Wednesday, October 20, 2010


Israel Connect European Young Leadership Conference
London, 15th – 17th October 2010

This weekend saw over 100 participants attend Israel Connect’s Annual European Conference. After a few years of trying different iterations and methods, we can definately say that we have taken this event to a new level.

All feedback received from the participants has been extremely positive, going into detail about how much they benefited from the programme, and how much they appreciated the opportunity to meet and discuss with other like-minded Young Professionals.

This conference was made up of over thirty ‘alumni’ graduates from previous Israel Connect European (ICE) Young Leadership groups, and over seventy participants from around the UK and Europe who have not previously experienced the Israel Connect Europe programme. In previous years we have always used the London conference to launch a new cohort of the ICE Young Leadership Programme. However, unlike pervious years, we have postponed the start of the ICE programme to January. This was as we learnt that the participants of the new group were not able to network effectively and form as a group, due to the vast number of additional people at the conference. Despite the impressive line up of speakers, we felt this was the right method. Due to not welcoming in the new ICE group this year, we were originally slightly worried about numbers, but we need not have been!

Our speakers for the weekend included:

- MK Nitzan Horowitz. Current Israeli Member of Knesset (Meretz) and former Journalist (Foreign Affairs commentator and head of the International desk at Channel 10). Nitzan provided two great sessions for the group talking about the current situation in Israel, along with the equality opportunities that Israel presents and how he thinks they need to be improved.
- Hillel Neuer. Director of UN Watch (Human Rights NGO), lawyer and regular commentator. Frequently quoted as an expert on U.N. and human rights issues by major media. Hillel gave us an account of the mockery that is the United Nations Human Rights Council (UNHRC), and introduced us to the concept of lawfare, which he predicts is the next bit method that some will use to deligitimise Israel.
- Yehuda Avner. Israeli former diplomat who served as ambassador to United Kingdom and Australia. Served as advisor to Prime Ministers Yitzhak Rabin, Menachem Begin, and Shimon Peres. Originally from UK. Amb. Avner gave an incredibly vivid and colourful account of his past experiences with previous Prime Ministers, and shared his advice of how best to deal with hostile audiences and questions. Never before has Israel Connect seen such a large group of Young Professionals sit so still, and soak up every word of a speaker.
- Ofer Laufman. Chairman of the Department for Diaspora Activities of the World Zionist Federation. Ofer spoke as the representative of the WZO, and gave an impressive account of the need for activists. If anyone was unsure why they were attending the conference, they realised the need after they heard Ofer speak.
- Andrew White. Founder of the Beyond Images education and advocacy project on Israel, working as a lawyer. Andrew gave the inspiration needed for the seminar, moving away from primarily facts and analysis, to looking at the need for advocates in the community, and showing the resources available.

Saturday night was a time to let our hair down with the annual Israel Connect European club night. Over 150 people attended, with lots of networking and mingling occurring after an intense day and a half of study.

Sunday morning was a break for the non-alumni group, as the alumni of the ICE programme participated in focus workshops looking at the new outline for next years programme, and how we could improve it. Following this was the essential session of ‘what about the alumni?’. Here the alumni group of over 30 sat and discussed avidly what role they should play in the ICE programme, and how they can best stay connected without the reality of having regular seminars throughout the year. Lots of suggestions arose, and it is fair to say that everyone in the session was inspired about realizing the potential of the group, and the impact we could have.

What was most incredible about the conference, was the feedback from the speakers and observers (eg. Jewish Agency representatives). All speakers and presenters were incredibly impressed with the high quality of participants on the programme, their enthusiasm, and eagerness to get involved and learn. They confirmed what we thought – this truly is an incredible and valuable programme.