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Press Release – 27 February 2008

First SZCV Executive meeting for 2008 features special Israel 60 interactive workshop and farewells record number of Australian Olim, among them our own Aliyah chair

To kick off its first Executive meeting for 2008, the State Zionist Council of Victoria presented an interactive and challenging workshop via video conference with Eitan Eliram, who heads the Israel at 60 activities for the Jewish Agency.

Eliram, who is currently overseeing at least a dozen educational initiatives that feature on the Jewish Agency website told the SZCV Executive that
essentially, “there is no difference between Israel at 59 or 60” but that the 60th presented a “definite opportunity to engage in some extra special activities.”

One of those activities is the Jewish Agency’s contract with a major Israeli production company and more than 300 artists including singers, chefs and fashion designers,
who can either visit a community for an event or do an interactive event via video conference.

Another is “Shabbat Am HaYehudi” – the Jewish Peoplehood Shabbaton, designated for May 3rd, the Shabbat between Yom Hashoah and Yom Ha’atzmaut, when Israel 60 will be celebrated by all Jewish Kehilot worldwide.

(Eitan Eliram, Director Israel at 60 the Jewish Agency, by video conference)

Eliram was quick to point out that the Jewish Agency is not alone in initiating celebrations on a mass scale. Amongst the official events slated to take place are an address by Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert to Diaspora communities worldwide and a special meeting in the Knesset to salute Jewish communities worldwide.

The interactive aspect of the video conference took an interesting turn with a discussion of “Israel Celebrates 60” posters specifically commissioned by the Jewish Agency for the milestone. Rather than the traditional, unambiguous images of Israeli tourist sites, the posters each feature a Magen David made up of items that trigger debate: empty, plastic bottles; Israeli money; bumper stickers and sabras.

Executive members were enthusiastic in their agreement that all the posters were an effective springboard for discussion about Israel’s future beyond the 60th and Eitan Eliram has invited any organisation interested in conducting an educational session around the 4 posters to contact his department at The SZCV also has sets of posters for organisations to borrow, and can also arrange for facilitators to assist in program delivery.

(One of the “Israel Celebrates 60” that triggered discussion about polarisation and political debate in Israel)

The meeting then turned to the celebration of farewelling local community members who will soon be making their new home in Israel. Director of Aliyah Avigail Zeiri reported that the number of Olim from Australia is steadily increasing. 130 Australians made Aliyah in 2007 and this number looks set to be surpassed in 2008, with 66 Australians already in Israel or scheduled to make Aliyah by the end of March. This includes 27 Olim just from Melbourne.

This month, we farewell David Walles, the SZCV’s Aliyah chairperson, his wife Chana and his four children. Atida, the latest edition to the Walles family, is probably the youngest community member to make Aliyah at just 6 weeks old.

The other Olim who were presented with Aliyah Mezzuzot were Tal Brown and Debbie Michmacher, both young professionals, who both said that recent trips to Israel had drawn them back to the country with the aim to make a permanent life there.

RIGHT: Farewelling the Walles family: (from left to right) Chana, SZC Aliyah chairperson David, Netanel, Ariel, Yona and 6-week old Atida Walles with Director of Aliyah Avigail Zeiri and SZCV President Dr Danny Lamm

LEFT: Debbie Michmacher (second from left) embraces Director of Aliyah Avigail Zeiri after receiving her Mezzuzah, while SZCV President Dr Danny Lamm (left) and SZCV Treasurer, Robert Lissauer look on

For more information contact:
SZCV Executive Director, Ginette Searle 9272-5544
SZCV Director OF Public Affairs, Elly Shalev 9272-5519