Delegation members plant trees in southern Israel
Delegation members plant trees in southern IsraelShahar Azran

A World Jewish Congress delegation comprising senior professionals from more than 50 countries visited Kibbutz Nahal Oz in southern Israel on Tuesday on a solidarity mission with residents whose community has been terrorized by Hamas in recent weeks.

The delegation consisted of the top executives of WJC-affiliated communities in countries including Australia, Kyrgyzstan, Cuba, Belarus, Panama, Canada, United States, Russia, Argentina, and more, in Israel as part of the WJC’s annual National Community Directors’ Forum.

Their visit to the kibbutz marks the first organized solidarity trip to communities in southern Israel since the recent round of terror from Gaza began. As part of the mission, the delegates planted trees to help rejuvenate the agricultural fields destroyed by the burning kites hurled by militants in Gaza.

Residents of Nahal Oz welcomed the Jewish leaders with a tour of the kibbutz and of the nearby border, and described the challenges and dangers of living so close to Gaza. The delegates were invited to stay for dinner, mingling with adults, children, and teenagers, and were treated to a concert by the regional student band.

The delegates were joined at the dinner by Chairman of Sha’ar Hanegev Regional Council Alon Schuster and WJC CEO and Executive Vice President Robert Singer.

“Kites are meant to be a children’s toy, but under the reign of Hamas, they have turned into a destructive weapon. The international community must internalize that this is terror in every sense of the word,” said Singer.

“The WJC is deeply committed to the security of the Jewish people, and sees great importance in exposing the dangers experienced on a daily basis by the residents of southern Israel and showing our solidarity with them in a tangible and lasting way,” he added.

This was the 5th National Community Directors' Forum held at Singer's initiative, taking place for the first time in Israel as part of a series of events organized by the WJC to celebrate the 70th anniversary of the Jewish State.

Over the course of the forum, the delegates held internal discussions and practical sessions on issues including anti-Semitism in sports, fighting the delegitimization of Israel and hatred of Jews on the internet, and the rise of the far right and far left. The delegation also toured an Israel Defense Forces naval base in Haifa, met with representatives of the media in Israel, and will engage in meetings on Wednesday with senior government officials in Jerusalem, concluding with a visit to the Western Wall.

The National Community Directors' Forum is the most senior stage for the top representatives of Jewish communities worldwide to convene to share knowledge and experience, as well as best practices, for successful engagement in both national and international arenas.