Huntsville, AL — The Alabama-Israel Task Force (AITF) held an “Alabama Celebrates Israel” statewide celebration to mark seventy years of friendship and support by the state of Alabama for the Jewish state of Israel. During the festive evening filled with dance, song, and speeches in honor of Israel, the AITF announced it will create an “Emergency Preparedness and Disaster Response Center” in Sderot, Israel.
The historical ties between Alabama and Israel dates back to 1943, when the Alabama legislature passed a unanimous joint resolution during World War II, calling for the establishment of the Jewish state and Jewish homeland, five years ahead of the formation of the state of Israel. Over the years, and ever since, the people of Alabama have publicly supported Israel through resolutions, proclamations, establishing sister-cities between the two, and most recently, declaring a “Stand with Israel Day.”
Similar to Alabama, which has suffered hurricanes and tornadoes that demolished homes and ravaged communities, the Sderot community in Israel is under continuous bombardment by rockets and missiles fired from Gaza which destroy Sderot resident’s homes and any semblance of normal everyday living. Sderot residents have less than sixty seconds to find safe shelter when the warning siren of an incoming missile goes off, and more than 12,000 missiles have been fired since 2001. Thus, the “Emergency Preparedness and Disaster Response Center,” in Sderot will be a joint effort between Alabama civil emergency management leaders and young Israeli leaders, to train and share emergency management tactics.
The AITF was co-founded by Eeki (Itshak) Elner, Special Envoy for Israel’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs and the founder and director of the “Israel Leadership Institute” (ILI) in Sderot, Israel, John Buhler, founder of “Christian Advocates for Israel”, and Laura King, former president of the Jewish Federations of North Alabama. One year after Elner moved to Sderot to establish ILI, a rocket landed in his living room where he had been standing only a minute before. Regardless, Elner is resolute on remaining on the frontlines in Sderot and continuing his mission there.
The statewide AITF celebration had Huntsville children performing dance and songs about peace in Jerusalem for several hundred, and there was a pop-up shop with “made in Israel” products for sale. Israeli dignitaries, including, Ambassador Danny Ayalon and the Director of the Hasbara organization “The Truth about Israel,” MK Home Front Defense Minister Gilad Erdan, MK and former Shin Bet Deputy Director Israel Hason, and MK Silvan Shalom, all offered greetings.
Yet, despite the support by Alabama elected officials, which included greetings from Alabama Governor Robert Bentley, U.S. Congressman Mo Brooks, Huntsville Mayor Tommy Battle, and a keynote address from Alabama Lt. Gov. Kay Ivey who presides over the same legislative body that issued the 1943 resolution supporting a Jewish homeland in Israel, not all Alabama residents are in favor of this alliance.
A few days prior to AITF’s statewide celebration, the “North Alabama Peace Network” invited Josh Reubner who was promoting the BDS – Boycott, Divest, Sanctions movement as a means to delegitimize Israel, as well as plug his new book, to speak at the Huntsville mosque. Reubner is a dual American/Israeli citizen, as he is the son of a Jewish father who was born in what is now Israel.
Laura King thought little of the Reubner gathering and doubts the BDS movement will take root, saying, “Fortunately our local Islamic community knows when they are being patronized.” As for partnering with the Christian community to support Israel, she says the Jewish community needs defenders in all communities, “We, as a small community, need friends if we are going to attempt to surmount the current wave of anti-Semitism disguised as anti-Israel. This thinly veiled attempt at disguising the true hate, needs defenders from all communities. Our partners reach many people and are influential in politics and other important positions in our community including of course religious institutions.”
For more information or to sign the Declaration of Reaffirmation of the Historic 1943 Resolution and Renewed Commitment in Our Generation visit www.AITF-Web.org.
The video, below, was screened during AITF’s Alabama Celebrates Israel.
“Sweet Home Jerusalem,” by Rabbi Lazer Brody, is sung to the tune of “Sweet Home Alabama.”