The Jerusalem Post
UAE minister strengthening academic ties with Israel
In the excitement generated by the official opening last week of the United Arab Emirates Embassy, most media overlooked the presence at the event of UAE Minister for Food and Water Security Mariam Al-Muhairi, who during her visit to Israel met with Hebrew University of Jerusalem representatives, with the aim of promoting a research and innovation partnership based on foodtech and agtech. As part of her visit, Al-Muhairi met with HU VP of strategy and diversity Prof. Mona Khoury-Kassabri; Dean of the Robert H. Smith Faculty of Agriculture, Food and Environment Prof. Benny Chefetz; faculty researchers; and Agricora CEO Moshe Nadler.
This meeting marked the first official visit of a senior UAE government official to an Israeli academic institution since the announcement of normalization of relations between Israel and the UAE as part of the US-brokered Abraham Accords.
Among the topics discussed were plant adaptation to heat and desert-like conditions, intelligent uses of water, and the latest innovations in agriculture. Both Israel and the UAE are keenly interested in finding the most efficient use of their resources and in securing high-quality seed and food production in an age of climate change and global warming.
Al-Muhairi, accompanied by UAE Ambassador Mohamed Al Khaja also visited Ben-Gurion University of the Negev for the opening of the Moshe Mirilashvili Center for Food Security in the Desert. She said the center is “a significant step forward in enhancing water security in arid and semi-arid regions, with its focus on exploring new ways to conserve water, to treat and recycle gray water, and to deliver supplies to the population sustainably. The UAE has made considerable efforts to enhance its own integrated water resources management, with solar-powered desalination one area where we have made huge advances,” she commented, adding that the UAE looks forward to being able to share its knowledge in this and other areas with BGU’s Moshe Mirilashvili Center for Food Security in the Desert and to develop a reciprocal expertise exchange partnership that can help both countries enjoy a water-secure future.
Al Khaja talked about peace and working together to pave a new path for the people and youth of the region, while Dr. Michael Mirilashvili stressed the urgency of the
tasks at hand.
“This more than a donation,” he said. “We will create technologies that will make the world a better place.”
■ AFTER EXPERIENCING a traumatic period in Miami while trying to bring comfort to the Jewish community that was reeling from the shock of losing friends and loved ones in the disastrous Surfside condominium collapse, Diaspora Affairs Minister Nachman Shai turned his attention to less emotional issues in a Zoom conference with Zionist Federation of Australia president Jeremy Leibler, CEO Ginette Searle and Israel Office director Moriah Ben David.
Leibler and Searle would have loved to make it an in-person meeting, but they are still bound by Australia’s COVID-19-related restrictions on round-trip flights out of the country. However, in some cases, people coming on aliyah are permitted to fly out, as happened with Adina Bankier-Karp, her husband, Danny, and their children, Yonatan and Yehuda, who arrived in Israel this month from Melbourne. Before they left Australia, Searle presented them with a mezuzah for their new home.
Australian Jewry has a reputation for being passionately Zionist, a factor about which Shai, who has had quite a long relationship with the Australian Jewish community, is well aware.
In discussing the diverse makeup of Israel’s new government, Shai noted its commitment to representing all Israelis and to healing rifts with Diaspora Jewry.
With the historic coalition including the Arab Israeli Ra’am Party, Shai noted there is
optimism that Israel will do better for the Israeli Arab sector, which currently comprises 20% of the population.
Leibler told Shai, “The former government’s failure to deliver on its promise to establish a meaningful egalitarian prayer space at the Kotel [Western Wall] has caused significant frustration and disappointment within the Australian Jewish community.” He expressed hope that the new government will seek to address this issue as a matter of urgency.
Searle said afterward that Shai “was keen to hear of our particular current challenge, to foster a sustained connection to Israel whilst being unable to visit. This is core to us as it is for the minister, and we look forward to collaborating with him and his department in the future to strengthen the bonds at various levels.”
Shai will have further cause for contacts with down-under Jewry on July 27, when he addresses a meeting of the ZFA executive and participates in the ensuing substantive discussion on the Israel-Diaspora relationship.
■ TWO AUSTRALIANS living in Israel who are active in Zionist enterprises are organizing an Australian get-together for Jerusalem-based Australians living in Israel. The initiative, under the title of “Jerusalem-Aussie Catch-Up” comes from Rachel Risby Raz and Andy Michelson. The date is Wednesday, July 21, at 8 p.m. at the outdoor HaButke Beer Bar at Jerusalem’s First Station. Aussies living outside of Jerusalem, and even as far away as Australia, have indicated that they would like to come. For some, it’s a little too difficult, but for those living no
further than Tel Aviv and surrounds, it’s barely an hour’s drive, and less if they live in Modi’in, which is home to many Australian expats, as well as other Anglos.
■ JUST OVER a week after his farewell from the Jewish Agency where he served as chairman for three years, President Isaac Herzog was back. Well, not exactly, but his first visit to a facility for senior citizens was to the newly completed Joseph Wilf Senior Citizens’ House in Tel Aviv, which is part of the Jewish Agency’s Amigour Public Housing program. The 290-unit apartment complex houses senior citizens, including Holocaust survivors and new immigrants. This is the first completed project in a national initiative between the government of Israel and the Jewish Agency for the construction of 2,650 housing units across the country on land belonging to the Jewish Agency, with world Jewry supporting this humanitarian effort.
Herzog was heavily involved with this project while he was chairman of the executive of the Jewish Agency. At the unveiling of a donors’ placard in the lobby of the building, Herzog thanked Jewish Federations of North America Board of Trustees chairman Mark Wilf, his wife, Jane, and their extended family for their substantial contributions to the project named in memory of Wilf’s father, Joseph Wilf, a Holocaust survivor and prominent leader of his local Jewish community in New Jersey. Members of the Wilf family have been exceedingly generous in donating to diverse projects in Israel.
“I am very moved to be standing here as president of Israel,” said Herzog. “This is my first visit to an Amigour senior citizens’ home as president, and I intend to promote the interests of these vulnerable populations in Israel from the President’s Residence. This is a special project that I personally oversaw as chairman of The Jewish Agency, which assists the elderly in need who otherwise would not be able to afford to live with dignity.”
Mark Wilf responded that when he first heard about the project, he knew it would be a fitting tribute to his father, who cared so deeply about Israel and its people, and set an indelible example with his drive to keep on doing more to help build the Jewish state.
“It is difficult for me to overstate how proud my family and I am of this center, and how proud my beloved father would have been to see it,” he said.
“It is a moral and national imperative to take care of the elderly population in Israel,” declared Construction and Housing Minister Ze’ev Elkin. “This project provides an immediate solution for our senior citizens who have yearned for public housing for many years. ‘Honor your mother and father’ is not just one of the Ten Commandments; it’s a way of life. Integrating the older generations into the general population elevates the standard of living in the country as a whole and promotes the idea that the elderly community living in dignity is simply a part of the social fabric in Israel.”
■ THE CASE of Roman Zadorov, convicted of killing Tair Rada in a bathroom at her school in Katzrin in December 2006, just refuses to go away. Despite the absence of proof beyond a reasonable doubt that Zadarov was not the perpetrator, or statements in his favor by forensic experts, the Nazareth District Court failed to be convinced, and in September 2010, Zadorov was convicted by a three-judge panel. His appeals since then have been denied, although there have been splits in judicial decisions. Now, it seems, his case is to be tried yet again. Tair Rada’s mother believes Zadorov to be innocent. So do various forensic and legal experts.
Some legal experts interviewed on radio have said – on the presumption that he is innocent – that Zadorov is not the only innocent person languishing in an Israeli jail. Some have said that being arrested for being in the wrong place at the wrong time is so traumatic that many innocent people will sign any confession the police put before them. If this is indeed the case, perhaps the Knesset should establish a special committee to investigate wrongful arrest and incarceration of the innocent.