First-Ever Leadership Seminar on Forest Safety in Northern Israel for Druze Teenagers A Success
On Dec. 29, nearly 70 counselors and members of the Druze Youth Organization and the Druze branch of the Zionist Council youth organization "Zameret" (Leadership) ages 14-16 completed the first-ever leadership seminar on forest safety and fire prevention. Co-sponsored by B’nai B’rith International and KKL-JNF (Keren Kayemeth LeIsrael - Jewish National Fund), the three-day seminar, which brought together counselors and youth group members from eight Druze villages in northern Israel, represented the next phase of B’nai B’rith’s Israel Emergency Fund project established in response to last year’s Mt. Carmel Fire. The program was initiated by B'nai B'rith World Center director Alan Schneider.
The seminar was held at KKL-JNF’s Nes Harim Field Center where attendees met with Knesset member Hamad Amar, Chairman of the Druze Youth Organization Zionist Council Yigal Brand, Executive Director of the Zionist Council Yoseph Nassar Aladin and Dr. Ben Zion Bar-Lavie, director of education and ecology at JNF.
“Since 1865, when B’nai B’rith responded to an appeal from Moses Montefiore for the direct relief of plague victims in pre-state Israel, we have remained committed to alleviating victims of natural and manmade disasters worldwide,” said B’nai B’rith International President Allan J. Jacobs. “We would not be able to co-sponsor this important seminar without our valued members and donors supporting our disaster relief work.”
On the first day of the seminar, participants toured the Carmel Forest collecting flammable tree trimmings from the green part of the forest near the area that was burnt last year. On Dec. 28, the youth took part in educational activities and exercised independent forest navigation. On the final day, Dec. 29, the Druze youth demonstrated what they had learned from the seminar, participating in a fire extinguishing simulation with the help of KKL-JNF's professional team. They also toured the Ben Shemen Forest, heard lectures on sustainable development, fire prevention and forestry, and saw a new film on the tragic progression of events in the Carmel Fire, produced by the Fire Department.
The course concluded at JNF's tree nursery in Kfar Zechariya where the participants received certificates. Plans are being made to extend the impact of the seminar back in the Druze villages through educational programs in the youth movements and schools.
“Though a year has passed since the Mt. Carmel Fire, there are still so many unmet needs. This seminar aims to mitigate that and provide valuable education and skills to the affected community,” said B’nai B’rith International Executive Vice President Daniel S. Mariaschin.
“B’nai B’rith sees great importance in educating forest preservation for future generations. This seminar has a national importance, as it is almost one year since the infamous tragic Carmel Fire. The seminar is the outcome of a fruitful partnership between KKL-JNF and B’nai B’rith International,” said Alan Schneider, director of B’nai B’rith International’s World Center in Jerusalem and the initiator of the seminar.
According to KKL-JNF World Chairman Efi Stenzler, “The purpose of the leadership seminar is to share forest knowledge with Druze teenagers ages 14-16 in all that has to do with forest maintenance, how to contribute to the forest land and prevent forest fires. The seminar will expand their sense of personal responsibility towards the forest, and over the years they will be our future ambassadors, forest fighters and maybe even cooperate with the KKL-JNF. This seminar is experimental and we intend to expand it throughout the country.”
Druze youth participate in the forest safety seminar.
Some of the youth and counselors pose for a photo during the forest safety seminar.
From Dec. 3-5, B’nai B’rith International held its annual policy conference in Montevideo, Uruguay—the first international B’nai B’rith event ever held in Latin America. Former Chilean President Eduardo Frei Ruiz-Tagle, Vice-Prime Minister of Israel Moshe Yaalon and U.S. State Department Special Envoy to Monitor and Combat Anti-Semitism Hannah Rosenthal were among the conference’s many high-profile speakers. They spoke about issues from efforts to delegitimize Israel to global anti-Semitism and Iran’s infiltration into Latin America.
“This conference gave all our attendees—from international and local leaders to our valued members and B’nai B’rith leaders—the opportunity to experience first-hand the challenges and advances that are being addressed throughout Latin America, specifically those that affect the continent’s Jewish communities,” said B’nai B’rith International President Allan J. Jacobs, speaking from Montevideo.
Frei (in photo to the right), Chile’s president from 1994 to 2000, spoke about what he sees as a new era of worldwide protests against social and economic inequality, saying that in Latin America as well as the entire world, people are constantly fighting on a larger scale trying to have a better life. Frei also spoke about the need for integration and partnership among international organizations such as MERCOSUR, the South American free-trade organization into which Chile entered during his administration.
He also addressed the pervasive inequality in Latin America, saying that it is the most inequitable continent in the world in terms of society, economics and politics. He cited the need for strong democracies throughout the continent, with division of powers which he hopes might reverse widespread poverty.
Vice-Prime Minister of Israel Moshe Yaalon spoke about the international challenges facing Israel and the Middle East peace process. He focused on the Iranian threat not only in the Middle East but to Latin America and throughout the world from monitoring terrorism, increasing Iranian influence in Venezuela and throughout the region and the potential of a nuclear Iran.
Yaalon also said, in reference to the potential for negotiations between the Israelis and the Palestinian Authority, there remains the seminal problem that the Palestinian National Authority President Mahmoud Abbas will not recognize Israel as a Jewish state.
“This conference accomplished—in fact, surpassed—our goals. With our international participant list and engaging, insightful and timely speakers, we were able to cover the wide range of issues affecting Jewish communities worldwide,” said B’nai B’rith International Executive Vice President Daniel S. Mariaschin, also speaking from Montevideo.
Hannah Rosenthal, U.S. State Department special envoy to monitor and combat anti-Semitism (in photo below, shaking hands with former Uruguayan President Tabare Vazquez; Enrique Jinchuk, B'nai B'rith Board Of Governors member; and Allan Jacobs, BBI president), also addressed the conference. She discussed global anti-Semitism with a special focus on Latin America, noting: “In the 21st century we are still facing rising anti-Semitism internationally and the shores of this continent are far from immune.
“In Venezuela, government-affiliated media carry anti-Semitic expressions. And in Chile, Uruguay and Brazil we have reports of anti-Semitic desecrations and harassment. These incidents tell us that anti-Semitism is not history, it is news. My approach to combating anti-Semitism is not just to preach to the choir, so to speak, but to join in partnership with non-Jews in condemning it – government, civil society, international institutions, business leaders, labor unions, and the media,” Rosenthal said.
Emilio Cardenas, former Argentinean ambassador to the United Nations, spoke about the political, economic and social disparities throughout Latin America. He mentioned how some countries such as Venezuela and Ecuador don’t respect democracy and instead perpetuate the worst form of populism—lack of democracy with no freedom of speech or press. On the other hand, he pointed out that many countries, such as Brazil and Argentina are leading the way toward a democratized society and he called on these governments to display stronger criticism of countries that endorse anti-Semitism.
Political analyst Julian Schvindlerman said he believes Venezuela is the leader of the promotion of anti-Semitism in Latin America today. He also said Latin America is not an enemy of Israel but it’s also not an ally. He expressed concern about the growing presence of radical Islam worldwide, including the spread of Hezbollah’s influence of Latin America—a major area of concern for the continent’s Jewish communities.
Other speakers at the conference included Danny Brom, clinical psychologist and founding director of the Israel Center for the Treatment of Psychotrauma of Herzog Hospital in Jerusalem; and Jorge Grunberg, one of the leading international experts on economic growth and its impact on education in Latin America. Also in attendance were former Presidents of Uruguay Luis Lacalle, Tabare Vazquez and Jorge Batlle; current Vice President of Uruguay Danilo Astori, Mayor of Montevideo Ana Olivera, Uruguayan senators from all political parties, ambassadors of Chile and Israel, and the Charge d'Affaires of the United States. A gala dinner was held as part of the conference to honor former U.S. Ambassador to Uruguay, Frank Baxter.
From left to right: B'nai B'rith International Executive Vice President Daniel S. Mariaschin, Vice-Prime Minister of Israel Moshe Yaalon and B'nai B'rith International President Allan J. Jacobs at this year's policy conference in Montevideo.
Hannah Rosenthal, U.S. State Department special envoy to monitor and combat anti-Semitism shaking hands with former Uruguayan President Tabare Vazquez; Enrique Jinchuk, B'nai B'rith Board Of Governors member; and Allan J. Jacobs, BBI president