“We are a people with a history, a present and a future, and we’re all partners in this,” said Israel Consul General David Siegel, who spoke to more than 100 people at Chabad of North Orange County in May. “Will we solve all the problems at UCI? No, but in discussing shared agreements, we realize the power of the approach, which is about academia, not politics.”
Siegel, whose office in Los Angeles, covers seven states in the southwest US, added that the Navajo nation will be signing a contract with Israel about agriculture. “It’s not just PR, but it’s connecting Israel very deeply to Americans,” he said.
In a program co-sponsored by the synagogue and Jewish Federation & Family Services and presented by the Rose Project, Siegel said that he took the governor of Utah to Israel with 40 other people from that state. Among other things, the delegation went to Yad Vashem. “It’s even more powerful when non-Jews ask how such evil could take place,” Siegel commented.
The group also went to the Weizmann Institute to see what it means to handle the challenges of energy, food and climate. “There these people could see the future and the past juxtaposed. My job is to work with local communities about understanding what is important to Jewish continuity,” Siegel explained.
He also talked about the challenges, adding that “whatever you think is bad about the Middle East is probably worse. In Syria there’s sectarian butchery. They’re bleeding themselves to death. There’s been no school for 2 years. Jordan, which has been a strategic partner of Israel, is absorbed a half million refugees.”
Israel, he said, is tiny. It was only 8 miles wide before 1967. Today that small country is increasingly challenged by the problems of its neighbors. There is the Palestinian problem, ongoing rocket battles between Syria and Lebanon, the incredibly complex issues of Syria, Egypt being a country of 90 million that can’t feed itself, Iran transferring weapons to Hezbollah and Iran attaining nuclear weapons and trying to attack the US in 30 countries.
“Middle Eastern crises are affecting 300 million people, and the Jewish mind is at work, addressing all of these threats,” Siegel said. “Israel is one of the safest nations on earth in spite of these threats.”
He added that “anywhere you look in the US, you find the Israeli imprint. When the Boston Marathon tragedy took place, Massachusetts General Hospital was able to save as many people as it did because of training by Israelis. Israeli technology was also responsible for catching the bombers so quickly.”
There are more Israeli academics in the US than any other country, according to Siegel. Israel, he said is a “global hub of innovation,”with Intel being responsible for 20 percent of Israel’s exports. There are 250 R&D centers in Israel, startups being fostered all the time and an incredible connection between the US and Israel. One hundred of the Fortune 500 companies have technology centers in Israel.
Siegel wants people to “take ownership,” forge their own connections to Israel and let other people know that it is the most humanitarian country in the world. He believes that Israel has no ally like the US, although it has technology partnerships all over the world.
“I’m bullish about Israel,” he concluded. “There’s such a sense of rootedness, such a sense of home and caring for one another. It’s an incredibly patriotic place with happy, deeply spiritual people who care about improving the world and who create one million new Jews every seven years. It’s a complex, nuanced, powerful place.”