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May 4, 2018  RSS feed
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Ex-ambassador touts Israel’s strengths at JNF breakfast


The JNF Breakfast for Israel drew about 200 people to the Bryan Glazer Family JCC. The JNF Breakfast for Israel drew about 200 people to the Bryan Glazer Family JCC. Roughly 200 people sat down for the Jewish National Fund (JNF) Breakfast for Israel on Tuesday, May 1, and listened to former Israeli ambassador Danny Ayalon speak about the state of Israel, Iran and why “everything kumbaya” is not an option.

Ayalon was Israel’s ambassador to the U.S. from 2002 to 2006. Before that he was a political advisor to three prime ministers: Ehud Barak, Benjamin Netanyahu, and Ariel Sharon. He continues to work as an Israeli diplomat whose main focus is strengthening the partnership between Israel and the U.S.

He opened his remarks at the breakfast, held at the Bryan Glazer Family JCC in Tampa, with an anecdote:

A long time ago, a man asked another man about the state of the Soviet Union. The man replied, “In one word, good. In two words, not good.”

Former Israeli Ambassador Danny Ayalon spoke to the threat to Israel from Iran. Former Israeli Ambassador Danny Ayalon spoke to the threat to Israel from Iran. “The state of the union of Israel, in one word, is good. In two words, it’s very good,” the former ambassador said.

“From a country that was really just developing 40 or 50 years ago, we’ve done amazingly well. A lot of that is due to the JNF.”

Ayalon credited the JNF for providing a lot of the resources that contribute to a thriving Israel.

The diplomat said the Palestinians were wrong in thinking the Israeli people would come and go like other groups have before. With a population now of 8.9 million and a Gross Domestic Product of $40,000 per capita 40 thousand (compared to $53,000 in the U.S.) and climbing, Israel is becoming a leader in the world economy. He later added that “Israel can be proud of what we’ve achieved and should be optimistic of the future.” Even so, he insisted now was not the time to “rest on our laurels.”

Chair Lynne Merriam addresses the breakfast. Chair Lynne Merriam addresses the breakfast. Iran remains Israels biggest nemesis. Ayalon said Iran has threatened to raze Tel Aviv. Not only is Iran denying the Holocaust, they want to cause another.

“Iran is very much like 1930s Nazis,” he said. “If you recall, the Nazis invaded in a very incremental way. Iran wants to do the same thing. They are already in Iraq. They are already in Lebanon. Syria is the missing link and we must keep them away.”

Ayalon also shared his views on the Iran nuclear deal, which is under review with the current U.S. administration. It’s common knowledge the Iranians wanted to strike a deal in the first place, he said. They were on the verge of financial and political collapse when they negotiated a deal with the U.S., he asserted, adding that the deal gave them an infusion of cash that they then used to sponsor terrorism.“I don’t believe Iran will attack frontally,” Ayalon told the room. “The Iranians are no match for Israel’s capabilities. The best opportunity for them is through terrorism. They have a lot of Hezbollah cells.”

While Iran was negotiating, Israel was acting, preventing Iran’s entrenchment in Syria and thwarting attempts of Iran to get “weapons of mass destruction” to Hezbollah.

Then he told the audience another anecdote to explain his “never relax” worldview.

Henry Kissinger came to the Middle East after 1973 to visit several countries, said the diplomat. His staffers kept his schedule filled at all times, until one day he had a few hours free. The staffers decided to send him to the zoo before his next scheduled event. While there, he came upon a lion and a lamb, playing together in a pen. Kissinger was so impressed with seeing this, he searched for and found the zookeeper to ask how he could make this happen. “I bring the lion a fresh new lamb every day,” said the zookeeper.

Following Ayalon’s talk, JNF Breakfast Chairperson Lynne Merriam spoke before playing a video showing some of the services the JNF provides.

“So many people think JNF is trees,” said Merriam. While Israel is now the only country in the world to have more trees than it did a century ago, the main goal is to “enhance the quality of life for Israelis all around the world.”

Funding from JNF goes to support Israeli firefighters, water conservation efforts and Project Baseball: a program that promotes unity through play between Israeli and Arab children, among other projects. Merriam is particularly involved with the Special in Uniform program that trains and helps special needs adults contribute to the Israeli Defense Force (IDF) and is the only country to do so. Her son, who has cerebral palsy, received an honorary invitation to the IDF.

After the speaking and most of the eating had ended, students from Hillel Academy walked around collecting donations in paper JNF bags. In return, donors received a small blue and white Israeli flag.

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