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Synagogue near the Sea of Galilee

Stefanson's group with Uri Goldflam, guide and Director of Foreign Relations and Resource Development for the Society for the Protection of Nature in Israel atop Mt. Bental

Stefanson with members of herr group in front of the Menorah outside the Knesset

Heather Stefanson with Uri Goldflam atop Mount Bental


by Heather Stefanson, Tuxedo MLA, November 15, 2010

Thanks to our friends at the Canada-Israel Committee, last week I was given the opportunity to visit Israel for the first time.  This journey left a profound impact on me that I will carry for the rest of my life, both on a personal and spiritual level.  It was truly a very moving experience and I recommend to all those who have not yet done so, to take the time to visit this beautiful country.

Along our travels we visited many places that would impact individuals differently depending upon their religious beliefs.  As a Christian, it was amazing for me to stand in the places where my religious beliefs were founded. But more than this, I was moved by how little our trip really had to do with religion and how very much it had to do with our lives as Canadians and the importance of helping those who share our principles and values of a free and democratic society.

Over a period of seven days we covered the country from north to south and east to west. The most surprising part of it all was how geographically small the country is, how close the bordering countries are, and the fact that many of these neighbours do not share our beliefs and values.  This observation reminded me of why earlier this year I introduced a private Member’s Resolution in the Manitoba Legislature condemning Israeli Apartheid Week on our University Campuses.  At the time, some accused me of being anti-free speech while others accused me of trying to be political.  I can honestly say that after visiting Israel, there is no doubt in my mind that I stood on solid ground in introducing the resolution.  I feel proud to have stood up for Israel in a strong way regardless of the outcome of the resolution and I will remain committed to stand side by side with our friends in Israel.

A poignant moment of my trip occurred when I visited the Holocaust Museum, Yad Vashem. Many things immediately came to mind; outrage, disgust, shock, empathy. But in retrospect, the most impactful impression I was left with was how we can never ever turn a blind eye to the horrific events that have occurred at any point in our history. It is our duty to protect our friends who share our values no matter what the cost.

As Prime Minister, Steven Harper stated quite correctly in his recent speech on anti-Semitism on Parliament Hill, “…we have no excuse to be complacent. In fact we have a duty to take action. And for all of us, that starts at home.”

All I can say is Amen!  I have never been more proud to be a Canadian and a supporter of Israel than I am right now.

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Rhonda Spivak, Editor

Publisher: Spivak's Jewish Review Ltd.

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