Danish-Jewish Friendship is a proud supporter of the Lone Soldier Center in Memory of Michael. Today is the tenth anniversary for Michael’s death in the 2nd Lebanon war.
This article was made possible with the kind assistance of the Israeli Ministry of Welfare and Social Services
It’s important to stress that the work of Danish-Jewish Friendship’s (DJF) rests on good relations, both because this makes work progress more smoothly, but especially because we wish to develop and nurture personal relations with the Jewish people. We are grateful for the leaders and managers at our partner institutions, which is why we would like to bring a farewell interview with Aviel Dagan, a highly valued partner and the leader of Maon Nachim in Netanya, who is retiring this summer. Maon Nachim is a caregiving home for severely disabled people.
Kindness and authority don’t always go hand in hand, since the one often counteracts the other. But there are leaders who manage to combine both characteristics. And this is the kernel of the man sitting across from me, Aviel Dagan, whose last name literally means “grain”. Dagan first served Israel as a soldier and then later became the manager of a caregiving institution, but he has succeeded in combining care and attentiveness with authority in the best way possible. This is an impression he has maintained from the very first day of our acquaintance. I have never doubted that our volunteers had a responsive leader with an open door and a person to whom they always could turn. At the same time he clearly has shown interest in the well-being and personal safety of DJF volunteers.
But what is Dagan’s backstory? What is the path he had to navigate to become the man he is today? And how did he end up here in Netanya? The first station in his life’s journey was to be born into a mixed Jewish-Arab neighborhood in Yaffo in 1953. Dagan is an Israeli who emphasizes the potential for coexistence between Jews and Arabs because he has lived it. This is also a value that is lived out here at Maon Nachim, where both Jewish, Christian, and Muslim citizens are taken in. Coexistence, however, needs to be cultivated due to the tensions that do exist between the various population groups. This is where the authoritative side of Dagan comes to bear. He tolerates no subversive rhetoric from one side or another among the residents at Maon Nachim. By setting clear principles and sticking to them, the everyday lives of everyone are made easier.
But let’s return to Dagan’s personal story. His parents were German-speaking Romanians, who, due to the British whitepaper, sought to enter the British-controlled Palestine Mandate “illegally”. In an extraordinary example of Jewish romance and dogged determination, they met and fell in love in an internment camp on Cyprus. Eventually, they reached Israel, where they established themselves and later were posted as diplomats to Moscow, Russia, during the Cold War, where Dagan spent three years of his youth. Not many years later, Dagan found himself fighting as part of an elite unit in the grim battles against Syria and Egypt in the Yom Kippur War of 1973. He is modest and reticent about his military career. But the few words that he does share, and the fact that he left the Army with the rank of colonel, speak their own language. He could very easily have stayed on a military career path but chose instead to reshuffle the deck and continue in a different kind of service, with the Ministry of Welfare and Social Services, from which he is now retiring. A period of 25 years, of which 15 were spent at Maon Nachim, is the balance of the time Dagan invested there.
In this connection it is worthwhile mentioning, Dagan’s leadership philosophy and approach to other people. If we start with his approach to others, it is remarkable to see the value and potential he assigns to his residents. He does not first and foremost see them as disabled persons, but rather seeks to see past their handicap. He recounts how he brought his now adult children to work and observed that they didn’t see the residents as handicapped persons but as funny and endearing personalities, with whom they enjoyed spending time. This is also the spirit that is behind Dagan’s attitude to his work. Even as a leader he is modest, and claims that he is nothing more than a handyman who has helped move things along. He is not the type of leader who believes in issuing executive orders. Character and integrity are what make people act and follow you. This is also why he has never been that inclined to pursue a bureaucratic career in the ministry but has preferred to be in a setting where he would be able to see the direct effect of his work and initiatives.
Dagan is now looking ahead to an active retirement. He is one of those Israelis who at one and the same time is both part of the past and the future of this country. His first major project will be to complete a PhD in communications. He will also be able to enjoy time with his family. His three kids are currently active-duty soldiers in the IDF, each one in important roles as a medic, artillery officer and elite soldier.
In Danish-Jewish Friendship, we will clearly miss Dagan and want to extend our thanks to him from our volunteers and organizational members. But we also look ahead to continue our cooperation with Maon Nachim’s new leader and the Ministry of Welfare and Social Services.
*This interview was translated from the Danish version, which was first published in the June 2016 issue of Dansk-Jødisk Venskab.
Yesterday and today, the Jewish nation commemorated its fallen citizens since the establishment of the modern Jewish state in 1948. Danish-Jewish Friendship participated in a stirring ceremony at the Lone Soldier Center’s memorial event at Ammunition Hill, where the memory of young soldiers past was kept alive and honored by recounting their life stories and character. In this way, Israeli society attributes emphasis and value to those who are no longer among us. To this date Israel has suffered 23.477 fallen throughout its 68-year-old history, a relatively small number compared to the approx. 6 million who perished in the Holocaust over a period of a few years. But how then can the world expect anything else than Israel fighting to its utmost for its land and security? The price for an independent nation has been bought at a steep price, but compared to relying on the capricious goodwill of nations, it has certainly been worth it.
Today I had the special honor and privilege of presenting Ida Nudel with a birthday bouquet from Danish-Jewish Friendship. Ida’s life story is incredibly inspiring, and especially her struggle to immigrate to Israel and her fight for the rights of Soviet Jews is worth learning more about.
Ida has a special place with DJF, and we are proud to call her our friend.
Read more about Ida here: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ida_Nudel
or get ahold of her book “A Hand in the Darkness”, a gripping read.
Orr Shalom is one of Danish-Jewish Friendship’s major partners in Israel and is the country’s largest non-state foster-care provider.
Danish-Jewish Friendship is a proud supporter of The Jewish Agency, and we are happy to convey this inspiring story and the successful close of a historic mission.
The Historic End of Yemeni Aliyah:
Final Group of Yemenite Jewish Immigrants Arrives in Israel
Sharansky: “From Operation Magic Carpet in 1949 until the present day, The Jewish Agency has helped bring Yemeni Jewry home to Israel. Today we bring that historic mission to a close.”
PHOTOS: The final group of Jewish immigrants from Yemen arrives in Israel accompanied by an ancient Torah scroll, March 20, 2016. Photo credit: Arielle Di-Porto for The Jewish Agency for Israel.
JERUSALEM, ISRAEL – The final group of Yemenite Jewish immigrants landed in Israel last night (Sunday, March 20, 2016) following a complex covert operation coordinated by The Jewish Agency for Israel, thus bringing the historic Yemeni Aliyah to a close. Some two hundred Jews have been secretly rescued from Yemen by The Jewish Agency in recent years, including several dozen in recent months, as attacks against the Jewish community have increased and the country has descended into civil war.
Chairman of the Executive of The Jewish Agency for Israel Natan Sharansky said: “This is a highly significant moment in the history of Israel and of Aliyah. From Operation Magic Carpet in 1949 until the present day, The Jewish Agency has helped bring Yemenite Jewry home to Israel. Today we bring that historic mission to a close. This chapter in the history of one of the world’s oldest Jewish communities is coming to an end, but Yemenite Jewry’s unique, 2,000-year-old contribution to the Jewish people will continue in the State of Israel.”
Nineteen individuals arrived in Israel in recent days, including fourteen from the town of Raydah and a family of five from Sanaa. The group from Raydah included the community’s rabbi, who brought a Torah scroll believed to be between 500 and 600 years old. The father of the husband from Sanaa was Aharon Zindani, murdered in an anti-Semitic attack in 2012. The Jewish Agency arranged for Zindani’s remains to be brought to Israel for burial and also coordinated the immigration of his wife and children at the time.
More than 51,000 Yemenite Jews have immigrated to Israel since the country’s establishment in 1948. The majority of the community—nearly 50,000 individuals in total—was brought to Israel in Operation Magic Carpet in 1949 and 1950. Today, hundreds of thousands of Jews of Yemeni origin live in Israel, and many have had a profound impact on Israeli society, including singers Ofra Haza, Achinoam Nini (Noa), Gali Atari, and Shoshana Damari; Olympic medalist Shahar Tzuberi; former Knesset Speaker Yisrael Yeshayahu; and noted rabbi Amnon Yitzhak.
Attacks against Jews in Yemen have risen sharply since 2008, when Jewish teacher Moshe Ya’ish Nahari was murdered in Raydah. In 2012, Aharon Zindani was murdered in Sanaa and a young Jewish woman was abducted, forced to convert to Islam, and forcibly wed to a Muslim man. As Yemen has descended into civil war and the humanitarian situation in the country has worsened, the Jewish community has found itself increasingly imperiled. As a result, The Jewish Agency has undertaken numerous covert operations to spirit Jews out of Yemen and bring them to Israel, rescuing some two hundred in recent years.
Some fifty Jews remain in Yemen, including approximately forty in Sanaa, where they live in a closed compound adjacent to the U.S. embassy and enjoy the protection of Yemeni authorities. They have chosen to remain in the country without Jewish communal or organizational infrastructure. The Jewish Agency will continue to assist any Jew who wishes to make Israel his or her home.
Jewish Agency Pays Tribute to Christian Partners
Sharansky: “Today, as Christian organizations help us save Jewish lives every day in Ukraine, it is particularly important to show our appreciation”
JERUSALEM – The Jewish Agency for Israel paid tribute to its Christian partners at the closing plenary of its winter Board of Governors meetings yesterday (Tuesday, February 24) in Jerusalem. The International Christian Embassy Jerusalem, Ebenezer International, Ebenezer Hilfsfonds Deutschland, Ezra International, Christians for Israel, the Patmos Foundation, One Mission, and the Kim Clement Center were thanked for their essential role in helping to both fund and physically assist The Jewish Agency’s Aliyah operations in war-torn Ukraine.
Also recognized at the event were: Love 153, Deborah the Brave Ministries, Maranatha Chapel, Christians United for Israel – Las Vegas and Quad Cities, Pastor tom Hess – Jerusalem House of Prayer, Calvary Chapel Santee, Shalom Singapore, Danish Jewish Friendship and Heart for Zion.
“There is a long history of Christian involvement in our Aliyah operations and it is always appropriate to give thanks, but today, as Christian organizations help us save Jewish lives every day in Ukraine, it is particularly important to show our appreciation,” said Chairman of the Executive of The Jewish Agency Natan Sharansky.
Pastor Hinrich Kaasmann, said: “As the son of a German officer from the Ukraine, standing here in Jerusalem seventy years after Auschwitz carries special meaning for me. As the Prophet Isaiah said, ‘The children of your oppressors will come bowing before you; all who despise you will bow down at your feet’ (Isaiah 60:14). I am here today to bow before you.”
Christian organizations have been directly involved in helping The Jewish Agency rescue Jews from embattled eastern Ukraine, transporting refugees through troubled areas, handling their personal effects, locating documents necessary for Aliyah, and responding to various other needs under trying circumstances. These organizations have also provided The Jewish Agency with significant financial support to help address urgent needs in Ukraine.
Never before had such friendships and partnerships been so established. The Jewish Agency is welcoming Christian leaders to be our partners in securing the future of the Jewish people and the land of Israel.