The group met with a variety of relevant Israeli government officials and civil-society leaders. Participants visited the Knesset and the Supreme Court of Israel—meeting with an Ethiopian-born parliamentarian from Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s governing party and a former chief justice—in addition to the Old City of Jerusalem and Israel’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs. The diplomats met with victims of recent Palestinian terrorist attacks and also travelled to Israel’s borders with Syria and Lebanon for briefings by Israeli military officers and U.N. peacekeepers, and discussed the threats posed by increasingly powerful groups such as Hezbollah and the Islamic State.
The delegation, staffed by B’nai B’rith World Center – Jerusalem Director Alan Schneider and B’nai B’rith Director of United Nations and Intercommunal Affairs David Michaels, took part in a five-day trip to the Jewish state. Representing Bulgaria, Cyprus, Honduras, Lithuania, Micronesia and Uganda, participants came from the United Nations headquarters in New York; the world body’s Geneva hub, which is home to the U.N. Human Rights Council and other agencies; and the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) in Paris.
“Nothing can dispel misunderstanding about Israel’s record as a dynamic, humane democracy in the face of adversity like actual exposure to the country, its leaders and people. B’nai B’rith is singularly positioned, as a U.N.-accredited global organization, and one with a presence in Israel dating back to 1888, to help bridge the gap between perceptions and reality,” B’nai B’rith International President Gary P. Saltzman said.
The diplomatic delegation to Israel was made possible by the generous support of the Leona M. and Harry B. Helmsley Charitable Trust.
While in Israel, the delegation met with locally stationed United Nations officials responsible for advancing the Middle East peace process, and attended the inauguration of a school shelter near the Gaza Strip, donated by B’nai B’rith Europe. The school shelter is intended to protect students from Hamas rocket fire. Group members heard from experts about persistent Palestinian incitement against Jews, learned about Israeli efforts to develop the quality of life of Arab citizens and respond to disasters abroad, and encountered injured Syrians being treated by Israeli medical professionals despite their origin in a country formally hostile to the Jewish state. Finally, delegates spoke with leaders of religious minorities in Israel, and toured an Israeli university campus to witness Israel’s diversity and innovation in scholarship first-hand.
“We initiated this program because B’nai B’rith is committed to giving diplomats and other policymakers a genuinely full and accurate grasp of what Israel is, and all that it faces. The Middle East has only one democratic nation—the State of Israel—and it is essential that key players in the international community have a chance to see what an inspiring country Israel really is,” B’nai B’rith International Executive Vice President Daniel S. Mariaschin said.