Blog Post Days 3 and 4

February 26th, 2017

Note: AJC Berlin Director Deidre Berger and Public Affairs Officer Fabian Weissbarth are accompanying a delegation of German Politicians and Journalists in Israel.

Blog Post Days 3 and 4

The starkly shifting political landscape of the Middle East was the next topic we explored in depth. We were fortunate to have time with the press spokesman of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Emmanuel Nahshon, whom we know from a previous appointment in Berlin. He brightened the picture of the Middle East conflict considerably, explaining that the Israeli-Palestinian dispute is only one component of greater regional issues. He discussed intensifying relationships with neighboring countries, including ways in which growing regional alliances can create the necessary support to enable an agreement between Israel and Palestinians.

This larger original panorama was also elucidated by Major (res.) Arye Shalicar, former Spokesperson of the IDF, now working in the Ministry of Intelligence at the Prime Minister’s Office. He discussed the Israeli perception of the threat from Iran, and analyzed evermore similarities to statements being made by pragmatic Arab leaders. Arye also shared details of his unusual childhood growing up as a Persian Jew in an immigrant district of Berlin. The difficulties of growing up Jewish in an immigrant neighborhood and Berlin convinced him to look for a new homeland in which to start a family. He decided that Israel was the place where he feels most comfortable. Indeed, his entire family has followed him now to Israel.

Regarding Israel’s approach to dealing with terror, we heard fascinating insights from Professor Boaz Ganor at the Institute for Counterterrorism at the IDC. He spoke about the growing danger of the second generation which has far greater identity issues and less orientation than the immigrant generation of their parents. Their inability to find a place in society, combined with their lack of affiliation with the home country, is leading some of these young people along the path of terror.

We then heard an explanation about the application of international law regarding the Israeli presence in the disputed territories from Daniel Reisner, a lawyer for many years who previously headed the international law division for the Israeli Defense Forces, and who has advised numerous prime ministers on legal aspects of the peace process. He elaborated on the complex legal situation, pointing out that international law leaves great room for interpretation, making judgments about the legal status on the disputed territories extraordinarily complicated.

We had several inspirational meetings regarding coexistence in Israel with minorities, as well as efforts to integrate Israel’s growing segment of refugees and foreign workers. First, we visited the Bialik-Rogozin school in a poor section of Tel Aviv. This amazing school has managed to integrate 1,300 pupils, more than half of whom do not have permanent resident status, into Israeli life and society, ensuring that virtually all of the pupils achieve a high school degree.

The joy on the faces of the pupils, who come from more than 50 countries, was heartwarming, as was the exuberance of the school’s extraordinary principal Eli Nehama. Given the refugee situation in Germany, with an influx of more than one million refugees in a short period, the group was impressed by what is possible to achieve in a fairly short time with the commitment of teachers, volunteers, and the community. It was also impressive to see the efforts of the Arab-Jewish Community Center in Jaffa, where Jewish, Christian and Muslim young people come together for art, music, sports and exchange with one another to help narrow the gaps between different groups in Israeli society. It was inspiring to hear the voices of the peace choir. At this community center, they come together to make the neighborhood a better place.

The views expressed in this blog are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of Project Interchange.