Wednesday 13 January 2010

Blog-log Day 15 - a shared note of heritage for me

Regular readers of the blog will know that last year I undertook a personal trip to the concentration camp of Bergen-Belsen - my grandfather had been in the Liberation forces in 1945.

This morning I met with Social Affairs Minister Isaac Herzog in Jerusalem. Minister Herzog is a form of political Israeli royalty in that his father was Chaim Herzog (President of Israel 1983-1993), his grandfather was Rabbi Yitzhak HaLevi Herzog and his uncle was Abba Eban.

Minister Herzog is one of the few rising stars of the Labor Party in Israel - Labor is in a tough place there at the moment - but his charm, wit, speed of thought and personality makes him stand out. He is tipped for higher office and widely respected across the political sectrum in the Knesset and in the media.

We talked about a range of issues: my visit to Gaza, his father and the connection to Bergen-Belsen and the current political situation in the wider Middle East. It's clear to me that Herzog is someone who has a bigger view, he's an internationalist and has a real grasp of building relationships.

As a way of topping off an incredibly thought provoking trip to Israel, meeting and talking with Minister Herzog (nicknamed 'Buji') has done the trick.

Final postscript: I'm typing this at the airport - my final meeting was with Rachel Liel of the New Israel Fund to discuss some of the issues around civic society and development of Israel's democracy and giving the political system greater depth and relevance. Rachael gave me an insight into the beautiful town of Neve Shalom - Wahat Al-Salam. We then drove up to the town - it's just an amazing demonstration into the ideals of Israel and an illustration of how Jewish and Palestinian Arab citizens of Israel live and work together, and set in the most breath-taking scenario.

Right, back to north west London I think :-)

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