Sara Friedman, Chief Marketing Officer of the World Jewish Congress, working in close collaboration with Lawyers for Israel and Stand with Humanity, organized an International Lawyers' Solidarity Mission to Israel.
The trip convened 30 leading legal professionals from diverse jurisdictions worldwide, including partners, managing directors, prospective judges, and in-house counsel at prominent technology corporations and global firms, such as White & Case, Gibson Dunn, Greenberg Traurig, McDermott, Will & Emery, WilmerHale.
Sara spoke to Arutz Sheva - Israel National News on the purpose of this special mission: “We are about 30 international lawyers from countries like the US, UK, Portugal, Switzerland, and Amsterdam. We came here to bear witness, support our brothers and sisters here in Israel, and show solidarity. But we also came to learn the facts on the ground, to learn the stats, to learn what Israel is facing now in the Hague.”
Sara explains that this mission is not just about solidarity, love, and togetherness. “These are lawyers, and they could be emissaries in a different way because they are the ambassadors that go back and fight in the court of public opinion. They have to work with their firms, not in official capacities, but even over the water cooler. People are learning facts in the news that is not necessarily accurate and they come in and they ask questions and these lawyers wanted to be here and to show them that this is what they've seen firsthand and this is what Israel is facing.”
Sara recounts: “We visited the demolished kibbutzim. The reactions are just heartbreaking. I mean there are no real words to describe it; to sit through this, to speak with the families, and to see firsthand how things were demolished, destroyed, and burnt. It is just crushing and the fact that we have to justify and say that this actually happened, that in itself brings out a reaction.”
She clarifies that “in terms of this war of lies, of information, if you're abroad, outside of Israel, it's a daily battle. It's going into war every day, anywhere you go, you're justifying. You have to validate the 1,200 people who were murdered, that we have hostages, that women were raped, and babies were burnt, and these are conversations you have over and over. It's mind-blowing that we have to have these conversations.”
Sara mentioned another very interesting and important group of change-makers and influencers who came to Israel at the beginning of November to see how they could help. “The mission of the World Jewish Congress is the diplomatic arm of the Jewish people. We connect and protect over 102 communities globally and in the diplomatic sphere advocating to their governments. But we felt that it was important to bring people that have broader voices, voices that are not normally heard in the pro-Israel media or pro-Israel advocacy. So, we brought a group of 14 people from seven different countries, speaking various languages. We were on the ground early on, when things were raw and just emotionally destroying. I mean I have no real words to say what we experienced at that time, but we brought them here. Each one came, did media interviews, showed the footage of what they had seen in various platforms and in different languages around the world.”
Sara describes the “feeling of intense sadness, intense heartbreak, very strangely and I felt this myself also, a feeling of hope and strength. You know seeing everything that had happened, but also knowing how Israel and the Jewish people are resilient and that we have had so many tragedies and so many terrible things happen, but every time we come back, and we build back stronger. We get knocked down again, but we build back again. We don't lose hope. We keep going and somehow in a weird way, even in the kibbutzim, there's a little bit of hope of what will happen. People do want to go back, they will be back and we will find a way to memorialize this. We do have to remember that we can't forget what people have gone through, but there will be a way to do it. I don't know how, but there'll be a way to memorialize and to build back stronger.”
She adds, “As the World Jewish Congress, working with communities around the world, we have to deal with the big challenge, the rise of antisemitism. On October 7, I was here in Israel, I was celebrating the birth of my granddaughter, my daughter was here, my family was here and the reason I'm saying this is because in the chaotic-ness of everything going on and the immediate fear, our management team jumped on a call all together and I was in a synagogue, so I ran into a closet because I was trying to be respectful. We had a call and immediately we said this was beyond tragedy, and not even understand on October 7 what had happened. But, we knew, seeing the trend beforehand that this was an attack on the Jewish people. We had about three to four days before the rise of antisemitism bubbled over. You had seen it coming, but now the lid was off, and no holds barred. It’s terrifying, I mean the communities are terrified. I'm an American, lived here in Israel for a while, still back and forth, but just I've never had such a sense of fear. I've never had a reason to turn my Magen David [star of David necklace] around. I've never had a fear of going into a synagogue.”
Sara concludes, “We’re working with the communities around the world, to closely monitor, understand and advocate on their behalf with the various governments. The governments understand that there's a real problem. I’m not sure how many are doing more or less, but there's definitely an understanding. I mean the rise of anti-Semitism all over the world has exploded or gone up, but you know a lot more in the US. There's a lot of work to do; college campuses are rampant with antisemitism again. What was always there on the surface and what had been boiling, is now bubbled over and we're working very closely with college students with community leaders, and activists, everyone we can help to have a global Jewish voice.”