בדרך כלל אני זוכר היטב את היום בו נחתי בקנדה לאחר שעזבתי את ישראל, אך השנה לאור מות אמי, התאריך הזה לא בדיוק עבר בראשי. אני נחתתי בוונקובר בחמישה עשר בפברואר אלפיים וחמש ומאז אני כאן. מדובר כבר בלמעלה משבע עשרה שנים
כאמור לא “חגגתי” השנה בשבעה עשר בפברואר את יום השנה של בואי לונקובר, כיוון שאמי נפטרה בשישה בפברואר. הגעתי בטיסת חירום לישראל כדי להיות עימה בבית החולים, ולמחרת הגעתי היא נפטרה. כאילו חיכתה רק לבואי
לאחר השבעה בה הגיעו עשרות חברים, מכרים של אחי אמיר ושלי, וכמובן בני משפחה וכן חברות רבות של אמא ושכנות שלה, נזקקתי ליום מנוחה לעקל את כל מה שעבר עלי. ואז בשבוע השני והאחרון שלי בתל אביב, התחלתי לארגן את דירת אמי לקראת הפינוי. עברתי על אין סוף מסמכים, ספרים, חפצי אמנות ובגדים, כדי לבדוק מה חשוב ומה לא. מה להמשיך ולשמור ומה לתרום. לפיכך לא היה לי זמן ומקום לחשוב על השבעה עשר בפברואר – שכאמור הוא “יום השנה” שלי כאן בוונקובר
השנתיים וחצי האחרונות בוונקובר ובכלל היום קשות מנשוא ומאוד מאוד מסובכות. הקוביד שיבש לנו את החיים והפכנו כמעט לאסירים בבתים ובאזור. בראשית שנה שעברה איבדתי את אבי שמת בגיל תעשים וארבעה חודשים, מסובכים של קוביד. אבא היה חולה מאוד וידענו שהסוף מגיע. לא יכולתי להגיע להלוויתו בגלל מגבלות הקוביד, ולפיכך ראיתי אותה באמצעות זום
אחי ואני חשבנו אמא תוכל לחיות עמנו עוד שנים רבות לאור כך שמצב בריאותה היה מצויין, לאשה בגיל תעשים ושתיים. היא הצליחה להתאושש ממותו של אבא וזה דבר לא פשוט לאחר שבעים ואחת שנות נישואים. אמא חזרה לשגרת החיים שלה שכללה מפגשים עם הרבה מחברותיה, עם בני המשפחה, ספורט כמעט כל יום וקריאת ספרים
באחד הימים (בשני לפברואר) היא ירדה מדירתה לאכול סלט, נחנקה בפתאומיות מתפוח שהיה בו והסיפור שלה נגמר מהר מאוד. היא הועברה לבית החולים איכילוב ולאחר ארבעה ימים נקבע מותה
ועתה כשאני משחזר את מה שעבר עלי בשנים האחרונות ובעיקר בשנה האחרונה, בה נפרדתי תחילה מאבא ולאחר מכן מאמא, קשה לי לחזור לשגרת החיים הרגילה, ולחשוב על שבעה עשרה השנים שלי כאן – בונקובר
כל צורת החיים שלי השתנה עת עברתי מתל אביב לוונקובר. קודם כל בישראל עבדתי במשרה מלאה כעיתונאי בתחום התקשורת, וכיום כאן זה תחביב בלבד. בשמונה השנים האחרונות אני עובד בחברה שמספקת הלוואות למי שלא יכול לקבל אותן מהבנק, ותפקידי הוא המבקר
בארץ הייתי מוקף בני משפחה חברים וכמובן היו לי בנות זוג לתקופות ארוכות בחיי. השהגעתי לוונקובר היכרתי כאן רק חבר אחד שעזב את תל אביב מספר שנים לפני. לאט לאט הצלחתי להכיר אנשים וכיום יש לי גם כן (כמו בתל אביב) מספר חברים טובים, בהם ישראלים, יהודים קנדים ומקומיים
ומהיבט האישי: מזה ארבע שנים ושמונה חודשים, יש לי בת זוג קבועה שהגיעה לוונקובר מסין. וואנווי גרה כאן כשמונה שנים ובשנתיים האחרונות היא עובדת בממשלה הפדרלית. יש לנו חיי אהבה ושותפות טובה, קירבה גדולה והרבה עניין משותף – בעיקר בתחומי האמנות והתרבות. החיים שלנו ביחד טובים מאוד ואנו רק מצפים להמשך של עוד ועוד
לסיכום: אין לי על מה להתלונן בשבע עשרה השנים שאני גר בבית בוונקובר
רכישה ראשונה: קנדה החליטה לרכוש את המטוס המפציץ החמקן אף שלושים וחמש
לאור פלישת רוסיה לאוקראינה הבינו בקנדה שיש להיערך ברצינות לאיומים שבדרך. ממשלת קנדה הליברלית בראשות ראש הממשלה, ג’סטין טרודו, החליטה סוף סוף לרכוש מטוסי קרב אמריקנים חדישים. מדובר על המטוסים המפציצים החמקנים מסוג אף שלושים וחמש, מתוצרת לוקהיד מרטין. כך אישרה בהודעתה לעיתונות שרת ההגנה הקנדית, אניטה אנאנד. ממשלת קנדה העדיפה איפוא את המטוסים האמריקנים על פני מטוסי גריפן של חברת סאאב השבדית. המטוסים החדישים האמריקנים יחליפו את המטוסים הישנים של חיל האוויר הקנדי מסוג סי.אף שמונה עשרה. בעבר ממשלת קנדה השמרנית בראשות ראש הממשלה דאז, סטיבן הרפר, החליטה לרכוש את מטוסי הקרב האמריקנים המפציצים החמקנים החדישים. אך לאחריה ממשלת טרודו הורידה את הנושא מסדר היום שלה לפני למעלה משש שנים, כאמור עד ימים אלה. אין ספק שהמשבר החמור הנוכחי באוקראינה השפיע על ממשלת טרודו, שהודיעה כאמור על פתיחת המשא ומתן רציני עם היצרנית לוקהיד מרטין, לרכישת המטוסים היקרים
ממשלת טרודו תרכוש בסך הכל שמונים ושמונה מטוסים בסכום אדיר של כחמישה עשר מילארד דולר (אמריקני), עבור חיל האוויר הקנדי. בחודשים הקרובים צפויה להיחתם עסקת הענק בין הצדדים. בשלב ראשון יסופקו לקנדה שלושים וחמישה מטוסים מסוג האף שלושים וחמש, וזאת בתוך שלוש השנים הבאות
יצויין שבמקרה חירום צבאות ארצות הברית וקנדה יגנו במשותף על המרחב האוויר של שתי המדינות המקיימות יחסי שכנות ידידותיים הדוקים מאוד. ובמקרה כזה שתי המדינות יוגדרו כמדינה אחת
עם תחילת העבודה של יצור מטוסי המפציצים החמקנים אף שלושים וחמש, שהושקעו בו למעלה מארבע מאות מילארד דולר (אמריקני), גייסו האמריקנים שבע מדינות נוספות, שיתתפו בפרוייקט היוקרתי והיקר. מדובר במדינות הבאות: קנדה, בריטניה, איטליה, הולנד נורווגיה, דנמרק ואוסטרליה. תשע מדינות נוספות הבטיחו לאמריקנים לרכוש אף הן את המטוסים אף שלושים וחמש היקרים. מדובר במדינות הבאות: ישראל, בלגיה, פינלנד, גרמניה, יפן, פולין, סינגפור, דרום קוריאה ושווייץ
רכישה שנייה:אלביט מערכות תספק מערכת אווירית לצבא קנדה בסכום של כתשעה מיליון דולר אמריקני
חברת אלביט מערכות הישראלית אמורה לספק מערכת שליטה ובקרה לצבאי הקנדי, בסכום של כתשעה מיליון דולר (אמריקני). המערכת אמורה להציג תמונה אווירית מלאה ולאפשר תיאום יעיל ובקרה של כלי הטיס במרחב הקנדי. וכן תקשור ליישומים ולמערכות שליטה ובקרה קיימות של צבא קנדה. המערכת החדישה של אלביט מערכות שתסופק לצבאי של קנדה, תתמוך במשימות אוויריות ובפעולות צבאיות משותפות של פיקוד היבשה, פקיוד האוויר והפיקוד המשותף. המערכת האווירית מבוססת על מערכת צבא “יבשה” דיגיטלית שאלביט מערכות פיתחה לפני מספר שנים, ונמצאת בשימוש פעיל על ידי צה”ל
ממשלת קנדה בראשות ראש הממשלה, ג’סטין טרודו, החליטה לרכוש את המערכת של אלביט מערכות הישראלית, במסגרת פרויקט שדרוג מערך התיאום האווירי של הכוחות הטקטיים. הצבא הקנדי יש לציין, רוצה כבר זמן רב מערכת דיגיטלית שתאפשר התמצאות מצבית במרחב האווירי, תוך תיאום אווירי משופר וניהול המערך שלו על ידי מטה הפיקוד הצבאי
יצוין כי אלביט מערכות זכתה לאחרונה במכרז ענקי של חיל האוויר של איחוד האמירויות, לאספקת מערכות הגנה מבוססות לייזר אינפרה אדום, ומערכות לוחמה אלקטרוניות – בסכום של חמישים ושלושה מיליון דולר (אמריקני)
במקביל אלביט מערכות זכתה לאחרונה במכרז נוסף גדול של חיל האוויר של בריטניה, לאספקת מערכות אלקטרוניות להגברת יכולות הלוחמה – בסכום של כמאה מיליון דולר (אמריקני)
The Consulate General of Israel in Toronto and Western Canada marked World Water Day on March 22 with a webinar entitled “Squeezing Water from a Stone.” Dr. Alex Furman of Technion – Israel Institute of Technology in Haifa and Dr. Roy Brouwer of the University of Waterloo focused on Israeli and Canadian perspectives of water conservation and management.
Furman, director of the Stephen and Nancy Grand Water Research Institute at Technion, provided an overview of water management in Israel, describing how a land that is 60% desert – and uses more than 100% of its water – still has water left for use.
“The issue of water scarcity in the future is going to grow as the population grows and we need more water to feed people and for agriculture,” Furman said.
Israel’s population, which has expanded tenfold in the past 75 years, continues to climb. Further, its Western standard of living, including such things as daily showers, presents a further strain on the country’s water supply.
Israel recognized the need for innovation in this area several decades ago. Starting in the 1980s, it began treating wastewater for reuse in agriculture and, in the 2000s, the country started major desalination projects. Desalinated water now constitutes a large amount of the water consumed in Israel, but is not a completely win-win scenario. For example, a detrimental consequence of desalination is that the process also removes essential minerals, such as magnesium.
Another area where Israel is taking the lead is in water-saving technology, such as drip irrigation. Agricultural use of water in Israel has decreased in the past 30 years, a period over which agricultural production increased.
“Instead of irrigating the land, we irrigate the plant. Drip irrigation is providing water for what the plant needs. It’s not the amount of water that is important but the precision in how water is applied,” Furman said.
Concurrently, Furman added, Israelis are doing more to reduce water usage in the home, and the country has developed educational campaigns to inform its citizenry on ways to minimize water consumption.
“We are a very fast-growing country that requires a lot of water and requires the development of new water resources at all times,” Furman said.
Brouwer, an economics professor with an academic interest in water resources, highlighted the broader need for collective international partnership in looking at solutions for water issues through interdisciplinary cooperation, policy expertise and innovation.
“Water disregards boundaries and so must we,” he said, employing the motto of his department at the University of Waterloo.
The working definitions of water security, as put forward by the United Nations, Brouwer explained, are to have stable, peaceful and reliable access to adequate quantities and acceptable quality water. This, in turn, should sustain livelihoods, human well-being, socioeconomic development, protection from pollution and other water disasters, and preservation of ecosystems.
“From an economic point of view,” he said, “we need water to produce all kinds of things.”
As examples, Brouwer showed how much water is needed for basic clothing items: 10,000 litres of water are used to produce a kilogram of cotton, which, therefore, means 2,500 litres are required to make a 250-gram T-shirt and 8,000 litres for an 800-gram pair of blue jeans. For a morning cup of coffee, the equivalent of 1,000 cups of water are needed – from growing the bean, processing it and transporting it to the consumer.
Pressures on the international water supply are further exacerbated as countries such as China, Brazil and India achieve a higher standard of living and demand more goods like Western clothing and coffee.
“We expect that water stress will continue into the future,” Brouwer said, noting that two billion people in the world currently live in areas where water is scarce, including in the Middle East and in Northern Africa.
Global demand for water is, according to Brouwer, expected to grow one percent per year until 2050. By that time, 45% of global output would come from countries experiencing water scarcity. Tel Aviv, along with Sao Paulo, Cape Town and Karachi, is among the cities in the world most at risk of experiencing water shortages.
In a chart, Brouwer showed the skewed distribution of water usage around the world – from the average American, who uses 156 gallons per day to a French person who uses 76, an Indian at 38 and a Malian at three. Canada is the second-largest consumer of water per capita in the world. The average Israeli consumes 40% less water than their Canadian counterpart.
In his final remarks, Brouwer said the widely held view of water abundance in Canada may be a misperception when water quality and access to clean and safe drinking water are taken into consideration.
He concluded that water has value, but that its price is not reflective of its true value. Attention, he said, should be paid to both increasing water supply and policies that reduce water demand, and that water pricing is one way to raise awareness for essential water services.
Technion Canada partnered with the consulate on the World Water Day initiative.
Sam Margolis has written for the Globe and Mail, the National Post, UPI and MSNBC.
Adi Barokas and her husband Barak during their time in Vancouver. (photo from Adi Barokas)
I read a review in an Israeli newspaper of Adi Barokas’ Hebrew-language graphic novel, the title of which translates as The Journey to the Best Place on Earth (and Back). I also read a scathing review of that review on the JI website, written by Roni Rachmani, an Israeli who lives in Vancouver. Disturbed by several aspects of the criticism, I decided to look into the book – and its author and illustrator – myself.
When I made aliyah from Canada in 1975, I had many difficulties acclimatizing to Israel. In reading Adi’s book, it was as though she had written the book I’d always wanted to write about Israel. Her experiences in Canada, which took place three decades after mine in Israel, were decidedly similar.
Aliyah is often thought of as a lofty, spiritual ascent, but, in a practical sense, it is effectively like immigrating to any other country. In the euphoria and joy of making the huge leap, this can be overlooked.
Decades before the internet, cellphones, Skype and WhatsApp, I left my home and family, strongly motivated by Zionist ideals, conveyed to me by my parents’ Israel experience of the 1950s. I longed to live a fuller Jewish life and take part in the developing history of Am Yisrael. Wrapped in a fuzzy cloak of enthusiasm, naïve and wholly unfamiliar with Israeli society, things turned out to be very different than the utopian image I’d envisioned. However, nearly half a century later, I am still grateful to be here.
Adi and her husband Barak met in the mid-2000s. Shortly after they married, Barak was called up to serve in the Second Lebanon War. They wanted to live in a quiet, peaceful society where they could just pursue their lives and careers, so they headed to Vancouver, which is often billed as one of the best places in the world to live. Unfortunately, they met with many unexpected challenges, mostly related to cultural differences. They tried to feel like they belonged, but never overcame feeling like foreigners.
For me, the in-your-face abrasiveness for which Israelis are known was an enormous shock to my more reserved, polite system. In Vancouver, Adi found those Canadian-associated traits off-putting and two-faced.
Adi and Barak were seeking a breather, serenity and space from the intense pace of life in densely populated Israel. With excessively high expectations that everything would be just so, they came to Vancouver. But for them, too, the culture shock was huge. They were not accustomed to so many rigid rules and regulations.
Adi had never lived in such a diverse society and was excited to interact with people of many ethnicities from around the world. It took a long time to catch on to the nuances, the nonverbal cues, of how people in Vancouver socialize – what topics are off limits, for example. Coming from Israel, a very liberal place, where most people freely express their unsolicited opinions, this was challenging.
Adi and Barak found it odd that everything was so quiet and calm in Vancouver. They were used to a lively, noisy society where people mix in close proximity. In Vancouver, everywhere they went, voices were barely audible and, so, they gradually adjusted and lowered their own tone of voice, and limited their conversations to certain topics.
The couple were eager to socialize, especially with their fellow foreign colleagues, with whom they felt more affinity than with Canadians. They initiated get-togethers, extended invitations, but they found everything so formal and stilted and rarely reciprocated. The only safe subjects of conversation were about hockey or the weather, nothing the couple felt was deep or of substance. This hampered their forming close friendships. Their sense of strangeness, that they would never fit in, grew.
On the flipside, schooled in the notion of appropriate table talk in Canada, I would often feel embarrassed at subjects discussed so frankly in Israel. It felt like an infringement on private matters, mostly with regards to money and personal relationships.
In Israel, people stand far less on ceremony, tell others to drop by any time, and mean it. But, to me, these invitations seemed an empty manner of speech. In Hebrew, the word for “to drop by” (tikfetzi) and a less polite version of “buzz off” (tikfetzi li) are the same!
I was baffled when people would ask why I’d come to Israel. It’s obvious to anyone imbued with Zionist and Jewish values that aliyah is a natural step, that Israel is the place to build a future. But, instead of words of praise or encouragement, Israeli peers, if they showed any interest at all, found it amusing that anyone would leave what they assumed was the easy life, to come to what was a troubled society. There was certainly no welcome wagon, no grace period to acclimatize. There were few invitations for holidays or Shabbat. The workplace, where I was often the only non-Israeli, was an even rougher scene – I wasn’t aware of how critical having connections really is, of how offices and organizations operated.
Across the ocean, Adi and Barak arrived with several science degrees under their belts, and had to swim the stormy seas of academic life in a B.C. university. There was some discrepancy between how they saw themselves – as conveying constructive criticism – and what some of their colleagues and acquaintances shared with them. This created awkward misunderstandings, a lack of candid communication and obstacles to their ability to settle in.
The couple had to wade through seemingly endless red tape through bureaucracy channels. They found it infuriating to jump hoops with indifferent, intransigent civil servants, who never saw them as individuals.
I can completely relate, as I have had to navigate mountains of paperwork, all in Hebrew, which, when I first arrived, was at an afternoon Hebrew school level. English was not widely spoken, and clerks lacked any service orientation – there was scarcely any eye contact. I miss even a perfunctory exchange of pleasantries, which, in Israel, is considered a waste of words. But Israel has come a long way and there is a marked improvement; as well, much can be done online. That’s not to say everyone is pleasant, but at least civil.
Barak and Adi became increasingly frustrated in Vancouver and it began to affect their mental and physical health. They became discouraged, falling into despondency, and their lives were out of their control. Under steadily increased pressure, their goals seemed to be slipping from their grasp, yet they were obligated to stick it out. They would have loved to have returned to Israel much sooner, but honoured their academic commitments, which were critical to enabling Barak to advance in his career in cancer research. Competition is fierce in academia but, eventually, Barak was offered a position at Ben-Gurion University, for which they are grateful.
Adi asked me why I stay in Israel. The answer is that, despite not knowing the ropes initially, having had to master Hebrew and the Middle Eastern mentality, the reasons for coming remain steadfast: unwavering belief in Zionist ideology and the privilege of fulfilling the mitzvah of settling in Eretz Yisrael. Still reserved and well-mannered at my core, I can and will tell someone off in Hebrew if they cut in front of me in line. And driving has forced me to become assertive.
Life in Israel has made me resilient, not automatically accepting of everything that’s dished out, and no longer complacent. My children and grandchildren have none of my social concerns and are rarely bothered by the things that irk me. They do recognize and understand that it hasn’t been a walk in the park for me. They greatly benefit from knowing English, which I spoke at home to my kids and which I also speak with my grandchildren.
Distance has impacted relationships with my relatives, who are all in Canada, and I miss them. But, in Canada, families commonly live far apart and visit only a few times a year. That’s just the norm and how I grew up, too. In Israel, we belong to a close-knit clan, with whom we celebrate holidays and other occasions; regularly helping one another is everything here.
Living in Vancouver, Adi was frustrated by the positive-thinking approach that was all the rage, but didn’t work for her. She needed to be able to share her concerns openly. She wanted practical advice, instead of being brushed off all the time, with people either trying to divert her attention or change the subject. At least the experience forced her to become more self-reliant.
Adi began to delve into other areas beyond academia, having been turned off the sciences for good. She tapped into her creative side, got her driver’s licence, went swimming, started writing. Both she and Barak took up yoga and meditation.
Adi sought therapy and finally found a therapist who was helpful, which contributed to Adi’s bouncing back from within. Time spent in nature, and developing her writing and artistic skills, offered solace.
It was during this process of self-discovery and self-care that the couple decided to start a family, and they had a son.
When an offer came for Barak to take up a post in Leicester, England, it meant once again picking up and leaving, and having to learn their way around a new place. But, it appealed to them, as Leicester was off the beaten track and the small city ambience appealed to them. As well, the move brought them closer to home. Instead of the 10-hour time difference, they were only two hours behind Israel time-wise and a five-hour flight away.
Outside Israel, Jews tend to belong to communities where they gather to share religious and cultural activities and strengthen their bond with Israel. For me, coming to Israel to live in a predominantly Jewish society was enlightening, yet it wasn’t easy to understand the many different customs. I enjoy the Jewish character and vibe of Israel in many facets of the public sphere. Life revolves largely around the Jewish calendar, especially the celebration of Shabbat and festivals. What binds us is our unique, incredible history and heritage.
Had I been better prepared, come with more defined goals, and more socialized in a Jewish environment, I might have fared better. Even when the going was rough, returning was never an option, however. I am living a meaningful life in Israel, where I have mostly resided in the Jerusalem area.
We have all witnessed Israel evolve into a modern, advanced country, making huge strides in every realm imaginable. On occasional visits to Canada, I enjoy the familiar scenery, the cold, the language and pleasantries, though a noticeably different mindset from the locals is apparent.
Immigration is a tremendous and profoundly complex undertaking. It entails much uncertainty and many twists and turns. No matter how much any immigrant plans, one never knows how things will unfold. It is an arduous process that demands full commitment with every fibre of one’s mind, body and soul. Fellow ex-pats can only offer so much support and help. The individual immigrating has to go through the process on their own terms.
Adi and Barak have since returned to Israel. Over a total of eight years away, they learned a great deal about themselves, individually and as a couple. Growing up in Israel, they naturally identified as Israelis, their Jewish identity cultural. While abroad, they realized that they were viewed by others not only as Israelis, but as Jewish, as a minority. This heightened their awareness, added a new dimension.
Time away has changed them, considerably, and they returned to a somewhat changed Israel. They have settled on a kibbutz 20 minutes from Be’er Sheva, where they and their now two children enjoy spectacular scenery in the Negev, a warm climate and a caring community. They have found their home right here, at home.
Adina Horwichwas born in Israel to Canadian parents. In 1960, the family returned to Canada, first living in Halifax, then in a Montreal suburb. In 1975, at age 17, Horwich made aliyah, and has lived mostly in the Jerusalem area.
קשה להאמין אבל זו עובדה מוגמרת: נבחרת קנדה בכדורגל הצליחה להעפיל למשחקי הגביע העולמי הלא הוא המונדיאל. זאת, לא מעט בזכותו של מאמן הנבחרת הבריטי, ג’ון הרמן. יש לזכור שקנדה לא השתתפה בשום מונדיאל מאז אלף תשע מאות שמונים ושש – עת נערכו המשחקים במקסיקו.
משחקי המונדיאל אלפיים עשרים ושתיים יערכו השנה בקטר. זאת, לקראת סוף השנה: החל מהעשרים ואחד בנובמבר ועד השמונה עשר בדצמבר. מדובר בטורניר הראשון מעולם שנערך במדינה ערבית, והשני בעולם שנערך ביבשת אסיה. יש לזכור שזו גם הפעם הראשונה שהמדינה המארחת – קטר – לא השתתפה מעולם בשום אליפות עולם בכדורגל. גם הפעם ישתתפו בטורניר שלושים ושתיים נבחרות. ולעומת זאת בשמחקי גביע העולם הבא שיערך בשלוש מדינות יחדיו – ארצות הברית, מקסיקו וקנדה – מספר המשתתפות יגדל לראשונה לארבעים ושמונה נבחרות. בגלל החום הכבד השורר בקטר משחקי המונדיאל יערכו לראשונה לקראת סוף השנה (כאמור בחודשים נובמבר-דצמבר), ולאו בחודשי באמצע השנה (בחודשים מאי-יוני-יולי). מאותה סיבה אורכו של הטורניר קוצר הפעם לעשרים ושמונה יום בלבד. המשחקים יערכו בשמונה אצטדיונים ששפוצו באופן רציני בחמש ערים שונות בקטר. היום לא מעט שמועות שבחירתה של קטר לארח את גביע העולם בכדורגל, לוותה במעשים לא כשרים וקנוניות. ואחרת: קטר לא היתה זוכה בכבוד הגדול הזה שליות מארחת של המונדיאל.
עשרים ותשע מדינות הבטיחו כבר את השתתפותן באליפות העולם בקטר, ומעמדן של שלוש הנבחרות האחרונות יקבע רק במהלך חודש יוני. להלן רשימת הנבחרות של המדינות המדינות שישתתפו במונדיאל הקרוב: דרג מספר אחד: המארחת קטר, בלגיה, צרפת, ארגנטינה, אנגליה, ספרד ופורטוגל. דרג מספר שתיים: דנמרק, הולנד, ארצות הברית, מקסיקו, גרמניה, שווייץ, קרואטיה ואורוגוואי. דרג מספר שלוש: איראן, יפן, סרביה, דרום קוריאה, קנדה, סנגל, פולין ומרוקו. ואילו דרג מספר ארבע: סעודיה, אקוודור, גאנה, טוניסיה וקמרון. שלוש נבחרות ממדינות אלה יצטרפו לדרג מספר ארבע כאמור במהלך המשחקים שיערכו ביוני הקרוב. המשחקים הראשונים יערכו בין נבחרות אוסטרליה ואיחוד האמירויות, כאשר המנצחת מבין שתיהן תאלץ להתמודד מול נבחרת פרו. המשחקים השניים יערכו בין נבחרות ניו זילנד וקוסטה ריקה. המשחקים השלישיים יערכו בין נבחרות אוקראינה וסקוטלנד, כאשר המנצחת מבין שתיהן תאצץ להתמודד מול נבחרת וויילס.
הסנסציה הגדולה ביותר במשחקים המוקדמים שקבעו את זהות הנבחרות שיגיעו למונדיאל של קטר, קרתה כאשר איטליה הגדולה הפסידה למקדוניה הקטנה (ממש כמו דוד מול גוליית). אלופת אירופה האיטלקית זו הפעם השנייה ברציפות תיעדר מאליפות העולם בכדורגל. פשוט מביש.
יש שטוענים שטורניר הגביע העולמי במקסיקו היה טוב ביותר אי פעם. זו גם הייתה הפעם היחידה שנבחרת ישראל השתתפה במונדיאל. כשהקנדים הגיעו למקסיקו הם שיחקו מאוד הגנתי ומפוחד ולא כבשו אפילו שער אחד. מאז עברו עשורים של דכדוך בתחתית הכדורגל העולמי, גם של קנדה וגם של ישראל. נראה כאילו נגזר על שתי נבחרות אלה להיעדר מטורניר הגביע העולמי בכדורגל לתמיד, אך בקנדה כנראה חשבו אחרת. ועובדה היא שהקנדים ישתתפו במונדיאל הקרוב. ולעומת זאת שחקני נבחרת ישראל ימשיכו להמציא תירוצים על כשלונותיהם הרבים מאוד, לאורך כל אותן עשרות שנים. אגב נבחרת ישראל מודרגת כיום על ידי פיפ”א במקום השבעים ושש בעולם, ובמרחק רב מנבחרת קדנה של היום.
באותן שנים קנדה לא רק שלא ניצחה מעולם את ארה”ב ומקסיקו, אלא בקושי השיגה נקודות גם מול קוסטה ריקה, פנמה, ג’מייקה והונדורס. הנבחרת הקנדית הגיעה לשפל בשנת אלפיים ושתיים עשרה עת הפסידה להונדורס בנשחק שקבע מי יקבל כרטיס למונדיאל שמונה: אחת.
מאז ראשי התאחדות הכדורגל הקנדית שינוי לחלוטין את מצבה של הנבחרת הלאומית לגברים. הושקעו משאבים כספיים רבים, טופחו משמעותית אצטדיונים ומתקני אימון ברחבי קנדה הגדולה והגיעו צוותי אימון מחוץ למדינה. בנוסף קנדה אירחה טורנירים בינלאומיים ואף הוקמה הליגה המקצוענית כאן לפני כשנתיים. הליגה המקומית לכדורגל לא קשורה לליגות האמריקאיות. סקאוטרים מגיעים לביקורים תכופים ולאט לאט ההשקעה החלה להשתלם. קנדה של היום היא שונה לגמרי מזו שהשתתפה במשחקי גביע העולם במקסיקו (באלף תשע מאות שמונים ושש). מדובר בנבחרת שהגיעה למונדיאל בזכות ולא בחסד. היא סיימה לפני ארה”ב ומקסיקו ובעוד ארבע שנים כאמור תארח ביחד איתן את המונדיאל הבא – של שנת אלפים עשרים ושש.
נבחרת הנשים הקנדית בכדורגל הזכתה במדליית זהב בטוקיו, ואילו רק עתה סוף סוף גם נבחרת הגברים הלאומית המקומית מצליחה לזכות בהישגים של ממש.
למאמן הרדמן (בן הארבעים ושש) יש הצלחה לא מבוטלת בעברו. הוא יליד קובנטרי שבאנגליה, מעולם לא היה כדורגלן מקצוען, אלה היה שחקן ששיחק קצת בליגות החצי מקצועניות. הוא קיבל תפקיד זוטר של אנליסט, שהפך למשרת עוזר מאמן בסנדרלנד, אבל ההתקדמות הגדולה שלו התחילה דווקא כשעבר לניו זילנד הרחוקה. שם הוא התחיל לעבוד בהתאחדות הכדורגל המקומית, עד שהגיע למשרת מאמן נבחרת הנשים. דווקא בתפקיד זה הרדמן בלט. תחתיו ניו זילנד הצנועה הגיעה לשלושה טורנירים גדולים (שתי מונדיאלים ואולימפיאדה), כשהיא הופכת לאחת מנבחרות הנשים הטובות בעולם. לאור הצלחתו ראשי ההתאחדות לכדורגל הקנדית, הביאו אותו לכאן. תחילה מינו אותו (בשנת אלפיים ואחד עשרה) לתפקיד מאמן נבחרת הנשים הקנדית. נבחרת הנשים המקומית מעולם לא הגיעה להישגים מיוחדים עד הגעתו של הרדמן. אך עימו הנבחרת הלאומית לנשים בכדורגל, זכתה בשתי מדליות ארד (אחת בלונדון והשנייה בריו דה ז’ניירו).
נבחרת הגברים של קנדה דשדשה וחיפשה את עצמה באותה תקופה ארוכה. הכישרונות הצעירים החלו לדפוק על הדלתות. ואילו ההצלחה של הרדמן שכנעה את קברניטי ההתאחדות לתת הזדמנות למישהו מתוך המערכת, שיודע איך להצליח בכדורגל נבחרות. מאמני נשים לא ממש מקבלים הזדמנויות בקבוצות גברים ולכן הסיפור של הרדמן הוא כל כך יוצא דופן.
כמי שהתחיל בעצם מלמטה (ללא קריירת משחק מקצוענית ברמה גבוהה), הרדמן קיבל בינואר אלפיים ושמונה עשרה את משרת מאמן נבחרת הגברים בכדורגל. הוא הביא לנבחרת הגברים הקנדית את האמונה, הנחישות, העבודה הקשה והגיבוש החשוב. כשהגיע, נבחרת הגברים של קנדה דורגה על ידי פיפ”א במקום התעשים ושמונה בעולם. ואילו כיום הנבחרת ממוקמת במקום השלושים ושלושה בעולם – שיא של כל הזמנים מבחינתה.
הרדמן אומר: “כשהגעתי הצבנו לעצמנו מטרות ברורות. רצינו להיות חלוצים. להפוך את קנדה למדינת כדורגל. ידענו שהעפלה לגביע העולמי היא נדבך חשוב בדרך”. הוא הסביר לשחקנים שלא יוכלו להצליח בלי לעבוד ביחד. בלי שלכל אחד מהשחקנים יהיה הגב של החבר שלו. לדבריו השחקנים הבינו את המסר, והכוונה היא בעיקר לאלה שמהווים את השלד המנהיגותי בנבחרת. משם זה התחיל לחלחל. הרדמן אומר על הצלחת הנבחרת שלו: “אני פשוט לא מאמין. יש לנו שחקנים שזכו בליגת האלופות. יש לנו שחקנים בכל אירופה ועכשיו יש לנו גם שחקנים שהולכים לחוות את הגביע עולמי. אנחנו מדינת כדורגל. זה כל מה שרצינו. אנחנו מגיעים ואנחנו רק בתחילת הדרך”.
On March 30, Minister of Canadian Heritage Pablo Rodriguez and Minister of Justice and Attorney General of Canada David Lametti announced a new expert advisory group on online safety as the next step in developing legislation to address harmful online content.
While online platforms play a central role in the lives of Canadians, bringing many benefits to society, they can also be used as tools to cause real and significant harm to individuals, communities and the country. Harmful content, such as hate speech, sexual exploitation of children and incitement to violence, is published online every day. There are no broad regulatory requirements in Canada that apply to platforms regarding their responsibilities in relation to such content.
The expert advisory group will be mandated to provide advice on a legislative and regulatory framework that best addresses harmful content online. The group is composed of diverse experts and specialists from across Canada: Amarnath Amarasingam, Queen’s University; Bernie Farber, Canada Anti-Hate Network; Chanae Parsons, community activist and youth engagement specialist; David Morin, Université de Sherbrooke; Emily Laidlaw, University of Calgary; Ghayda Hassan, Université du Québec à Montréal; Heidi Tworek, University of British Columbia; Lianna McDonald, Canadian Centre for Child Protection; Pierre Trudel, Université de Montréal; Signa A. Daum Shanks, University of Ottawa; Taylor Owen, McGill University; and Vivek Krishnamurthy, University of Ottawa.
The advisory group will hold nine workshops to discuss various components of a legislative and regulatory framework for online safety. They will also take part in additional stakeholder engagement, including with digital platforms. The work of the advisory group will be open and transparent. The group’s mandate, the supporting materials for each session, and non-attributed summaries of all sessions and discussions, will be published.
“We conducted a consultation last year and released the What We Heard Report earlier this year,” said Rodriguez. “It’s clear that harmful online content is a serious problem, but there is no consensus on how to address it. We’re asking the expert advisory group to go back to the drawing board. We need to address this problem openly and transparently as a society.”
Facts and figures on online violence in Canada include that:
62% of Canadians think there should be more regulation of online hate speech;
58% of women in Canada have been victims of abuse online;
80% of Canadians support requirements to remove racist or hateful content within 24 hours;
one in five Canadians have experienced some form of online hate;
racialized Canadians are almost three times more likely to have experienced harmful behaviour online;
there was a 1,106% increase in online child sexual exploitation reports received by the RCMP National Child Exploitation Crime Centre between 2014 to 2019.
“Too many people and communities are victimized by harmful online content that is often amplified and spread through social media platforms and other online services,” said Lametti. “The Government of Canada believes that Canadians should have protection from harmful online content, while respecting freedom of expression.”
– Courtesy Canadian Heritage
Also on March 30, the Canadian Coalition to Combat Online Hate announced the launch of their new website, combatonlinehate.ca, providing youth, parents, educators and policymakers with strategic tools to be effective in their efforts to identify and combat online hate.
“Canadians are exposed daily to a barrage of hateful and divisive online messages that pollute social media forums with content that is antisemitic, anti-Black, anti-Asian, anti-Indigenous, misogynistic, Islamophobic and homophobic, and that promotes conspiracy theories. These posts, videos and memes are easily discoverable and readily shared, often masked by anonymity or given undue credibility,” said Richard Marceau, vice-president, external affairs and general counsel at the Centre for Israel and Jewish Affairs (CIJA). “We know that online hate can become real-life violence. Hate-motivated murders at Christchurch’s Al Noor Mosque and Linwood Islamic Centre and at Pittsburgh’s Tree of Life Synagogue stand as notable examples. It is incumbent on all of us, before it is too late, to combat online hate with the most effective tools available.”
According to a 2021 survey by the Canadian Race Relations Foundation, 42% of respondents have seen or experienced hateful comments or content inciting violence online, and younger and racialized Canadians are significantly more likely to be confronted with this hate. The same study indicated that 93% of Canadians believe that online hate speech and racism are problems, of which 49% believe they are “very serious” problems. Findings also showed that at least 60% of Canadians believe that the federal government has an obligation to pass regulations preventing hateful and racist rhetoric and behaviour online. Only 17% prefer no government involvement at all.
“We saw COVID exacerbate online hate exponentially, as stress levels and political division rose amid lockdowns. By working together, we can make the communities we are building online – and, by extension, the communities we inhabit offline – safer places for all Canadians,” said Marceau.
The website combatonlinehate.ca is organized by the Canadian Coalition to Combat Online Hate, funded by Canadian Heritage and powered by CIJA.
Jewish Canadians were instrumental in building the Canadian labour movement and, by extension, the Cooperative Commonwealth Federation, which would go on to become the New Democratic Party.
Political scientists and others have observed that, as immigrant communities integrate into their new societies and become more economically secure, their voting patterns and ideological outlooks tend to move across the spectrum. While Canada has seen a small but steady growth of Jewish immigration in recent decades – with spikes during significant events like the end of the Soviet empire – the community, as a whole, is now firmly established.
Canadian Jews, like other groups that have deep roots in our relatively new country, have experienced economic and social success. Individual Jewish households, of course, face every range of economic and social challenge, issues that are addressed by a network of social service agencies guided by the principle Kol Yisrael arevim zeh bazeh, all Israel is responsible for one another. While there is a sacred instruction for Jews to care for our own, Jewish values have also played a role in the actions of Jewish Canadians in relation to the broader Canadian society. Through individual and collective activism, from individuals like David Lewis in the last century to groups like the Centre for Israel and Jewish Affairs today, Canadian Jews have influenced public policy and made the country better and more welcoming for all.
Despite whatever economic advances Canadian Jews have made as a group, it is often noted that, as a community, Jews tend to remain politically progressive. In a practical sense, this has been complicated by positions taken by some on the left, including trade unions, the New Democrats and the Green party. Jewish Canadians are overwhelmingly Zionist and, over the past 50 years, picking up steam in the past two decades, the left has become less and less supportive of Israel and Jewish self-determination. The debate about where anti-Zionism ends and where antisemitism begins is for another day. Stated simply, many Canadian Jews are progressive voters who, due to foreign policy issues, find themselves politically homeless. (The pro-Israel stands of the Stephen Harper government also shook many Jews away from their traditional political allegiances.)
With this context in mind, the surprise announcement Tuesday that the federal Liberal government has signed a supply and confidence agreement with the New Democrats may allow some progressive Zionist voters to have their cake and eat it too.
Under this deal – the same kind of agreement that the NDP and Greens in British Columbia signed to topple the B.C. Liberals in 2017 – the parties have agreed to advance things that have long been on the NDP agenda, such as a national dental care program and national pharmacare. It will apparently enhance ongoing reconciliation work through investments in Indigenous housing and continuing to confront the tragedy of missing and murdered Indigenous women and girls. Changes to the tax system and reducing barriers to participation in elections are also among the points released Tuesday.
The thorny issue of affordable housing will also be part of the mix – although what any government can successfully and substantively do on this issue remains a big question mark.
The provision of affordable universal child care – a promise made repeatedly by the Liberals and still not realized – is another marquis issue, as is addressing climate change and supporting workers.
The deal hearkens back to a similar one between then-prime minister Paul Martin, a Liberal, and the New Democrats, under Jack Layton, which buoyed a minority Liberal government in exchange for a $4.6 billion injection of federal funds into social programs.
For Canadian Jews who remain committed to progressive political values, the rather sudden announcement this week could be very welcome. Canada will (presumably) get a raft of new legislation on issues from environmental protections to economic justice, without subjecting Canadian foreign policy to the whims of a party that has signaled disregard to Jewish Canadians’ familial, historical and emotional ties to the state of Israel.
For those Canadian Jews who do not subscribe to this agenda, well, there is an opportunity for shaping an alternative. The federal Conservative party is in the early stages of what will be, it appears, a fight for the ideological soul of the party. The response to the Liberal-NDP deal by interim Conservative leader Candice Bergen was predictably skeptical. She called it a “power grab” by Trudeau, though time will tell whether a three-year reprieve from a snap election will allow the new Tory leader to cement their role before facing voters.
In any event, the battle lines for the next several years are being drawn. A Liberal-NDP agenda on one side and a possible new approach at the head of the Conservative party on the other.
We hope that Canada avoids the level of polarized partisanship we see in the United States and some other countries. It is, in fact, Canada’s history of moderation and compromise that has made it a welcoming place for Jews and other minority communities. However, it is always healthy in a democracy to have clear, definable choices.
The NDP and Liberals will be laying out their apparently ambitious agenda for the coming years. Those vying for the Conservative party leadership will now have a plethora of fresh policy initiatives to sink their teeth into to define themselves in contrast with this unexpected new informal coalition.
Governor General of Canada Mary Simon welcomed Ronen Hoffman as Israel’s new ambassador to Canada during a formal presentation ceremony at Rideau Hall in Ottawa, Dec. 7, 2021. (photo from Government of Canada)
Israel’s new ambassador to Canada, Ronen Hoffman, is a hockey dad. Plus, he wants to fight terrorism and antisemitism, strengthen research and development projects between the two countries, and forge ties with Canada’s Indigenous peoples. He also needs to remember to wear his winter coat when he leaves for work.
Hoffman, 58, arrived in Ottawa in the week of Hanukkah to take up his new duties. The diplomatic post had been vacant for two years, since Nimrod Barkan stepped down in November 2019. With the instability in Israeli politics – until Naftali Bennett’s government took office in June 2021 – and the COVID pandemic hampering international travel, Hoffman wasn’t able to arrive until just a few weeks ago.
Hoffman was born to a farming family in Afula, in the Jezreel Valley. He hasn’t been to Canada since he was in his 20s, when he did some traveling after the army while working as a shaliach (emissary) to a Jewish summer camp in Atlanta, Ga. Hoffman was an aide to former Israeli prime minister Yitzhak Rabin, and was on the team negotiating the unsuccessful peace talks with Syria.
After earning his doctorate in 1999, Hoffman was elected to the Knesset in 2013 as a member of Yair Lapid’s Yesh Atid party. He did a stint as co-chair of the Israel-Canada Parliamentary Friendship Group. This is his first posting as an ambassador. He is a father of three; his partner is a scientist at the Weizmann Institute.
On Hoffman’s first Christmas in wintry Ottawa, he made a TikTok video showing him walking through Lansdowne Park, trying out his snowball throwing technique and doing some tobogganing. (He didn’t wear winter boots, though.)
CJN: Describe what it was like when you presented your credentials to Canada’s first Indigenous governor general, Mary Simon, on Dec. 7, 2021.
RH: Well, I have to say that it was a very moving and a wonderful ceremony. I went there with my family, which is here with me, my partner and my 4-year-old son, Tomer, and my team from the embassy. There were three other ambassadors that also presented: the ambassadors of the United States, Spain and Sri Lanka. It was an opportunity for us to get a little bond together and speak to each other. And, of course, meeting the governor general and her spouse and the people. I’m very happy that we had an opportunity to really do it, not through Zoom or through the internet, but really do it there, face to face.
CJN: Did you wear or bring or do anything that meant something meaningful to you?
RH: Yes. Can you see the little lapel pin on my jacket? Can you see these Canadian and Israeli flags here? Around it, we have an orange pin, in solidarity with the Indigenous people, also. It was just a little gesture, and I feel that’s part of what I’m going to do here. I would like to educate myself more on the First Nations communities here. I feel that there is a common ground for us to stand on, all of us, as the Jewish people, who for us the state of Israel is, in essence, a return of the Jewish people to our indigenous homeland and traditions and culture. My goal is to build bridges of dialogue, cooperation, collaboration with communities, and we really wanted to show that we care.
CJN: Would you say that you’re planning to reach out to the Assembly of First Nations and all the Indigenous groups … to try to meet them?
RH: Absolutely. I’m the Israeli ambassador to Canada, not only to Ottawa and not only to a specific province. It’s a big and wonderful and beautiful country with lovely people. And so, of course, I intend to travel throughout the country and meet as many people as I can and community members and heads of communities. It would be an important part of what I’m going to do here.
CJN: Let’s move on a little bit towards your agenda. You’re coming to Canada seven months after the war between Hamas and Israel, where Canada’s Jewish community experienced an unprecedented level of antisemitism not seen since the Second World War. First of all, were you surprised when you heard about what the Canadian Jewish community was feeling? And what is your mandate to deal with this here in Canada?
RH: I can’t say that I was surprised because, before I became an ambassador, I’ve been a lecturer. And, as a lecturer, I met with many delegations from the Jewish communities of North America, including Canada, who came to Israel. I heard a lot before the conflict in May about challenges and opportunities of the Jewish communities here, vis-à-vis other communities and vis-à-vis other minorities and governments. I’m aware of the antisemitism and I agree with you that the wave around the conflict in May has been a tremendous one, one that has been very significant when you compare it to previous waves.
I think that, as Israeli diplomats, my role as an Israeli ambassador to Canada is to help and to coordinate, to cooperate and to join forces in the combat of antisemitism and anti-Zionism and anti-Israel [sentiments]. They’re all connected to each other. Sometimes, some of the people would say, ‘Oh, some of these activists just want to show some criticism towards the government of Israel.’ It’s not that. It’s much deeper than that. Maybe now it’s not hidden anymore. They’re actually against the right of Israel to exist as a Jewish state. This is antisemitism. And I think that the Jewish communities here in Canada are not alone in facing this threat and challenge: the Israelis, your brothers and sisters and families, we all face the same kind of challenge in this respect. So, of course, part of my mandate is to work hand in hand with the leaders of the Jewish communities here, and try to find ways to combat it together.
CJN: It’s a big part of your mandate. But it wasn’t number one on the list. Your number one priority for your mandate is?
RH: It is to strengthen the relationship between Israel and Canada, which have very close relations, a very close friendship, and we have shared and we still share common values and common interests. And, like Canada, Israel is committed to human rights, to justice, to the rule of law. We are liberal democracies. We also have shared interests, for example, to combat terrorism, global terrorism, to help to create more stability in our areas, in our regions and to work together vis-à-vis opportunities and challenges. That is, I would say, my number one goal here: to continue and to strengthen those bilateral relations and the close friendship that Israel has with Canada.
CJN: What concerns does the Israeli government have about Canada’s decision during the May hostilities with Hamas to give money – about $25 million – to agencies such as UNRWA that have had a very problematic history when it comes to anti-Zionist and anti-Israel and Jew-hatred materials? How does Israel feel about that?
RH: We face some organizations, international and Palestinian organizations, that call themselves organizations that care for human rights, and they kind of hide behind that high language and terms that we are all committed to. But, actually, they are terror organizations. Our concern is that our friends around the world, including Canada, would be with us, looking at those organizations, exposing the lies and getting to see exactly what they’re doing. This is a concern in our mission and a real objective as part of our diplomatic work.
CJN: OK, so back to your mandate and what you’re here for. In a news release when you presented your credentials to the governor general, you said that you want to help with start-ups, and harness Israeli know-how to help Canada solve problems. Is there any area in particular that you want to focus on? We just finished re-upping the Canada-Israel Free Trade Agreement, which was re-signed under a previous Trudeau government. What more is there to do?
RH: There’s a lot to do. Look, Israel and Canada are closely working on finalizing a research and development agreement to mutually invest in know-how in joint research projects, and innovation in several fields, such as food tech, health tech, environment, energy and climate security. And then, of course, letting start-ups and the industrial ecosystem get to know each other and to develop ties and relations. We’re working on it. And I’m optimistic here. I think that we could really enlarge our relationship and find and create more joint projects on innovation. This is, again, one of the first high priorities on my agenda.
CJN: Would you say that there’s a date when they are expecting to sign it? In 2022 or 2023?
RH: There is no specific date. But, as an ambassador, I’m going to push and I’m going to try to do it as soon as possible. And it’s just one specific agreement – I have some ideas for other agreements, as well, to start MOUs [memoranda of understanding]. Every agreement or project starts with dialogue, right? So, my idea is to create more dialogue between government to government, meaning some of the ministries in Israel that are relevant to innovation, hopefully, would speak in a structured dialogue process to some of the ministries here in Canada – for example, the ministries of energy and ministries of environment, agriculture and others. And so, we’ll set a set of several bilateral dialogues that eventually, I hope, would produce new agreements.
CJN: A lot of the research work is done at the university level, though, and that brings us to the problem where a lot of Canadian universities have faced the boycott, divestment and sanctions issue, with clubs or groups of academics trying to have the BDS policies adopted. How can the Israeli ambassador and the Israeli embassy negotiate this minefield to bring about your MOUs and this cooperation?
RH: Well, I think that there are at least two ways to go about it. One is to differentiate between the political talks around campuses and the industry of lies, and cooperate in joint research: start new projects with universities, connect universities here to universities in Israel and work together on tikkun olam, of doing something that the world would be able to benefit from. We have so many other scholars and researchers who we should work with. We should fight and combat against this BDS and all these things, but, at the same time, cooperate with our friends.
CJN: I know you were involved with Canadian parliamentarians before. How does that prepare you for this job?
RH: As a member of Knesset (2013-2015), I then chaired – from the Israeli side, of course – the Inter-Parliamentary Friendship Association with Canada, and it enabled me to meet some members of the Canadian Parliament … and host them in Israel. When they came in a delegation, it helped me to understand the political system here, better, I would say. But now, when I’m here, I have to tell you that I have so much more to learn. I knew a little bit, but I have to say I’m fascinated by the political system here and by the structure and by the Constitution and the history of it. It’s different than the political system that we have in Israel. We have a multi-political party system based on coalition. We have small political parties who have been and still are the king-makers. The power of veto in our political system, it’s different. We have a prime minister and a president, but we don’t belong to any other group of countries like the Commonwealth. It’s fascinating.
CJN: Had you ever been to Canada at all before this time?
RH: When I was a student, I was sent by the Jewish Agency to be shaliach to a JCC summer camp here in North America, in Atlanta, Ga. And, every summer after the camp, we still had the visa, that would enable us to travel for a few more weeks. So, for a few summers, I remember that, after finishing the camp, I came here to Canada and I traveled, mainly in the west, I have to say, in the Rockies and in Vancouver and British Columbia, but I remember being in Toronto and Niagara Falls.
When I was a kid, I grew up in kind of an outdoor atmosphere. My father was a farmer and I was educated with a love and appreciation for the environment and for the outdoors. I remember when I first came to Canada as a traveler, the nature, the environment, the outdoors impressed me so much. And now, as an ambassador, again, this is another thing I would like to do, to learn from you in Canada – how to appreciate the environment and the outdoors. I think that Israel can contribute, but also can learn from Canada at many levels and many aspects.
Son plays hockey
CJN: So, let’s pivot to some more fun things. I was told to ask you about your son in hockey. That is a door opener to anybody in Canada – just mention that and they’ll greet you with open arms! Are you allowed to tell me? Will your son kill you? (He now plays on the Columbia University men’s hockey team in New York.)
RH: Well, he will kill me anyway, but I’m going to tell you! I have three children. Eitan is my oldest: he’s 26 now, he’s a student at Columbia University in New York. My daughter, Tamara, is 24, and she’s also a student at Columbia University in New York. And my little son, Tomer, is 4 years old and he is here in Ottawa with me.
When Eitan, my oldest, was in elementary school in Israel, hockey just started to be introduced to Israel by friends who immigrated from Russia. But since, in Israel … there was only one [ice arena at the time,] in Metula, in the north [founded with the financial help of Canadians] … they started with roller hockey. My son started when he was in the first grade, or second, and, at some point, they started to build ice arenas for ice hockey. So, he moved from roller hockey to ice hockey.
By the time when he was 16 or 17, he was the captain of the youth national team and they were part of hockey in the Europe leagues and they competed there. And, at some point, they became number two in Europe – the Israelis who had no hockey in our tradition. I was very proud then.
And now, of course, he’s in New York … and, hopefully, he could come here. We will go together to hockey games, and he will explain to me what it’s all about, because that’s another thing I need to learn, right?
CJN: But if you are a hockey dad, you would know all this stuff, like going to the arenas with your thermos of coffee and being cold. Right? You never did that?
RH: Of course I did it. I went with him to Europe. I accompanied him and, yeah, well, I know how it feels, but I still need some explanation. The teams and who’s against who. I still need to learn.
CJN: And the European rinks are different. But what number did he wear in Israel?
CJN: Any particular reason?
RH: I don’t know how it started, but it was 88 and his last name, because I’m proud of him saying our last name. Under the number 88, Hoffman.
CJN: OK. So, unfortunately, Israel is not going to be in the hockey part of the Beijing Winter Olympics. They didn’t make it, but they’re number 34 overall in the IIHF [International Ice Hockey Federation] rankings. Are you a hockey fan at all?
RH: Not a hockey fan, for sure. But now is my opportunity; now it is my opportunity to become a real hockey fan.
CJN: All right. What is the funniest thing that’s happened to you since you came to Canada as an ambassador?
RH: OK, look, it’s not that funny, but whenever I leave home and get into the car to go somewhere, I’m still forgetting to take my coat…. I’m still used to going out with almost just a T-shirt, but it’s taking me longer than I expected to get used to winter.
Tomorrow is Black Excellence Day. The day is adjacent to the birth date of Martin Luther King Jr. and is being recognized in at least 20 B.C. school districts.
Founded last year to draw attention to the lack of Black history being taught in Canadian schools and to highlight the struggles of racialized Canadians, it was originally named Black Shirt Day. The name followed the pattern of other social justice days, such as Pink Shirt Day (anti-bullying) and Orange Shirt Day (truth and reconciliation). Unfortunately, the name Black Shirt Day carries unintentional connotations. The Blackshirts were fascist paramilitary thugs in Italy, akin to the German Nazi Brownshirts.
Many people in the Jewish community expressed concern over the name, as did the B.C. Human Rights Commission. Among the Jewish groups that spoke with the Ninandotoo Society, whose members initiated the commemoration last year, were the Vancouver Holocaust Education Centre and the Centre for Israel and Jewish Affairs (CIJA). In an interview with CBC, Geoffrey Druker, Pacific region chair of CIJA, said, “We were kind of gutted. It was painful because we still have Holocaust survivors among us and anybody who suffered from fascism and black shirts would have been hurt.”
In response to the comments, the Ninandotoo Society created Black Excellence Day, which still focuses on the ongoing civil rights struggle of Black and racialized Canadians and the need for a mandatory curriculum on Black history.
Kamika Williams, president of the society (“nina ndoto” means “I have a dream” in Swahili), told CBC, “For us, it wasn’t a matter of should we change the name, it was what should we change the name to. It would be very hypocritical of us to fight against racism within the Black community and then turn the other cheek when other racialized groups inform us of the racist nuances within their community.”
She said most of the discussions focused on “building solidarity … how do we move forward, how do we work together, how do we stay unified and combat racism together.”
Despite the fascist connotations, however, another group, Anti-Racism Coalition of Vancouver, is still going ahead with a Black Shirt Day, with the imprimatur of Independent Jewish Voices of Canada, among others.
Black Excellence Day (Jan. 15) and Martin Luther King Day (this year on Jan. 17 though his actual birthday is Jan. 15) fall just over a week after Jan. 6. This year, Jan. 6 was a time of widespread reexamination of the insurrection at the U.S. Capitol a year earlier. CNN, MSNBC and other mainstream networks provided exhaustive reviews of the events of that day and insights into the larger meaning for its victims – Capitol police, elected officials, staffers, their families and so forth – while right-wing media perpetuated their line that the attempted coup was nothing more than rambunctious tourists.
The Atlantic magazine’s current issue, with the cover story “January 6 was practise,” devotes almost every word in the magazine to the events of that day and what it means for the future. Relatively obscure civil servants and elections administrators were, in some instances, the main bulwark against Trump’s efforts to subvert the will of voters in states like Georgia, Arizona and elsewhere. But, argues the Atlantic, supporters of the insurrection and the “big lie” that Trump won and the election was stolen are now taking their places at the most sensitive (if least understood) nexus of the election bureaucracy. The alarming, pessimistic tone of the magazine’s issue could be summed up as: American democracy has about three years to live.
Various media have raised alarms about these attempts to grab the election levers – and revisited how it was not so much institutions or constitutional niceties that prevented Trump’s coup attempt from succeeding but a very small number of stiff-backed individuals, including then-vice president Mike Pence, who provided the frail barricade around the will of the country’s voters.
The health and survival of American democracy, put mildly, is not a matter of concern for Americans only. Its demise would eliminate what moral suasion the country holds in the world – to say nothing of the potential for misuse of military power. For Canadians, chaos on the other side of the world’s longest undefended border would be cause for serious concern. And any threat to democracy is a threat, foremost, to the most vulnerable and marginalized, Jews included.
Sadly and scarily, this phenomenon is not exclusive to the United States – illiberal strains are gaining ground in various places in Europe, Latin America and elsewhere. What is needed (among many other things) is a mass cultural movement recognizing these dangers and ensuring the health of democracy – or at least giving it a fighting chance if a chunk of the population rejects the outcome of future elections.
While the United States, Canada and pretty much every democracy have not always lived up to their promise – indeed, they have failed in serious ways – democracy is our collective best chance to achieve just societies. For countless Jews, and millions of others yearning to breathe free, America has been a beacon, despite its flaws. We must not just hope, but take action to help make sure its light – and that of other democracies – does not go out.
Irwin Cotler spoke Sunday at a virtual event convened by National Council of Jewish Women of Canada. (photo from raoulwallenbergcentre.org)
Canada is set to make a number of significant commitments to combat antisemitism, as are other countries that participated in a summit on the issue last week in the Swedish city of Malmö.
Irwin Cotler, Canada’s special envoy on preserving Holocaust remembrance and fighting antisemitism, spoke Oct. 17 at a virtual event convened by National Council of Jewish Women of Canada. The human rights lawyer and former federal justice minister, who is also international chair of the Raoul Wallenberg Centre for Human Rights, said that, in the aftermath of the conference, the Canadian government would announce a number of pledges.
These will include enhanced teaching and learning about the Holocaust across generational lines, combating the increasing Holocaust denial and distortion, and battling hatred on social media. Reducing an alarming rise in hate crimes will also be among the pledges Prime Minister Justin Trudeau is set to make, according to Cotler.
“Twenty-twenty was the year for the highest rise in hate crimes targeting Jews ever,” he said. “But, by May 2021, we had reached the level then of all the hate crimes in all of 2020.”
The government will recommit itself to protecting the security of Jewish institutions, he said.
“Here, the government recently made commitments in financial terms for this purpose,” said Cotler.
Zero tolerance for antisemitism in the political discourse is also an objective, he added.
“That means not just calling out antisemitism in the other’s political party but calling out antisemitism in our own,” Cotler said. “In other words, not weaponizing antisemitism or politicizing it, but holding each of us, respectively, our own political parties, accountable.”
In addition to Trudeau, Israeli President Isaac Herzog, French President Emmanuel Macron and U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken were among the leaders who addressed the conference. The Malmö International Forum on Holocaust Remembrance and Combating Antisemitism was hosted by Sweden’s Prime Minister Stefan Löfven. Trudeau announced at the conference that Cotler’s role of special envoy would be made permanent.
Cotler contextualized the Malmö forum in a two-decade era of what he calls “demonological antisemitism,” which began at the 2001 Durban conference against racism that devolved into an antisemitic carnival.
“What happened at Durban was truly Orwellian,” said Cotler. “A world conference against racism and hate turned into a conference of racism and hate against Israel and the Jewish people. A conference that was to commemorate the dismantling of apartheid in South Africa turned into a conference calling for the dismantling of the ‘apartheid state’ Israel.
“Those of us who personally witnessed this Durban festival of hate have been forever transformed by the pamphlets and posters of hatred and antisemitism, by the cartoons and the leaflets portraying not only the Jews as Nazis, but the classical antisemitic tropes of Jews with hooked noses, with fangs, with fingers dipped in blood from the killing of children. Where we were accosted with pamphlets of the Protocols of the Elders of Zion. Where we witnessed demonstrators with signs – incredibly for a human rights conference or for any conference – signs which said, ‘Too bad Hitler didn’t finish the job.’ Where we witnessed Jewish students – and I witnessed this personally – being physically assaulted and being told, ‘You don’t belong to the human race,’” said Cotler.
Durban was the first tipping point and the global surge of antisemitism during last spring’s conflict between Hamas and Israel was a second, he said.
“Jews were targeted and threatened in their own neighbourhoods and on their own streets,” said Cotler. During and after that conflict, Cotler said, Jewish memorials were defaced, synagogues were torched, cemeteries were vandalized, Jewish institutions found themselves under assault and incendiary hate speech – such as 17,000 tweets that “Hitler was right” – exploded.
The COVID-19 pandemic has exacerbated antisemitism, or at least has been exploited by antisemites, who have “instrumentalized one of the more ancient tropes of the Jews as the poisoners of wells,” said Cotler. The health crisis has also seen conspiracies of Jews profiting from vaccines and anti-vaxxers posing “as if they were victims of Nazi persecution,” he added.
Cotler lamented what he calls “the mainstreaming, the normalization – in effect, the legitimization of antisemitism in the political culture.” During the conflict last spring, convoys of vehicles in London, U.K., drove through Jewish neighbourhoods screaming, “F–k the Jews, rape their daughters!” This was a convoy and a message that was replicated in Toronto days later and which resulted in, Cotler said, an “utter absence of outrage.”
The legalist also spoke of the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance Working Definition of Antisemitism.
“If you can’t define it, you can’t combat it,” he said. The IHRA definition was adopted after 15 years of discussion and debate by intergovernmental bodies, governments, parliaments, scholars and civil society leaders, he said.
The task of fighting antisemitism must not fall only to Jews, Cotler stressed.
“As we’ve learned only too painfully, and have repeated too often, that, while it begins with Jews, it doesn’t end with Jews,” he said. “Therefore, we need this collective global constituency of conscience to combat it.”