ECI marks 120th anniversary of the First Zionist Congress in Basel
– Time for Europe to celebrate the Jewish state

Basel – In an unexpected turn of events, the European Coalition for Israel ended up hosting the only official event to mark the 120th anniversary of the First Zionist Congress in Basel on August 31st, 2017. When the Israeli government unexpectedly called off its plans to host an official commemoration event in Basel, there were suddenly no official events planned to mark this momentous date in the history of the Jewish people. That all changed when ECI stepped in at short notice to host a celebratory dinner in the Grand Hotel Les Trois Rois on Thursday August 31st.

In his welcoming remarks ECI Founding DirectorTomas Sandell reminded the audience of the fact that Europe is at the same time both the birth place of the Jewish state and the largest graveyard of the Jewish people anywhere in the world.
“As we study Jewish history in Europe, we see two different paths, one of crusades, pogroms and Holocaust and another of flourishing life and new birth. One path led to cursing and death while the other has led to blessings and life”, he said. “One path is symbolized by the Dreyfustrial in Paris in 1895, and the rise of Hitler in Berlin in 1933 followed by the Kristallnacht in 1938 which later culminated in the Holocaust. The other path is marked by the First Zionist Congress in Basel in 1897, the Balfour Declaration in London in 1917 and the recognition of the rights of the Jewish people to reconstitute their own national home in Israel in San Remo in 1920. Which path do we choose today?” He concluded by quoting the words in the Book of Deuteronomy which challenge us to “choose life so that you and your children may live”.

Special guest of honour, Prince Philip Kiril von Preussen, shared how his great-great-grandfather, the last Emperor of Germany, Kaiser Wilhelm II had chosen the wrong path by denying Theodor Herzl his request to become the protector of a Jewish national home in the land of Israel. “A few years later Germany lost the war and the Kaiser lost his crown which paved the way for the rise to power of Hitler and the Holocaust. Instead of choosing an obvious blessing over Germany he may instead have chosen a curse”, he concluded.

The Israeli Ambassador to Switzerland, Jacob Keidar, thanked ECI for hosting the evening, thus averting a situation where the 31st of August would have passed unnoticed in this birthplace of the Jewish state. The head of the Jewish community in Basel, Guy Rueff, explained how the federal government had marked the 120th anniversary two weeks earlier, but thanked ECI for honouring Basel on the very day of the anniversary by hosting a celebratory dinner. He reminded the audience that Basel was chosen in 1897 because of the support of its Christian population. “This friendship and support remains very important to this very day, hence it was appropriate that a Christian group such as ECI decided to mark the 120th anniversary with its own celebration”, he added.

Sandell commented that the gathering was being hosted in the spirit of such great men as Reverend William Heschler and Henri Dunant who were among the ten Christians who took part in the First Zionist Congress. “As a coalition we want to build on this same legacy of friendship with the Jewish people and the state of Israel”, he affirmed.

The celebratory dinner was preceded by a separate prayer conference hosted by Global Prayer Call Founding Director, Harald Eckert, where the chaplain of Christ Church in Jerusalem, David Pileggi, gave a presentation of the role of the Christian leader William Heschler in assisting Theodor Herzl to achieve his dream of a Zionist congress and a Jewish state.

Gregory Lafitte: The West needs to recognize its Jewish roots

Basel – The keynote address of the evening was given by Dr. Gregory Lafitte from the Forum for Cultural Diplomacy who reminded the audience that the delegates in Basel 120 years ago were not merely politicians but writers, thinkers and members of academia. He quoted the philosopherLeo Strauss in saying that “Political Zionism has to be based on culture”.

Lafitte went on to speak about the two cultures which have formed the Western civilization, namely Greek culture and Jewish culture. “Whereas the Greek contribution has been properly recognized, this has not been the case for the Jewish foundation. Now the international community also needs to recognize its Jewish roots”, he said.
“Jewish culture has often run the risk of being assimilated or absorbed into Greek culture. Our civilization owes more to Jerusalem than to Athens”, he stressed, envisioning a day and age when our Jewish heritage takes centre stage in our culture and there is a real return to Zion.

“Zionism is something more than the re-creation of a Jewish state”, he emphasized, quoting Theodor Herzl who described the essence of Zionism as an “infinite ideal”. In his speech he contrasted Greek thinking with Jewish thinking, explaining and illustrating the differences.
In Greek thinking everything centres on the finite and tragic reason, while in Jewish culture it centres on the infinite and hope. Greek culture seeks solutions in the here and now, but Jewish thinking also presents hope for the future and gives a vision for eternity. Most importantly, Greek gods are in the image of man, while in Jewish culture man is created in the image of God.

He did not intend to dismiss Greek culture, but wanted rather to establish its proper place and significance in today’s culture. Jewish culture has been sadly neglected in the past and it is now high time for the world to also recognize its place and significance in our Western culture. This has been the objective of the Forum for Cultural Diplomacy which was set up by ECI at the United Nations in New York to present and bring attention to the many Jewish contributions to the international community in its quest for world peace.

In closing he noted that the Zionist vision has not yet been fully realized with the establishment of a Jewish state. “The fulfilment of the Zionist vision is not yet over, not yet complete. Herzl's dream —his first congress address— is still valid —alive— today. Yes, the State of Israel has been re-created - Jews no longer have to be content with the only alternative solution of assimilation into another culture. But the vision still needs to be fulfilled —not only at the individual level, but at the state level. The State of Israel should not be forced to be just a reconstituted state, like any other Greek-like state, but should be recognized as a Jewish State, and fully play its role as a light to the nations."

The full speech will be published later and posted on the website of the Forum for Cultural Diplomacy.

Palestinian Authority renews its curriculum –
ECI: Europe should stop financing radicalization and hate

Brussels – The Palestinian Authority (PA) is committed under the Oslo Accords to prepare its citizens for coexistence and peace. However, as ECI has pointed out many times before, the realities on the ground in the Palestinian territories reveal a very different agenda.
Through a culture of hate and demonization, the Palestinian Authority continues to incite violence against the Jewish population and to honour and reward convicted terrorists and suicide bombers.

This month, the Palestinian Authority will present a new curriculum for their schools which, despite international protests, continue to demonize the Jewish people and make no effort to prepare their children for peace and co-existence. The content of Palestinian text books has been criticized for many years but despite the scrutiny the curriculum has not changed.
Part of the blame comes back to the European Union which is the largest institutional donor to the Palestinian Authority and has the responsibility to ensure that its generous funding paves the way to peace and not to further radicalization. Within the European Union, a few member states have taken the lead in helping the PA to create a new curriculum for their schools. These countries are Finland, Norway, Ireland and the Netherlands. The committee is today chaired by Finland which has received world recognition for its own educational system. But the fact of the matter is that today Finland and other EU-member states are exporting radicalization to one of the most volatile regions in the world and are not aiding progress and development. ECI will be engaging with the above-mentioned governments and with the EU to make sure that we in Europe live up to our commitments to universal values and peace.

We are ECI

ECI board meets in Jerusalem and prepares for 15th anniversary

Jerusalem – As the European Coalition for Israel prepares for its 15th anniversary next year, the board and staff of ECI met this month in Jerusalem for an important board meeting. In contrast to last year, when the board met with Prime MinisterBenjamin Netanyahu, this year the focus was on internal issues.

“As ECI moves on from the pioneering phase, it is important for us to pause and look back over the last 15 years while we also look towards the future”, Tomas Sandell said. “As with physical buildings, man-made organizations also need renovation and fine-tuning over time. So ECI needs to develop and adapt to better meet the growing demands of the future.”

The current board consists of Tor G. Gull (chairman), Bedros Nassanian (vice-chairman),Rick RidingsAntti Hämäläinen and Bo Sander. Also present in Jerusalem were Tomas Sandell, Katariina SalmiRuth Daskalopoulou-IsaacGregory Lafitte and Andrew Tucker.

One of the issues discussed at the meeting was the concept of “ECI presenters” who could help spread information about the work of ECI across Europe and the world, as ECI board and staff members are mostly busy reaching decision makers. As new board member Bo Sander noted:
“ECI has a great potential in its current network of friends. But we need to become better at pointing out that ECI is not supported by the European Union or any government agency but is a charity which depends solely on the generosity of its supporters. By providing volunteers with a power point presentation and other educational material they can become our ambassadors among fellow friends of Israel who do not yet know about the work of ECI."
These, and other plans, will be presented more in detail throughout the year as a special working group will prepare the vision for ECI 2025.

 European Report is back in the studio in the European Parliament to discuss significance of Zionism, 120 years after the First Zionist Congress

Brussels – The European Coalition for Israel has now returned to the European Parliament after the summer recess to meet with Members of the European Parliament and to record a new edition of the European Report talk show where the significance of Zionism today, 120 years after the First Zionist Congress in Basel, was discussed. In the panel this month, you will hear from Simon BarrettTomas Sandell, Pastor Greg Cumming and Danish MEP Anders Primdahl VistisenPlease watch the programme on our website.

Save the date

23-25 March, 2017
ECI European Prayer Summit in Brussels

"Israel 70 years and ECI 15 years"

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For more information: www.ec4i.org - Follow us on Facebook and Twitter.