ECI co-hosts first ever Tashlich ceremony at the UN

ECI co-hosts first ever Tashlich ceremony at the UN  - Time to honour the Jewish people and their culture

New York, September 22, 2015 - UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, together with other top UN officials and senior diplomats from some 50 nations, have gathered at the UN Rose garden in New York to celebrate the Jewish New Year Rosh Hashana and prepare for the Jewish holiday of Yom Kippur.  The unique event was hosted by the Israeli Mission to the UN and the Forum for Cultural Diplomacy, which is a European Coalition for Israel initiative to the UN.

In accordance with the ancient Jewish custom of Tashlich, invited guests, led by Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon threw breadcrumbs into the East River, as a symbol of the tossing away of one’s sin in order to start the new year on a clean slate. The event was the first of its kind to be held at the UN and it took place only two days before Yom Kippur and at the beginning of the 70th session of the UN General Assembly.

Senior Rabbi Arthur Schneier of the Park East Synagogue, who led the religious ceremony, saw the event as an answer to many years of prayer as the UN officially acknowledged the importance of Yom Kippur as the holiest day in the Jewish calendar and its universal relevance to the UN institutions.

ECI director for UN Affairs, Gregory Lafitte reminded the audience of the centrality of Jewish thinking in the creation of the UN and its vision of world peace which is visibly displayed on the so-called Isaiah wall across from the UN headquarters in New York. The monument records the famous verse from the book of Isaiah, chapter 2, which talks about a time when “swords will be turned into ploughshares.” Speaking about the rise of anti-Semitism in Europe, he said, “Tolerance is not the answer. It is not merely enough to ‘tolerate’ the Jewish people but we need to honour and celebrate their culture and many contributions to mankind.” Lafitte ended his speech by offering the prayer of Avinu Malkeinu, which is traditionally sung on each of the first days of the year leading to Yom Kippur.

Outgoing Permanent Representative of Israel to the UN, Ambassador Ron Prosor, expressed, in one of his last speeches at the UN, his genuine desire to see the UN achieve its goal to become a temple of peace and a bastion of freedom by the casting away of hatred and apathy in order to make the world a better place.

The official speeches were followed by a unique ceremony of Tashlich where UN officials and diplomats, led by Rabbi Schneier and Secretary-General Bank Ki-moon tossed breadcrumbs in to the East river, as a symbol casting away our sins.

Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon was duly honoured by the organisers for having recognized the importance of Yom Kippur and for having personally attended this first ever Tashlich ceremony, which is traditionally held in connection with the Jewish New Year, Rosh Hashana, which this year fell on September 14.

The evening was part of a campaign to make Yom Kippur a UN holiday which has gained the support of over 60 nations. This year, there will be no UN activities on the day of Yom Kippur, which falls on Wednesday 23 September, one day before the Muslim holiday of Eid al Adha which already is a UN holiday.

The European Coalition for Israel has been campaigning for UN recognition of Yom Kippur for the last two years. In a statement on Tuesday, Israeli Deputy Permanent Representative to the UN, Ambassador David Roet thanked ECI for its support for these efforts throughout the years.

The evening was led by ECI founding director Tomas Sandell and Rabbi Arthur Schneier. In his closing remarks Sandell noted that “the message of Yom Kippur, forgiveness and reconciliation, are values that we must continue to build on - as friends of the Jewish culture.”

(In the picture, from left to right: Rabbi Arthur Schneier, UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon, Permanent Representative of Israel to the UN, Ambassador Ron Prosor, ECI director for UN Affairs, Gregory Lafitte and ECI Founding Director Tomas Sandell.)



Happy New Year!

Sunday evening 13th September marked the Jewish New Year - Rosh Hashana. The period following Rosh Hashana is called the “Days of Awe” (or days of repentance), and leads up to the holiest day in the Jewish calendar, Yom Kippur, the Day of Atonement. This year Yom Kippur starts on the evening of 22nd September. Yom Kippur has been in the focus of the work of ECI for many years as we have actively campaigned to get UN recognition of this important holiday. Our work has not been in vain. This year there will finally be no UN activities on Yom Kippur!

The month of September is important for ECI also for another reason. It was in September 2001 that the ECI vision and mission was born and presented for the first time. This was also the time of the UN World Conference against Racism in Durban, South Africa, which according to many observers unleashed the worst wave of anti-Semitism since the Holocaust. One and a half years later, in March 2003, ECI was legally formed in Brussels on the day of Purim, “for such a time as this”.

We believe the timing of these important events is not a mere coincidence but an illustration of God’s appointed times - for Jews and Gentiles. Thank you for standing faithfully with ECI during these years and for your continuous support as we press forward in our support for Israel at the EU and the UN. The recognition of Yom Kippur as a day when there will be no UN activities is a sign of encouragement. Together we can do more.

Please consider a generous donation as we prepare to travel to New York for the 70th session of the UN General Assembly, which begins this week on 15th September.

Change of guard as ECI elects new chairman

Jerusalem - During the short history of ECI there have been only three chairmen of the board; Willem Glashouwer, Helmut Specht and Harald Eckert. On Thursday 3rd September, ECI elected J. Rudolf Geigy from Basel, Switzerland, as the new chairman.

Rudolf Geigy has been active in ECI for the last five years and before that he was involved for many years in other Israel related initiatives. At the same meeting Tor Gull was elected as a new board member. Gull is a native Finn with a long career in banking and development aid. The appointment of Geigy and Gull will strengthen the board, along with Harald Eckert, Antti Hamalainen, Bedros Nassanian and Rick Ridings.
ECI wishes to thank Harald Eckert for his term as chairman and welcomes the new board members.

(In the picture, from left to right: Tomas Sandell, Perrine Dufoix, Ambassador Gideon Behar, Rudolf Geigy and Gregory Lafitte in Jerusalem.)

European Parliament wishes Israel Happy New Year - with new sanctions on Israeli goods

Brussels - The European Parliament has voted to label Israeli goods produced in the disputed territories. According to Israeli Deputy Foreign Minister Tzipi Hotovely, “labelling of products amounts to boycotts and echoes the labelling of Jewish goods in Germany in the 1930’s.”

Only 70 members out of the 751 strong European Parliament voted against the resolution while another 31 abstained. The vote came just a few days before the eve of the Jewish New Year and was a stark reminder of the growing hostility towards Israel during a time when the European Union faces an unprecedented migration crisis due to the turmoil in Syria and the rise of radical Islam in the Middle East. But whereas the EP remains obsessed with the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, it is helpless when it comes to solving the real problems in the region. It is estimated that the war in Syria has already caused over 200,000 deaths and some 4 million refugees are displaced outside of its borders.

While whole villages and regions in Syria and Iraq have been ethnically cleansed by the Islamic State, the European Parliament has been slow in reacting. In an effort to cover up its disastrous Middle East policy, the EP instead turns against Israel, the only democracy in the region.

In his inaugural speech at the ECI co-hosted Holocaust Remembrance day event in the European Parliament in January 2012, EP President Martin Schulz stated that his most important role as new President of the European Parliament would be to “stand up for the Jewish people and the state of Israel”. His track record of the last few years does not support this pledge.

In a separate message on Thursday, European Commission First Vice-President Frans Timmermans expressed his best wishes for the Jewish New Year by stating that the European Commission takes the concerns of the Jewish people very seriously.

But the same Timmermans has been a champion of boycotts and sanctions of Israeli goods while serving as Foreign Minister in the Netherlands and is part of a European Commission that even now plans new measures against Israel.

In a press release issued on the occasion of the Jewish New Year, ECI points out that “Israel is a solution to the problems in the Middle East, not the problem.” The press release has been sent to the President of the European Parliament as well as to the First Vice-President of the European Commission.

At a government meeting in Israel, concerns are expressed over recent developments in Europe

Jerusalem - An ECI delegation has met with senior officials from the Israeli Foreign Ministry to discuss the changing landscape in Europe as the continent faces its largest migration crisis since the end of World War II. An Israeli official, with insight in to European politics in Africa and the Middle East, expressed his concern over the long-term consequences of the migration crisis which may also hit back at Israel in unexpected ways.

- The mass immigration of the last few months will most certainly result in a strengthening of anti-immigration sentiments in Europe, which tend to automatically flow over into anti-Semitism, the official said. With the influx of new immigrants, xenophobic parties like Jobbik in Hungary and Golden Dawn in Greece will be further empowered, leading to new policies targeting both the Muslim population and the Jews. The demands to ban circumcision and ritual slaughter are two issues which may soon face both the Jewish community and the Muslim community.

A large majority of those immigrating to Europe come from countries which have been in wars with Israel and where anti-Israeli and anti-Semitic sentiments run high.  With changing demographics in Europe, the European electorate may soon turn even more anti-Israel, the official warned.

ECI has been actively raising awareness of the plight of the Christian communities in Syria and northern Iraq who are today facing ethnic cleansing in areas where there have been Christians for the last 2,000 years. There are currently plans to help evacuate part of these communities to Europe and ECI is actively supporting this initiative.

Palestinians to raise their own flag at the UN ?
Help us honour Israel in the midst of the nations!

New York - In time for the 70th session of the UN General Assembly, the UN has voted in favour of allowing the Palestinians to raise their own flag at the UN headquarters in New York despite the fact that they are not a full UN member state. The resolution was passed by - 120 for, 8 against, 40 abstentions and 20 no shows. Although the decision will change nothing on the ground in Ramallah or Gaza, it is likely to attract a lot of publicity as world media is eager to spread the images around the world. The decision is another humiliating blow to Israel while the Palestinian Authority refuses to meet eye to eye for peace talks.

The vote at the UN, as well as the vote in the European Parliament to label Israeli goods, is part of a growing international campaign to isolate and weaken the Israeli government.

ECI has chosen another path, namely to honour and celebrate the Jewish people and their state. On 21st September we will do this at the start of the high level segment of the General Assembly with a special event to mark the Jewish New Year and prepare for Yom Kippur.  Many nations are already signed up to join the event and thus honour Israel and the Jewish people in this special way.

We believe it is important that Israel is given proper recognition in the nations - as a source of blessing and inspiration, through its many contributions to mankind in the past and its many innovations, which are saving lives today.

Our message is simple. Israel is not the problem in the world - but a solution to many of its problems.



ECI honoured the Jewish New Year with meetings in Jerusalem - Israel is not the problem in the Middle East but the solution to its many problems

Jerusalem, 10th September, 2015 - As the European Parliament reconvened in Brussels after the summer recess last week, the European Coalition for Israel travelled to Jerusalem in honour of the upcoming Jewish New Year, Rosh Hashana, and for meetings with Israeli government officials.  At a dinner meeting in Hotel Yehuda in Jerusalem on Thursday evening, Founding Director Tomas Sandell explained why Christians in Europe find it important to stand on the side of Israel and the Jewish people in this volatile season.

- The state of Israel represents everything that is right in the Middle East. While many of its neighbours fall deeper into an abyss of radical Islam, the state of Israel continues to prosper.

According to a new study which was published in June this year, the citizens of Israel are the 11th happiest people in the world, ahead of the United States. The World Happiness Report is a survey of global societal well-being that ranks 158 countries by happiness levels using variables such as GDP per capita and healthy life expectancy. The report also includes extra factors such as social support, generosity, freedom to make life choices, and perceived absence of corruption.

- In no other country in the region can Jews and Arabs live with the same prospects for a good quality of life than in the Jewish state.  For these reasons the European Union should stop its policy of undermining the Israeli government and instead try to make the other countries in the region learn from Israel. Israel is not the problem in the region but the solution to many of its problems, Sandell said.

In his speech, Daniel Meron, Head of Bureau for UN and International Organisations at the Foreign Ministry, mentioned the many areas where nations can learn from Israeli innovations, from renewable energy to agricultural technology.

Meron praised ECI for its efforts on behalf of the state of Israel at the European Union in Brussels and the United Nations in New York which has resulted in a new level of recognition of Jewish holidays. He pointed out that this year there will be no activities in the UN Human Rights Council in Geneva on Yom Kippur, the holiest day in the Jewish calendar.  ECI has for the last two years called upon the UN to respect the Jewish holidays. In a separate meeting at the UN headquarters in New York last week between the Speaker of the Knesset Yuli Edelstein and the UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon, the Secretary General also brought up the UN decision to avoid meetings on Yom Kippur as a step in the right direction.

This year the General Debate of the UN General Assembly has been postponed to September 28th, in respect for the Muslim holiday of Eid al Adha and the Jewish holiday of Yom Kippur. This is the first time in UN history that there are no UN activities on Yom Kippur.

In his dinner speech, ECI Director for UN Affairs Gregory Lafitte explained why the European Coalition for Israel finds it important to celebrate the Jewish holidays.

- The antidote to the rise of anti-Semitism is not merely to tolerate the Jewish people and their culture but to honour and celebrate their many contributions to mankind which can be illustrated in the Jewish holidays.

European Coalition for Israel has made it a tradition to begin the new working term by meeting in Jerusalem, thus honouring the centrality of Jerusalem as the capital of the modern state of Israel and the cradle of our Judeo-Christian civilisation.

Rosh Hashana, the Jewish New Year, begins on Sunday evening, 13th September.