Israeli firefighters in California in September 2020.
Israeli firefighters in California in September 2020.

Reflecting on a challenging year as Israel turns 73

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Israel celebrates its 73rd birthday on April 14, offering us an opportunity to reflect on this challenging past year and how, despite being physically distant from our loved ones,  it taught us to use innovation, creativity and technology in order to come together.

It has been a difficult time for all of us.

This deadly virus, the sickness, fear and loneliness, has been our shared experience no matter where we live. Israel has suffered more than 6,000 deaths, as well as a significant impact on our economy, the closure of our borders and more. Yet we can be proud of our health care system, which was able to secure vaccines quickly and has already vaccinated most of our population. By leading the fastest vaccination operation in the world, we not only made sure that our population is healthy, we shared our findings with the global community and vaccine companies, inviting them to learn from our experiences for the benefit of all humanity.

Even in the midst of the pandemic, Israel signed major and significant peace accords with the United Arab Emirates, Bahrain, Sudan and Morocco, bringing renewed optimism and hope for regional stability and prosperity.

These accords offer promising prospects for our people, our economy and the entire region. In the past six months, we have witnessed dozens of high-level visits between our nations, as well as increased tourism, conferences and cross-national business promotion.

We at the Israeli Consulate represent Israel in the entire Pacific Northwest region, but we are also part of the Bay Area community.

This past year we continued to connect our two communities through multiple virtual events between Israel and the Bay Area. We feel a strong need to give back, to support and express solidarity with different communities; hence our volunteering and donating to Jewish Family and Children’s Services, Glide Church and the local branch of IsraAid.

As we witnessed the tragic devastation caused by last summer’s wildfires, we also demonstrated our solidarity with and support for the people of California by sending a first-ever delegation of 10 Israeli firefighters, who joined Cal Fire on the front lines for two weeks in September. It was our way of expressing friendship in the purest form and saying once again that Israel literally stands next to the American people as you stand next to us. 

What brings us together are our values and beliefs, our history, our humanism, and our hopes and our dreams for a better world. We fight together for a better future, we fight together against hatred and inequality, we stand together. Our commitment to each other is the essence of our strong people-to-people connection.

As we move slowly out of lockdowns and begin the journey back to normality, we need to learn from this past year while also looking ahead to the tasks of restoring our economies and reconnecting physically, to ensure that our commitment to each other continues.

Among the many things I wish for Israel and the local Jewish community, beyond security and prosperity, is to see the smiling faces of eighth-graders from Jewish schools renewing their annual trips to Israel, experiencing Jerusalem and celebrating Yom HaAtzmaut (Israel Independence Day) while in Israel.

I hope to once again see family trips organized by synagogues, to see Birthright trips resume and, above all, to see families and friends from the U.S. and Israel reuniting again, in person.

The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of J.

Shlomi Kofman
Shlomi Kofman

Shlomi Kofman is the consul general of Israel to San Francisco and the Pacific Northwest.