My first real memories of Israel date to the Six Day War and the shock waves that an imminent threat to Israel’s existence sent throughout the Canadian Jewish community. As I reflect on those tenuous days in 1967, I cannot help but be saddened by the fact that our children have just borne witness to their own generational war in Gaza.
For countless young Jewish Canadians, the connection to Operation Protective Edge is both instant and palpable. Email, Skype, Facebook, and Twitter provide real-time updates and images from friends and family in Israel. That I was able to tweet a photo of my nephew, Yaron, a paratrooper in Gaza, just goes to show how the pen-pal era has been replaced with complex, far-reaching and fast-moving social media communications. Implications for pro-Israel advocates are significant.
Throughout the summer, the Centre for Israel and Jewish Affairs (CIJA) has been extremely active in explaining to our fellow Canadians – via social media and other means – the reasons for Israel’s operation against Hamas. This has entailed activities across the country: engaging traditional media, providing daily written briefings to every MP, mobilizing allies in other faith communities, creating and sharing compelling infographics online, and hosting a parliamentary solidarity mission to Israel – to highlight a few. This is to say nothing of the tremendously successful community rallies held across Canada, particularly a nationally streamed event hosted by the Jewish Federation of Ottawa.
Perhaps most importantly, we have made an effort to engage members of the community to take an active advocacy role during this difficult time. Many have answered their need to take meaningful action through the simple but powerful act of conversing. Our 4 Questions: Speaking with Canadians about Israel campaign may prove a successful model for grassroots mobilization.
By challenging our grassroots to engage four friends in four days while providing clear and reasonable information on the four most difficult questions surrounding the conflict, CIJA tapped into a communal desire to take action. In a matter of days, the campaign earned more than 5,000 “likes” online. This is in addition to the abundance of emails sent to parliamentarians from all parties by Jewish (and non-Jewish) pro-Israel Canadians activated through email action alerts.
It is crucial that we build on this collective momentum in the coming weeks and months. Redeployment of Israeli troops out of Gaza following the destruction of Hamas’ attack tunnels is a source of relief for all with family serving in the IDF or living in southern Israel. De-escalation, however, will not mean an end to advocacy challenges stemming from recent hostilities.
Working with the Jewish Federation of Ottawa and our Federation partners nationally, CIJA will be launching various initiatives to further engage the grassroots in the effort to express solidarity with Israelis and strengthen support for Israel in Canada. Whether your interest is in contacting your local MP, writing a letter to the editor, or BUYcotting Israeli products targeted for boycott, now is the time for action – and I urge you to contact us for more details at email@example.com.
More importantly, and in the spirit of “crowd-sourcing,” I encourage you to let us know if you have an idea for a pro-Israel advocacy initiative to unite the community, inspire grassroots action and build support for the Jewish state among our non-Jewish neighbours. Indeed, the tumultuous events of recent weeks should serve to ignite our passion for Israel and reaffirm the indivisible bond between the Jewish people and the world’s only Jewish state.
Shimon Koffler Fogel is CEO of the Centre for Israel and Jewish Affairs (CIJA), the advocacy agent of the Jewish Federations of Canada.