By Ambassador DANI DAYAN
The consul general of Israel in New York
From my home in New York City, I ponder our surreal situation across the globe, as nations find themselves in lockdown, battling the coronavirus crisis. As our world faces a global pandemic with catastrophic consequences, human lives are impacted in every way from the Capital Region to Tel Aviv; beyond health, we find ourselves in an economic and societal crisis as well. Through the implementation of innovative ideas, Israel is finding creative ways to overcome our shared struggles in the “Age of This Coronavirus.”
Preparations For After
With the help of Jewish National Fund-USA’s (JNF) outpouring of philanthropic work, Israel, known for the past two decades as the “Start-up Nation,” has a new socio-economic identity: “Impact Nation.” this new identity focuses on the ways in which Israel leverages its technological advancements towards improving the world. Striving to make a positive impact on our planet, Israeli organizations—both public and private— are found lending a helping hand. A leading example of this can be seen through the efforts of JNF-USA’s affiliate organizations. For instance, the Arava International Center for Agriculture Training (AICAT), teaches farmers from around the world—including Cambodia, Kenya, Vietnam and many others—about high-tech Israeli farming. In these difficult times, Israeli organizations, along with Israeli civilians throughout the country, are responding in innovative ways to both endure the crisis and prepare for the “day after.”
It is said, “When you find yourself with lemons, make lemonade.” In an effort to appeal to U.S. consumers in the Capital Region and beyond, struggling Israeli small businesses in Israel’s north and south have launched an online marketplace, LOTEM, an organization that offers activities to individuals with special needs, and is helping children who have to stay at home continue to receive therapy and special needs education by providing laptops and other portable devices. The Lauder Center for the Advancement of Employment in the Negev in the Old City of Beersheba, created by the Jewish National Fund-USA five years ago to help small businesses in the Negev, has, in recent days, converted in-person training seminars to online sessions. It has launched a “Preparing for the Day After” online series, which focuses on training for “Zoom” job interviews. New “Personal Branding” online training sessions are now also offered by The Lauder Center, which prepares young job seekers in the Negev with tools for today’s reality, as well as the prospect of a changing workforce in the future as small home-developed companies become the new normal.
Just like in much of the rest of the world, essential workers in Israel continue doing their jobs to ensure that the public remains healthy and safe. Volunteers, at the same time, make a huge difference as essential workers rely on them to be able to do their jobs. In Israel, JNF partner, MAKOM volunteers look after the children of medical workers as they battle this coronavirus and Hashomer HaChadash teenagers pick vegetables to ensure produce gets to supermarkd.
Israel, just barely bigger than New Jersey, prides itself in being a “Light Unto the Nations”—in good times and bad. As this virus spreads suffering and darkness throughout our world, sparks of light bring us hope through innovative and philanthropic efforts. Here in New York, college students created, “Invisible Hands,” a service for volunteers to deliver groceries to the elderly. Clothing designers, like New York-based Israeli Alon Hadelsberg, are making masks from their homes for hospital employees. No good deed is too small.
Perhaps if nothing else, the outpouring of love and solidarity between our two communities in our mutual hour of need is yet another reminder of our shared values, resilience, and never-ending pursuit of hope. As we plan for the “day after,” let us jointly hold the flame of tomorrow in the knowledge that our best days are yet to come.
Ambassador Dani Dayan the Consul General of Israel in New York, will address the region at a Jewish National Fund-USA’s “virtual” Breakfast for Israel on Friday, May 15, at 8 a.m. Community members may register at https://www.jnf.org/events-landing-pages/breakfast-for-israel-in-the-capital-region-2020. A zoom link will be provided for the free program.