Former Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Barak and Israel have shared a journey over the past 70 years.
Born on a kibbutz six years before Israel became a state, Barak has memories of all of Israel’s wars – playing important roles in many – and has helped shepherd the country through challenges and accomplishments that have led it to become one of only 36 nations admitted to the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development. Barak says OECD members are nations with advanced economies and open societies.
“We are the Start Up Nation – a powerhouse for creative thinking with an economic system for innovation and advancement,” he said in a telephone interview with Oregon Jewish Life in mid-August.
The soldier, politician and statesman recently released his memoir, My Country, My Life: Fighting for Israel, Searching for Peace, which he says reflects the fact that “My story is the story of country.”
This month he is coming to the United States to share the story of Israel at 70 with Portland’s Jewish community. He emphasizes this appearance is not part of a book tour – he is coming specifically to enhance Portland’s celebration of Israel at 70. (See details below)
“Our community is honored to have Prime Minister Ehud Barak join us for our annual Gala,” says JFGP CEO and President Marc N. Blattner. “This event highlights the generosity of our Jewish community as well as celebrates Israel’s 70th birthday. The Jewish Federation is proud to bring one of Israel’s greatest leaders to Portland for this historic night.”
Speaking in August, Barak said many issues are brewing that he will address while he is in Portland. He will have up-to-the-minute reports on issues such as the situations in Syria and Gaza, control of the Orthodoxy on civil life and the recent passage of the Nationality Law.
He plans to end his Portland talk on an optimistic note, reflecting on all that unites the Jewish people in Israel and the United States.
“When Israel was very young, decades ago, we needed every Jewish voice to repeat what the Israeli government said,” says Barak. “But nowadays, we are strong enough to debate issues.”
“We have different views… we should not be so worried about disputes,” he says. “Israel is metaphorically the government of Jews around the world. So we need to listen to Jews around the world. … They deserve to be respected as Jews. There is a need for tough debate; it helps the irreplaceable bond between us.”
While Israel as a whole has developed a strength and confidence that enables it to accept and thrive in the face of divergent views, it has become an especially confident player in emerging technologies.
Barak now plays an active role in Israel’s high-tech sector and is involved in several Israeli start-ups, primarily in the cyber and public safety fields. With a bachelor’s degree in physics and mathematics from the Hebrew University in Jerusalem and a master’s in engineering-economic systems from Stanford University, he fits smoothly into the world of Israeli innovation.
“It is very satisfying and refreshing to deal with young people who are so eloquently fluent and confident in these new areas,” says Barak.
The strength and confidence of Israel makes its 70th birthday a true celebration. And the support of the Jewish people around the world and of the Jewish federation system make them fitting partners in the celebration, says Barak.
“We are now at a good point in our life to look back,” says Barak, noting that looking back really extends to 50 years before the founding of the state, when the First Zionist Congress called for the creation of a homeland for the Jewish people in Eretz-Israel. “I will discuss our achievements and challenges.”
JFGP Gala Celebration 2018
FEATURING: Former Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Barak speaking on “Israel at 70”
WHEN: 7-10 pm, Oct. 14
WHERE: Mittleman Jewish Community Center, 6651 SW Capitol Hwy., Portland
INCLUDES: Appetizer reception, cocktails and dessert
TICKETS: $118 per person at jewishportland.org/gala or 503-245-6219
EHUD BARAK BIO
Ehud Barak has served Israel as a soldier, statesman and entrepreneur.
Before entering politics, he completed an illustrious 36-year career in the Israeli Defense Forces. His parents signed a release enabling him to enlist in the IDF before turning 18. He led a commando unit in the 1967 Six-Day War, commanded a tank battalion during the Yom Kippur War and led Israel’s elite anti-terrorist unit for many years. As IDF chief of staff, he was involved in the negotiation and implementation of the 1994 peace treaty with Jordan.
When he was, as he says, “called into politics by Rabin’s assassination” in 1995, he was the most decorated soldier in the IDF’s history.
A global statesman, Prime Minister Barak’s government was devoted to the peace process. In May 2000 he ordered the withdrawal of the IDF from South Lebanon, ending 18 years of Israel’s presence there. With the participation of President Bill Clinton, he led efforts to negotiate peace agreements, first with Syria and later with the Palestinian Authority.
As Israel’s 10th prime minister, Barak led the country out of prolonged recession and into an economic boom, with 5.9% annual growth, record foreign investments, near zero inflation and significantly decreased external debt.