Natan Sharansky took the stage at the President’s Conference – he took my heart years ago when the Russians told him to walk straight across the bridge to be released and so, just to show he was his own person, he walked in a zig zag pattern.
I have lived much of my life on the sidelines of Sharansky’s life. When he was imprisoned in the Soviet Union, I was “second in command” of the local chapter of the Student Struggle for Soviet Jewry. Once I stood beside Avital Sharansky as she attended demonstration after demonstration to get her husband released. All she ever wanted, this quiet woman of grace and modesty – was to live a quiet life with her husband, to have children. I was always worried that by the time they released him, if they ever did, it would be too late.
She had two daughters; she is now a grandmother. She lives the life she wanted and I’m so happy for her. As for Natan Sharansky, he is one of these amazingly smart, funny people. You know, the minute he walks on the stage, that you are going to smile, you are going to laugh. The first thing he did was jump up and down a bit to show that the microphone is way up there, and he, being quite short, was down there. They came and they adjusted the microphone. He began to speak, and I began to type. What follows is my best attempt to type live. There are missing sentences, discrepancies – but hopefully, his voice and humor come through.
Natan Sharansky at the President’s Conference – Tomorrow 2013
You know I am not a diplomat. My first association was my childhood memory from the Soviet Union when children were mobilized to front a celebration – but soon found out that it can be a great tool. When I start talking to people about how we are celebrating 90 years of president – people thought, you Google it, we are almost at the top of the world – average life span of 80 years plus in Israel; Russia is 65 years. So if they make aliyah from Russia, the Jewish Agency pays his trip and he gets a bonus of 15 years.
And people look and see Shimon Peres. 75% of Israelis believe that the future of Israel will be better than today; 70% of Americans. If you make aliyah, the Jewish Agency will pay for your trip and you’ll change from a pessimist to an optimist.
And Israel is the startup nation – and then you look at the statistics. If you make aliyah from France and the Jewish Agency will pay for your ticket – and your children will have a better future in technology and advancement. Aliyah is on the rise
33% increase from US
50% from Hungary
And so, we really have to continue to celebrate Shimon’s birthday.
Israel has the lowest level of unemployment of any country in the western world.
Clearly increased antisemitism in the last few years – we are dealing with a lot of security of Jews in Latin American, Europe, and Asia. We must continue to watch 20,000 Jews in Turkey, 12,000 in Iran, 10,000 Jews in Venezuela, 2,500 in Morocco, 200 in Yemen.
But if you ask me, where is the biggest problem you are facing – I answer, in the United States. 41% of Jews live in the United States and we don’t know how many will not be part of our Jewish family tomorrow.
And the biggest Jewish community in the world – 43% in Israel. And we still face the de- legitimization of our state. We know the answer is the strengthening of the bond between the communities.
We need to bring more people to Israel – and Israel to more Jews in the world.
Last point – Tikun Olam – fixing the world – someone once asked him – do you have a Hebrew word for Tikun Olam – we have opened centers in Ethiopia, Mexico, Russia – all to teach about Tikun Olam and the betterment of the local population.
I stopped typing here because my battery went too low. What I can tell you is that Sharansky spoke of the Jewish concept of making the world a better place – tikun olam – and of the many things that Israel does on a regular basis to make that happen.
He’s an amazing speaker – if you ever get the chance to hear him…go…