Wales Friends of Israel off to a promising start
Wales Friends of Israel held its inaugural meeting tonight, which Newport had the honor of hosting. I attended the meeting, which set out WFI’s aims and the means to attaining them.
The meeting began with guest speaker Steven Jaffe, a consultant with the British Board of Deputies. He spoke of the growing hostility against Israel, especially during the last Gaza war when there was a huge spike in anti-Semitism, during which his own synagogue in Belfast was physically attacked. This hostility also emanates from a good many churches in the UK, and as the audience was mainly Christian, Steven saw the meeting as a valuable opportunity to show British Jews they have friends in the church of all denominations and to thank them for their support of both Israel and the Jewish community.
In turn, he encourages Jews to stand with the Christians and other persecuted minorities in the Middle East, while noting that Israel is the only country in the region with a growing Christian population. This kind of mutual support is very important in establishing a national network of Israel advocacy groups. He says there are many Friends of Israel groups distributed across the UK, not all of whom are in contact with one another, but it is important for us all to co-ordinate our efforts on a national level so we have a strong backing when required.
Steven emphasized the need for supporters across the country to speak out to the wider community and assert ourselves as a national movement. The best way to do this is to focus on the positive aspects of Israel, especially its scientific and technological achievements.
The founder of Wales Friends of Israel, Jane Woodford, also spoke about countering messages of hate with positives, in particular beating the Palestine Solidarity Campaign’s anti-Israel statements with material that is both pro-Israel and pro-Palestinian. She also reiterated the idea of mutual support, this time on the international level; Britain and Israel need one another. Israeli innovation has a huge impact on our lives and consistent support from Britain on the world stage would give Israel a healthy boost in its international affairs.
To this end, WFI will seek to forge a network benefiting both countries and to promote a message of peaceful reconciliation between Israel and its neighbors. Jane is visiting Israel soon, and during the trip will learn about and film the work of Save a Child’s Heart, and then share the stories of Arabs who have been blessed by this wonderful Israeli initiative.
Back in Wales, she intends to have groups representing every region in Wales; each will build relationships with not only key people such as MPs, the media, and educators, but with all parts of society. The aim is to actively educate and engage people in the local area while creating avenues into the government to allow the voices of Israel’s supporters to be heard where they are needed most.
There are already several groups set up in various parts of Wales, with more on the way. Things are progressing steadily and there are plenty of people on board already. Wales Friends of Israel looks set to make a world of difference for Israel, and for Wales and the UK.