting growing anti-Semitism wherever it rears its ugly head.
I am sure that together with you - friends of the Board, leaders of Jewish communities from around the world, our partners in Jewish and philanthropic organizations in Israel and abroad – we will succeed in fulfilling our mission for the Jewish people and the prosperity of the State of Israel.