A multi-cultural event was held in Auckland’s Waipuna Lodge last weekend to celebrate Israel’s 70th anniversary. It was supported by representatives of Christian, Jewish, Māori, Pacific and Indian groups. Organiser Bryce Turner, National Executive Director, Christians for Israel NZ stated,
The Israel70 project has developed as an opportunity for New Zealand and our South Pacific communities to once again stand with Israel and celebrate the anniversary of its independence. It is an occasion to recognise Israel’s remarkable achievements and the contributions it has made to the world in just 70 years.
Visitors from near and far were welcomed with a Powhiri, followed by a cocktail function and a showcase event featuring items from Jubilee Dance Ministries and singer Anna Hawkins.
The event organisers chose to celebrate Israel’s 70th birthday by supporting the work of Aliyah, assisting the return of Jews to their ancient homeland. A particularly poignant part of the evening’s proceedings was the story of Mrs Kasa Bainesay Harbor, Deputy Chief of Mission. A Ethiopian Jewess, Kasa told of immigrating to Israel at the age of ten, from her village in Ethiopia where there was no running water and her daily life consisted of chores such as grinding grain to make bread. She arrived in Israel not knowing how to read or write and yet now she was a diplomat, representing Israel. She expressed her deep gratitude to the State of Israel for giving her – a girl from a poor village in Ethiopia – an education and the opportunity to realise her potential. She declared her pride to be an Israeli and to represent the state that had given her so much.
Several dignatories and MPs were present, including H.E Dr Itzak Gerberg, Israeli Ambassador to New Zealand, David Robinson, Honorary Consul in Auckland, Hon. Alfred Ngaro, National M.P. and Leader of Parliamentary Friends of Israel Group, Act Leader David Seymour, and MP Melissa Lee. Alfred Ngaro reiterated the sentiments of National Party Leader Simon Bridges, who has expressed regret for the actions of the National party in 2016 in co-sponsoring UN Resolution 2334.
The evening also afforded the opportunity to acknowledge and celebrate the history of Indian/Israel connections. Every year the Indian Army commemorates ‘Haifa Day’ on 23 September – the date on which in 1918 the 15th Imperial Service Cavalry Brigade captured Haifa from the Ottomans. Veer Khar, Chair of the Indian Association of New Zealand, was presented with a certificate from The State of Israel and a letter from Chairman of the Jewish Agency, Isaac Herzog, which stated, “The heroism of the Indian People will forever be a part of our history, and the bond between India and Israel will never be broken”.
Veer Khar responded with the message,
“There are 1.2 billion Indians who support Israel; don’t think you’re alone.”
This was a message that resonated with all those in attendance and captured the purpose of the event.