The timing of Rosh Hashanah this year is of special significance for me as I have just begun my role as Consul General of Israel to the Southeast United States, based here in Atlanta. The Jewish New Year is a time for reflecting on the ending year and for looking forward to the New Year and all that we wish to achieve.
As I reflect upon my first two months here, I feel incredibly blessed. In this short period, I have had the privilege to meet with many leaders and members of the Jewish community, so many of them active, caring and passionate about promoting Jewish identity and strengthening relations with Israel. I could not wish for better partners in promoting our common goals. Israel’s strength comes not only from within, but also from outside. Our brothers and sisters in the diaspora are an important part of this strength. We may differ in location, in views or in affiliations, but our Jewish identity as a people unites us, even in the simple act of carrying on our age-old tradition of dipping apples in honey to welcome a sweet new year. Despite our differences, it is up to all of us to do our best to ensure that our unity as a people stands strong.
Besides the very important goal of promoting engagement and cooperation with the Jewish community, the Consulate is tasked with a variety of goals pertaining to our relations with the seven states that we cover from Atlanta: Georgia, South Carolina, North Carolina, Missouri, Kentucky, Tennessee and West Virginia. In this regard, we are fortunate as well. We have many strong supporters and partners in the political, economic, academic and cultural fields in our region. Many political leaders in our region voice their support of the State of Israel and seek to explore avenues for further cooperation. Many economic partners are keen to further connect with Israel, as a technological and innovative superpower with groundbreaking achievements in science, medicine, agriculture, cyber, defense and other areas. Similarly, many religious leaders, academics and other influencers in our region seek to foster stronger relations with Israel.
We are however, as we are all well aware, not free of challenges. Israel’s incredible achievements have come against a backdrop of persistent challenges and threats. Even 71 years after our declared independence, there are still those who refuse to accept the existence of the State of Israel, the nation state of the Jewish people. The attempts to delegitimize the State of Israel have nothing to do with a conflict over territory, and have everything to do with the denial of our right, as a people, to self-determination and a state of our own in ANY borders.
A significant challenge that we continue to face is the state sponsored anti-Semitism and anti-Zionism emanating from Iran, whose rhetoric is matched by its fomenting of terror in our region and beyond, while pursuing nuclear weapons and long-range ballistic missiles. On our southern border with Gaza, we face an area run by Hamas, a terror organization devoted to harming the State of Israel, at the expense of its own people. On the northern front, we face Iran’s continued attempts to entrench itself in Syria, as well as the funding and backing of the Hezbollah in Lebanon, a terror organization with an army and weapons that far surpass those of many countries. On all of these fronts, Israel will continue to act in safeguarding our security and our vital interests.
The support and cooperation with the U.S., our strongest ally in the world, is of incredible importance in facing these challenges. In the Consulate’s work here, we are tasked with doing all that we can in the territory that we cover, to ensure the strength of these mutually beneficial relations going forward. These relations are based not only on common interests, but also on many shared values. I see the Jewish community as a vital partner in our work.
In the short time I have been in Atlanta, I have quickly learned the meaning of Southern hospitality. I feel very fortunate to have been so warmly welcomed by such a strong, diverse and vibrant Jewish community. I have arrived here with my husband and three girls, and though far away from home, we very quickly felt right at home. Similarly, I would like you all to view the Consulate as your home as well. I encourage you to feel free to approach the Consulate with any suggestions or ideas you may have for collaboration, or even just to share your thoughts and engage in matters that concern you.
In the spirit of optimism that characterizes the Jewish people, as we welcome the new year, I would like to finish with the traditional saying, “Tikhleh Shanah V’Kileloteha:” May this year and all of its curses end.” “Tahel Shanah U’Birkhoteha:” May the coming year with all of its blessings begin.
Shana Tova U’Metuka to each and every one of you!