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Government launching ‘Diaspora Week’ to highlight links with Jews abroad

Museums to offer free tours, schools and IDF units to focus on Jewish peoplehood next week, in the largest yet celebration of the event, Diaspora Affairs Ministry says

Judah Ari Gross is The Times of Israel's religions and Diaspora affairs correspondent.

Participants in the first post-COVID Birthright Israel trip, after landing in Israel after a year-long hiatus for the organization, on May 24, 2021. (Erez Uzir/Courtesy)
Illustrative. Participants in the first post-COVID Birthright Israel trip, after landing in Israel after a year-long hiatus for the organization, on May 24, 2021. (Erez Uzir/Courtesy)

A government initiative slated for next week will highlight Israel’s connection to Jewish communities abroad, with educational and social programs aimed at strengthening those ties, the Diaspora Affairs Ministry announced Tuesday.

“Diaspora Week” will kick off Sunday, with programs planned for museums, schools, and elsewhere.

“World Jewry is our flesh and blood. Today more than ever we can see how important this connection is, as well as the critical need for mutual support among the two parts of the Jewish people,” Diaspora Affairs Minister Nachman Shai said in a statement.

This is not the first time that the Israeli government has held a “Diaspora Week,” though the 2022 edition is being billed as the largest such event.

During the course of the week, the ANU Museum of the Jewish People in Tel Aviv — once known as Beit Hatfutsot — will be open to the public free of charge, along with the Herzl Museum in Jerusalem.

Yad Izhak Ben-Zvi, a memorial to Israel’s second president devoted to research on Jewish Diaspora communities, will hold a number of walking tours around Jerusalem about the role of Jews from overseas in the city’s history.

The Diaspora Affairs Ministry is also working with the Education Ministry to hold a number of events in Israeli schools and educational programs and with the Israel Defense Forces.

As part of the weeklong event, 500 recent high school graduates from Israel will go on a hike with 500 Jewish teenagers from abroad along the Israel National Trail to “get to know each other better and understand each other’s mutual backgrounds,” the ministry said.

Young Jews from abroad who are currently visiting Israel will visit IDF bases to meet with soldiers. Foreign-born IDF soldiers will also speak to their units about their lives overseas. A similar program will be held for women performing civil national service, the ministry said.

Diaspora Affairs Minister Nachman Shai speaks at the Israeli American Council’s national summit, on December 11, 2021. (Noam Galai)

The initiative will launch on Sunday with an event at the President’s Residence, attended by President Isaac Herzog, Diaspora Affairs Minister Shai, and Jewish leaders from around the world, who will discuss Israel’s relationships with Jewish communities abroad.

“We need to underline the importance of these ties the whole year round and celebrate them during Diaspora Week. The events this year are truly a celebration and so I invite everyone to take part and take the opportunity to get to know our brothers and sisters in the Diaspora,” Shai said in a statement.

On Monday, the ministry will also hold a large gala at the International Convention Center in Jerusalem, which will be hosted by Israeli producer and activist Noa Tishbi, with musical performances by the Tikva Shesh band, Esther Rada, and Idan Yaniv.

The director-general of the Diaspora Affairs Ministry, Tziona Koenig-Yair, noted that the event this year is happening at a time when Israel is acutely aware of its connection and commitments to Jews abroad due to the war in Ukraine.

Jewish immigrants fleeing from war zones in Ukraine arrive at the Israeli immigration and absorption office, at the Ben Gurion airport near Tel Aviv, on March 15, 2022. (Tomer Neuberg/Flash90)

“Diaspora Week this year is taking place in the shadow of a harsh and complex war. Ukrainian Jewry is experiencing upheaval, while Jews from around the world are taking up the challenge to assist tens of thousands of Jews who are in need of help,” Koenig-Yair said.

“For Diaspora Week this year we want to emphasize and show appreciation for this special relationship within the Jewish people, a connection which crosses continents and which underlines the fact that the Jewish people is stronger than ever and is able to assist its brothers and sisters at any time and in any place, in times of crisis and in more routine times as well,” she said.

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