Zionist Action and Development: Independence Day Around the World

Some 40 young Israelis with a flare for singing, dancing, acting, or otherwise making people feel happy, have fanned out around the world, in groups of twos and threes, to bring a touch of Israel into Jewish communities’ Yom Haatzmaut celebrations. They will be appearing, with their guitars or accordions, in synagogues and halls from Montevideo to Melbourne, from Marseilles to Johannesburg, wherever Jews mark Israel’s Independence Day this week.

The entertainers, almost all of them amateurs, were selected from over 400 applicants, meticulously “auditioned” by government and World Zionist Organization officials, briefed in an intensive study seminar on Zionism. Judaism and current political problems and dispatched to 19 countries around the world.

The project is a “first” for Yom Haatzmaut. It is intended, said Yehsayahu Haran of the WZQ organization and information department, to give tangible expression to last December’s decisions of the “Jerusalem Solidarity Conference” to make this year’s Independence Day a truly international Jewish event.

ACCENT ON PROVINCIAL TOWNS

The accent, Haran said, will be on the more out-of-the-way communities, in provincial towns rather than in the main metropolises. Zionist federations and Jewish communal organizations around the world are all stressing the need to strengthen links with the smaller communities, for whom visitors from Israel are something of a novelty–and for that reason so much more needed, and more appreciated.

The 19 countries to be visited are in South America, Europe, Australia, New Zealand. South Africa and Iran. Each group will appear several of times in each country, and several of them are scheduled to perform in two or even three countries during the course of the week.

The young ambassadors of folklore held a “dress rehearsal” in Jerusalem last week, appearing at “Kiryat Moriah,” the student center of the WZO youth and halutz department, before visiting groups of overseas students.

The groups and their organizers learned one important lesson from the audience reaction on that occasion: young people abroad don’t want to hear pop or rock from Israeli performers–they can hear better pop and rock from their own local artists. What they do want are Israeli songs and dances, Jewish and Hasidic music–a taste of authentic Israeli culture.

OTHER PROJECTS OUTLINED

Haran, coordinator of a joint government-WZO body planning Yom Haatzmaut programs abroad, described some of the other projects that went into action this week. Three top Israeli politicians have been asked to speak at central Yom Haatzmaut celebrations in Europe: Abba Eban will be-in Paris and Brussels, Transport Minister Gad Yaacobi in London, and Labor Knesseter Esther Herlitz (former Ambassador to Denmark) in Basel. Switzerland.

Yaacobi will also go on to tour provincial towns to England, and make a brief stop-over in Denmark. Herlitz will go from Basel to Germany for appearances before Jewish communities there. Moshe Day, who is in Italy on a United Israel Appeal fund-raising mission, will address Yom Haatzmaut celebrations there, and Commerce Minister Haim Barlev will do the same in Australia.

Appearing with Barlev at the Australian Jewry’s central Independence Day celebration will be Valery and Galina Panov. Haran explained that the Australian Zionist Federation asked the head office in Jerusalem to locate the Panovs (then in London), and the young dancers willingly agreed to perform at the celebration.

MASS DISTRIBUTION OF MATERIAL

Another project initiated by the joint committee was the distribution of 20,000 wall posters, in English, Spanish and French, “well in time.” Haran affirmed, to Jewish schools and community centers and synagogues around the world. The themes are: Yom Haatzmaut, Jerusalem, education in Israel, health, science, industry, agriculture, and international cooperation.

The committee also distributed “press kits” containing articles by local Israeli journalists on current political and human-interest aspects of Israeli life, to Jewish newspapers and periodicals around the world. A great many of the articles have already been printed in pre-Independence Day issues, Haran noted.

Also distributed were 10 copies of a filmed interview with Premier Yitzhak Rabin and WZO chairman Yosef Almogi, by Israel TV personality Haim Yeivin. The sound recording of the interviews has been made into a cassette and also distributed to some Jewish centers to be played on Independence Day. Leon Dulzin, WZO Treasurer, has been interviewed in Spanish for distribution among Latin American communities.

Haran has received encouraging reports from WZO shlichim of local preparations for Yom Haatzmaut. In Italy, for instance, all events will be held in synagogues–with the “finals” of an inter-synagogue Bible quiz to be one of the day’s highlights. In Amsterdam, Holland, a national Bible quiz will reach its climax on Yom Haatzmaut.

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