11 July 2016
Seven State Labor MPs attended the Zionism Victoria Executive Meeting on Tuesday night to share their impressions of Israel after recently returning from the AIJAC (Australia/Israel & Jewish Affairs Council) Israel Fellowship Program. Each of the MPs, most on their inaugural visit to Israel, spoke warmly about Israel and its people and reflected on the diverse range of experiences that they shared during their whirlwind visit.
The high level of innovation that was evident across the country in all fields was highlighted by a number of the MPs. Ms. Vicki Ward MP, Member for Eltham, admired the “lack of fear of failure as so wonderful and positive”. Mr. Paul Edbrooke MP, Member for Frankston, wondered aloud “how do we get that type on innovation and thinking here in Australia?” Unfortunately, he was unable to offer a solution!
More than one MP called the trip ‘life-changing’. For Mr. Edbrooke, it was meeting “a new personal hero” in Dr Michael Harari, an ex-Melbourne paediatrician who is working in the field of Paediatric Trauma at Ziv Hospital in Zfat and who shared with the delegation the Israeli involvement in saving the lives of Syrians.
The delegation found themselves touring the Magen David Adom (MDA) headquarters in Jerusalem when news of the Jerusalem bus bombing, resulting in a situation with mass casualties, was relayed to the MDA control room. This was clearly a sobering experience which Mr Don Nardella MP, Member for Melton, noted brought home the extreme danger that Israeli citizens face daily as they go about life.
Despite witnessing first-hand the impact of a terrorist attack, Mr Nardella MP, reflected how the whole delegation was caught up in the “vitality and celebration of life” that so accurately depicts the Israeli.
A “highlight/lowlight” of the visit of Mr Nick Staikos MP, Member for Bentleigh was his visit to Sderot and seeing bomb shelters in each of the playgrounds and understanding the danger that the citizens of Sderot live with on a daily basis. As the elected member for the Victorian-electorate with the highest number of Jewish residents, Mr Staikos stated that “the Jewish community will always have my support when it comes to protecting itself in Israel, but also here in Australia when we are celebrating the vibrant Jewish culture”.
As the newly appointed ambassador for the forthcoming Victorian Heart Hospital located at Monash University, Mr Staikos was impressed by Hadassah Hospital and its’ “fantastic model when it comes to innovation; the way that it partners with start-ups” and then commercialises research and ideas. Mr Staikos is keen to establish a partnership with Hadassah and learn from their proven model.
The Hon Marsha Thomson MP, who organised the tour to Israel as co-convener of the Parliamentary Friends of Israel, emphasised how important it is to share the stories beyond the geopolitical story, “this is the crucial thing to do, share the stories about Israel’s people who add to the value of the people on this planet”.
President of Zionism Victoria, Mrs Sharene Hambur, on thanking the MPs for sharing with us their impressions, agreed with the Hon Marsha Thomson MP, “the task of Zionism Victoria is to bring all the stories, not just the geopolitical, but the good news stories to the public, and we have readily accepted this task”.
The MPs clearly enjoyed their time in Israel, with several of them ending their speeches with not-too-subtle hints towards the Hon Marsha Thomson MP, about repeating the trip!