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      'Historic' Summit Promotes Joint Israel-Diaspora Initiatives

      Strategic planning summit aims to strengthen Jewish identity by bolstering ties between the Jewish state and Diaspora.
      By Ari Yashar and Ari Soffer
      First Publish: 11/6/2013, 3:40 PM

      Director-Generals of PM's Office, Jewish Agency, and Ministry of Jerusalem and Diaspora Affairs at s
      Director-Generals of PM's Office, Jewish Agency, and Ministry of Jerusalem and Diaspora Affairs at s
      Sasson Tiram

      In Jerusalem Wednesday an unprecedented two-day strategic planning summit was launched with the aim of creating new joint initiatives between the Israeli government and the Jewish world at large.

      The event came to fruition under the auspices of the Prime Minister's Office, the Ministry of Jerusalem and Diaspora Affairs, and the Jewish Agency, and has been hailed as an "historic moment," being the first of its kind in planning initiatives between the Israeli government and the Jewish world.

      Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu, Minister of Diaspora Affairs Naftali Bennett, and Chairman of the Executive of The Jewish Agency Natan Sharansky were scheduled to address the gathering.

      The summit was attended by 120 Jewish leaders from around the world and senior Israeli government officials, and aims to create a joint plan to enhance the Jewish identity of young Jews around the world, as well as strengthen their ties with Israel.

      The initiative hopes to bring a new outlook and new projects advancing ties between Israel and the Jewish world.

      Dvir Kahana, Director-General of the Ministry of Jerusalem and Diaspora Affairs, said "we want to create a strategic plan for the upcoming twenty-five years that will include a common vision and, more importantly, the implementation of dozens of new projects for the Jewish people.

      "It is no longer just a question of what the diaspora can do for Israel, but—just as important—what we in Israel can do for the diaspora."

      Those comments echoed recent sentiments by Naftali Bennett, who called on the Jewish state to "reinvent" its relationship with Jewish communities outside of the land of Israel.

      In an address to the World Jewish Congress' Executive Committee in Jerusalem, Bennett said that in the past, Diaspora communities were seen as "only a wallet and a source of emigration to Israel," and went on to call for "a new model" for the relationship between the two.

      "Israel is the state of its citizens, of all denominations, but it is also the state of Jews all around the world," he declared.

      "Our main threat these days is assimilation," he continued. "We are losing thousands of Jews to assimilation. Perpetuation of the Jewish people is what I live for. We need to strengthen the Jewish identity around the world, the 'peoplehood'. Israelis do not have a strong enough bond to Jews abroad, and we want Jews around the world to feel Israel is at the core."

      The Israeli government invests roughly NIS 450 million annually in programs to strengthen ties with world Jewry. 

      Most of that funding goes to Taglit-Birthright Israel and Masa Israel Journey, programs operated by both the government and the Jewish Agency.