WJC Executive Committee Members Reflect on Solidarity Visit to Israel - World Jewish Congress

WJC Executive Committee Members Reflect on Solidarity Visit to Israel

JERUSALEM – The World Jewish Congress concluded a meeting of the organization’s Executive Committee following a two-day solidarity mission between 21-22 May 2024 that included visits to sites associated with the October 7th attacks and a meeting with Israeli President Isaac Herzog at his official residence, to gain a fuller understanding of the challenges Israelis now face.

The delegation, comprising representatives from more than two dozen countries as well as student organizations, met with Knesset Speaker Amir Ohana as well as Meirav Cohen, who previously served as a government minister and is now a member of the Knesset for Yesh Atid.

Through these engagements, the WJC delegation learned about how Israeli society, government and individuals were grappling with the aftermath of Oct. 7, and asked Israeli leaders about critical next steps.

Following his meeting with the WJC officials, President Herzog commented, “I met today with leaders from all over the Jewish world. In each of their countries and communities, they face the ongoing rise in antisemitism: online, on the streets, and on campus. We discussed the importance of standing up against hate and the incredible strength and resilience of the Jewish people.”  

He added, “Israel stands together with Jews all over the world, and I thank them for their unwavering support for our country as we defend ourselves from a cruel enemy, and fight to release the hostages being brutally held by Hamas terrorists in Gaza.”

The WJC Executive Committee also unanimously adopted several policy resolutions Thursday focusing on issues including the creation of a formal executive task force to combat antisemitism, the amplification of voice of young leaders and a firm statement of support for Israel, on behalf of the global Jewish community. Through the statement of support, the WJC expressed its backing of Israel’s aim of destroying Hamas while securing the release of the remaining hostages. The WJC statement also condemns the false accusations of genocide directed at Israel by the government of South Africa and others in the international community.

WJC President Ronald S. Lauder, in underscoring the ongoing threat to Jewish communities, stressed the need for unity.

“The recent trends on social media and university campuses have made clear that we are up against forces that will not relent until we develop a coherent strategy to take on anti-Jewish hatred. We must push leaders in the United States and elsewhere to send a signal that there is absolutely no moral equivalence between Hamas and the Israeli government,” he said.

“By pushing Arab governments to support the de-radicalization of Palestinian society and the reconstruction of post-war Gaza, we can also begin to lay the groundwork for a future where Israelis and Palestinians live side-by-side in peace,” added Lauder.

On Wednesday, the WJC delegation visited Kibbutz Kfar Aza and held a special ceremony to memorialize Ofir Libstein, z"l, a former WJC Israel board member who was tragically killed on Oct. 7 defending his community from Hamas terrorists. The WJC group was hosted by Kfar Aza resident Shai Hermesh, a former Knesset member and past chair of WJC Israel, who shared his experiences. His son Omer was killed by Hamas on Oct. 7, and the family’s home was destroyed when Israeli troops were required to remove embedded terrorists. 

Together with survivors, the WJC delegation paid homage at Re’im, the site of the Nova Music Festival, and Tekuma, a “car graveyard” for hundreds of vehicles from the Oct. 7 attacks.

The group was also briefed on Hamas’ sexual violence against Israelis. The session was led by Dr. Cochav Elkayam Levy, founder and head of the Dvora Institute for Gender and Sustainability Studies.

In a conversation co-hosted by Amb. Colette Avital, member of the WJC Executive Committee and former Knesset member, and The Headquarters for Hostage and Missing Families Forum, WJC leaders met with families of hostages. Relatives of Omer Neutra and Tal Shoham, both still held in Gaza, were part of the discussion and called on members of the WJC delegation to press their respective governments to help secure the hostages’ release.

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