For those of you still wondering if WIZO is relevant to Israel, I want to report that the Poverty statistics are alarming and no one knows at this stage what the policy of the new government will be. Employment no longer protects citizens from poverty. 1.8 million Israelis are living below the poverty line. Of course the challenges are enormous and no one can predict what will happen next.
Honorary President Helena Glaser reviewed the best and worst of 2012. On the worst list were the world’s economic problems, increasing poverty levels in Israel, security concerns following the Arab spring and the lingering effects of the rocket attacks from Gaza on children in Israel.
On the best side was the efficacy of the Iron Dome defence against the rocket attacks, the rain which has filled the Kinneret and the promise of a new DCC on the campus of the University of Beersheba.
Tova Ben Dov, President of World WIZO thanked the Federations for the quick response to the ‘Emergency Relief Fund’ following the Pillar of Defence Campaign. Families, and in particular children, will be helped psychologically and emotionally to recover from the lingering effects of this difficult time.
Rivka Lazovsky, World WIZO Chairperson gave a detailed survey of WIZO’s activities. She reminded us that Israel is seriously affected by the world‘s economic uncertainties. She recognised the close and valued relationship between World WIZO and the Federations who are WIZO’s best ambassadors She said “There is no ‘we’ and ‘you’. There is just ‘us’.”
She encouraged the Federations to attract new members in the knowledge that Jewish women can find satisfaction, empowerment and self-expression in WIZO, a movement which provides a base for women to grow, make their voices heard and attain leadership positions.
We were addressed by some interesting panels. This included 3 women scientists who spoke to us at the Weizmann Institute. They spoke about the glass ceiling for women in science and how they were breaking that ceiling. One way WIZO is helping is to provide a WIZO DCC on site for students and teachers to know their children are well cared for while they are carrying out their research.
We were also spoken to by a panel affected by violence in the family. It opened with a Druze man talking about the murder of his daughter by her husband; Nati, an abusive man spoke to us about how he went into therapy to stop abusing his wife and Malka, a brave young woman who was abused and raped by her mother’s partner and now is a social worker dealing with abuse cases. She is married with a young son.
We were spoken to by Ambassador Rafael Barak, Director General of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs who spoke about Israel in the international arena. He said with all the upheavals in neighbouring countries, Israel has decided on strategic silence. There is no need to give comment or advice. The world can see for itself what is happening.
Ambassador Arthur Koll, Deputy Director General, Media and Public Affairs Division, Ministry of Foreign Affairs addressed us on WIZO Chaverot as Ambassadors of Israel. He said social media is a great tool and we can all play our part by turning on the computer and using it to support Israel.
Professor Dan Shechtman, 2011 Nobel Prize winner for chemistry spoke on ‘Technical Entrepreneurship, a key to world peace and prosperity’. He said we must develop human ingenuity and that can be done with:
- The provision of good education system and laws to ensure that children attend school;
- Good engineering and science education
- Government support
- Free market economy and
- No corruption
His passion continues to be teaching Entrepreneurship at the Haifa Technion where over 27 years, 10,000 students have graduated from his courses. He has taught them how to create a start-up and during this time Israel has become a ‘start-up nation’.
Professor David Passig, a futurist from Bar Ilan University gave a fascinating address. He studied population growth from 12000 years ago to the present in order to predict what might happen in the future. He said in 2012 there are about 7.2 billion people in the world. By 2050 there will be 9-10 billion people but by the end of the 21st century only 5-6 billion people. What will happen to do this he did not know but he drew his conclusions from studying statistics.
He also said that for every 100 females there are 117 males so for the first time in human history 17% of humanity will not find partners. Repercussions are that governments will be shaken and wars will happen.
The theme of the MOR was:
WIZO in an Era of Change,
We came to WIZO because we care
We discovered our strength and learned to share
The Sky’s our limit because we dare.
This really sums up how and why we do the work we do. It is inspiring to hear about the work being done in the other Federations and I was proud to present some of the things we have been doing. I presented our membership campaign which created great excitement and a number of countries wanted to know about the World‘s Largest Shabbat.
I am proud of the work that we are doing. You need to remember that what you do here is benefitting people in Israel every day. So when you have a little kvetch about putting on another function just remember the reason we are all in this wonderful movement with 250,000 like-minded women around the world. Together we really make a difference.