Photo Credit: Gershon Elinson / Flash 90
Director General of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs Yuval Rotem (in white shirt) touring Efrat.

Dozens of senior representatives from more than 30 countries will gather in Jerusalem next Monday, March 6, through Wednesday, March 8, for a groundbreaking international conference of diaspora affairs officials from around the world, hosted by The Jewish Agency for Israel in partnership with the Knesset and the Israeli Ministry of Foreign Affairs.

Participants in the International Seminar on the Diaspora-Homeland Relationship will include deputy ministers, ministry department heads, ambassadors, and senior parliamentarians, who will visit Jewish Agency programs, interact with Members of Knesset, and attend practical workshops on Israel’s experience in maintaining ties with Jewish communities around the world.

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According to Webster’s dictionary, “until recently diaspora was thought to be a fairly new word in English to describe a very old thing (its first, and principal, meaning relates to the settling of the Jewish people outside of Palestine after the Babylonian exile thousands of years ago). However, recent research has found that the word is quite a bit older than previously thought. It can be found as far back as 1594, in a translation of Lambert Daneau’s A Fruitfull Commentarie vpon the Twelue Small Prophets: ‘This scattering abrode of the Iewes, as it were an heauenly sowing, fell out after their returne from the captiuitie of Babylon … they are called Diaspora, that is, a scattering or sowing abrode.’ Diaspora is descended from the Greek word diaspeirein, meaning ‘to scatter, spread about.’”

Speaker of the Knesset Yuli Edelstein, Chairman of the Executive of The Jewish Agency for Israel Natan Sharansky, and Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs Tzipi Hotovely are all set to address the gathering. Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu will greet the attendees by video. Director General and CEO of The Jewish Agency for Israel Alan Hoffmann and Director General of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs Yuval Rotem will also address the attendees.

Participants will meet with Jewish Agency emissaries dispatched around the world; experience The Jewish Agency’s Partnership2Gether peoplehood platform, which develops relationships between Israeli towns and regions with Jewish communities around the world; and learn about The Jewish Agency’s loan funds, which enable Diaspora Jews to strengthen small businesses in Israel and play an active role in the country’s socioeconomic development. They will also participate in workshops on immersive experiences—like Taglit-Birthright Israel, Masa Israel Journey, and Onward Israel—and leadership development among Diaspora Jews, as well as on financial resource development and language and identity acquisition.

In recent years, many countries have become aware of the importance of their national diasporas and of strengthening ties between members of those diasporas and their homelands. The idea of transforming the national diaspora into an inseparable part of the nation and sometimes into a strategic asset is gradually becoming part of the political consciousness in many countries. Along with the general awareness of the importance in maintaining ties with diaspora communities, questions arise regarding ways in which language and culture can be maintained abroad, young people can be brought to experience their national homeland, and entire communities in the homeland and abroad can be connected through social activities, philanthropy, and financial investments.

The knowledge accumulated in Israel—not only surrounding the idea of the Diaspora as reflected throughout the history of the Jewish people, but also in the practical experience gained by The Jewish Agency in developing frameworks to connect the State of Israel with the Diaspora and strengthening them over the years through programs and tools customized for the circumstances in each community and each period—will provide those in attendance with a model for study. Participants from over thirty countries will participate in practical workshops in which the various representatives will discuss their experience in relevant fields, exchange ideas and information, and draw conclusions relevant to their particular national contexts. These practical discussions, the first of their kind in the field of diaspora relations ever to take place in Israel, will produce practical cooperation between professionals in Israel and their counterparts abroad.

Government officials from the following countries will be participating in the conference: Armenia, Austria, Azerbaijan, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Canada, Croatia, Cyprus, Estonia, Georgia, Greece, Hungary, India, Ireland, Italy, Latvia, Lithuania, Malta, Mexico, Moldova, Myanmar, Nepal, the Philippines, Poland, Portugal, Romania, Russia, Singapore, Slovenia, South Korea, Switzerland, and Vietnam.

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