Transcending Differences, Stronger Together

Transcending Differences, Stronger Together

A holiday message from the Consul General of Israel to the Southeast U.S.

This past year has been characterized by various challenges, for Israel and for the Jewish people. A global pandemic impacted us all. Israel faced significant security threats and ongoing attempts to delegitimize the Jewish state. Jews across the globe have faced a very concerning rise in antisemitism, including here in the United States. Yet, despite these significant challenges, we have also witnessed the powerful force of positive change, including the extraordinary beginnings of unique and authentic relations between unlikely bedfellows.

This past August, The Consulate General of Israel to the Southeast had the remarkable opportunity to host a delegation of young Emirati, Saudi and Israeli leaders from the NGO [Non-Government Organization] Sharaka. Sharaka was born out of the Abraham Accords, as one year ago Israel, the United Arab Emirates and Bahrain signed historic agreements normalizing the relations and further promoting the vision of peace for our region. Since then, Morocco and Sudan have followed, and we look forward to many more joining in choosing hope and peace, for the benefit of all our peoples. “Sharaka”, meaning ‘partnership’ in Arabic, was founded by young leaders from Israel and the Gulf, to promote the vision of peace on the ground – people to people.

Two Muslim Emiratis, one Muslim Saudi, one Arab Israeli and one Israeli Jew came to Atlanta for a two-day visit. The delegation spoke to a variety of audiences around metro Atlanta including interfaith leaders, elected officials, heads of HBCUs and members of the Jewish community. Their message was strong and clear – the next generation is not afraid to break through barriers. The next generation can be educated and exposed to “the other” with great success. Despite our differences, there is much that we have in common, and our relations allow us to better address common challenges and pursue mutual interests.

In this same spirit of bringing peoples together in peace, the Israeli Consulate launched a new program fostering education and understanding of the deep seeded relationships between African-Americans, Jews and Israelis. Covenant is a cooperative partnership of the Consulate General of Israel to the Southeast and the Martin Luther King Jr. International Chapel at Morehouse College. Our work commemorates the rich history of African-American and Jewish collaboration and mutual support, which is of great relevance and importance today. Our dialogue, events, and academic programs draw upon the legacies of Henrietta Szold, Abraham Joshua Heschel, Constance Baker Motley, Yitzhak Rabin, Samuel DuBois Cook, Coretta Scott King, Martin Luther King, Jr., and Ruth Bader Ginsburg. These leaders, each in their own way, courageously strived to ensure a better future for their communities and across communities.

Continuing the theme of “unlikely bedfellows,” Israel’s new coalition government is another such example. Like the United States, Israel is a multicultural and politically complex country. This year, we saw the formation of the most diverse coalition government in Israel’s history. Parties from the far left and the far right came together to form Israel’s new government including, for the first time, an Arab Israeli party. Gender equality has also made strides in the new government’s makeup. Its nine women ministers mark the highest number to date, as do the three women ministers included in the more exclusive Security Cabinet. Also a first, one of the women ministers has muscular dystrophy and uses a wheelchair. As in previous governments, Jewish ministers represent a broad range of backgrounds, including an openly gay minister, and reflect Israel’s tradition of successful immigrant integration: North Africa, Ethiopia, Europe, the former Soviet Union and more. Prime Minister Naftali Bennett’s family immigrated to Israel from the United States. Diversity coming together is the essence of the State of Israel and its citizens.

While it has been a challenging year for Israel and for the Jewish people, there is much to be celebrated and much to look forward to. Whether in Israel, in the Middle East, or here in the U.S., coming together beyond differences makes us all stronger.

May we all keep our eyes on the horizon as we journey toward a brighter and more peaceful New Year together. Shana Tova!

Anat Sultan-Dadon is Consul General of Israel to the Southeast U.S.

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