by Jonnie Schnyzter
Many are the people who see the world as black or white. Few see it for what it really is – a beautiful combination of colors called grey. MK Dov Lipman is one of those few.
I heard Lipman for the first time yesterday and I, like everyone else in the room, was taken by his inspiring words. Let me share them with you. It’s too good not to.
Just a day after our mega event, honored with the presence of Prime Minister Netanyahu, founding philanthropists like Lynn Schusterman and Michael Steinhardt and thousands of participants (I may be biased but it was electrifying with energy), we had a special event at the Knesset for Tu Bishvat.
Speaker of the Knesset, Yuli Edelstein, spoke to the Birthright Foundation’s mission of donors and a group of Birthright participants about Israel and democracy and then said he had to leave for a meeting and that he trusted MK Lipman to speak on his behalf on any matter, except politics. Everyone laughed.
MK Lipman told an awe inspiring story, the kind you can’t hear without its words placing themselves gently in your heart filling it with hope.
Some 30 years ago I was a young thirteen year old boy in the US, out protesting for the freedom of our refusniks. Each one of us had a sign with a name on it. Do you know which name was on my sign? Yuli Edelstein.
This is a wonderful world in which dreams do come true, let me tell you.
Years ago Yuli was in prison in Russia and I, an educator living in Silver Spring Maryland. Today, we are both sitting side by side, he as speaker of the Knesset and I as an MK in my first term. When Lipman speaks, you can’t ignore the excitement in his voice, the twinkle in his eyes. He means what he says.
MK Lipman, an orthodox Jew, then went on to talk about why he chose to Live in Beit Shemesh, a town that has its fair share of problems and tension between ultra-orthodox and secular Jews. He wanted to educate for equality
amongst all Jews, to be the bridge that’s helps bring both ends close.
In time, and before becoming Minister of Finance and beating every poll in town with a whopping 19 seats, Yair Lapid heard of Lipman’s voice of tolerance in the outset of religious tension in Beit Shemesh. Lipman described how after a mere 10 minutes of a conversation with Lapid he was saddened.
He was saddened that both men, one, an orthodox Jew from Beit Shemesh and Lapid, a secular Jew from Tel Aviv actually agreed on 80% of their issues. And the rest is history.
I personally couldn’t help but feel how wonderful it was to have MK Lipman of all MKs speak to a Birthright group because his message is actually our message. All Jews are equal and it’s in each and every one of us and our capacities to navigate a bright future for the Jewish people. All of you are privileged to be here today, visiting Israel – the rebuilt State of the Jewish people after thousands of years of exile! Can you imagine that?
You know, some years ago, I made Aliyah with my family. We came on a Nefesh B’nefesh plane. Imagine hundreds of people, everyone on the plane is making Alyiah. And then the pilot said to us all “Ladies and Gentlemen, I am taking you home.”
I want to tell each and every one of you that Israel is your home. It can be your first home, it can be your second home, but know this – you will always have a home here in Israel.
Lipman concluded his talk by saying the following verse from Psalms:
“When the Lord brought back the exiles of zion, we were like people who dream.”
We are living in a time of dreams where anything is possible and you can all do whatever you want. Be proud of your Judaism and build a bright future for yourselves and the Jewish people.
Jonnie Schnyzter is the Advisor to the CEO of Taglit-Birthright Israel. In the past he led Israel advocacy delegations abroad and trained Israeli students through StandWithUs. Jonnie wrote his master’s thesis on soccer in Australia as a multicultural barometer. He made Aliyah from Australia ages ago, but is still a passionate Essendon Bombers supporter.