What can you do in a day?

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How long can a day be?

When waiting in the delivery room in the hospital for your first born – it’s long,  LONG day; approaching tax return deadline, a day is too short. What did a day look like in Ottawa this week?

How many ambassadors can you see in 24 hours?

I was part of a CIJA Local Partnership fly-in where representatives from Vancouver to Fredericton met for the first time. Part of our agenda was to meet with various ambassadors.

Hungary embassy

Left to right – Dylan Hanley, Merissa Lichtsztral, Hungarian Ambassador to Canada HE Dr. László Pordány, Heather Fenyes, Jeffrey Smith, Steve Shafir, Joel Reitman, Geoffrey Druker

What was the first thought that crossed my mind?  Why would they want to meet representatives of Canadian Jewish communities?

As it turns out, they wanted to.  We were welcomed by the Russians, Hungarians, and Jordanians (my visits), and by the Turkish, Palestinian Authority delegation, and European Union official representatives – and, of course, by Israel’s recently appointed Ambassador to Canada, Rafael Barak.

Not a typical day, but one that CIJA can organize.

What was the second thought that crossed my mind? My thoughts went to those who could not join me today. To my late grandmother who witnessed a pogrom in Russia and who could not join me in meeting the Russian Ambassador to Canada, Georgiy Macedonia, Dean of the Diplomatic Corps.

I thought of Hero of the Holocaust, Dr. Rudolf Vrba, one of the witnesses giving testimony in the movie Shoah by Claude Lanzmann, whose report after escaping Auschwitz reached Hungarian Jewry and resulted in saving more than a hundred thousand Hungarian Jews. He did not get to meet the Ambassador of Hungary. After a successful career teaching at UBC Faculty of Medicine, Dr. Vrba passed away in Vancouver in 2006.

I thought of my friend Gaby P. former kibbutz Givat Haim, who fought in the 1967 War against the Jordanian army.  He was not with me when we met Ambassador Bashes Zoubi to discuss the dividends of the Israel-Jordan peace agreement or Canada’s financial help to the Syrian refugees in Jordan.

Having met my Local Partners only hours prior, these meetings with the Ambassadors helped the group bond as we jointly participated in a first-of-its-kind experience.

We visited Parliament Hill and attended Question Period.  We saw our democracy in action.  From there – a tour of the Peace Tower, a landmark in our capital erected in memory of Canadian fallen soldiers.  On the wall of its Memorial Chamber where all our fallen our registered and remembered, you will read:

In Flanders fields the poppies blow, between the crosses row on row…We are the dead.  Short days ago we lived, felt dawn, saw sunset glow…To you from failing hands we throw the torch, be yours to hold it high

I write this on my flight back to Vancouver thinking: how long can a day or two be?  Reflecting on the meetings, I recalled what Simon Wiesenthal told Rozanne and me when we met him in Vienna:

Don’t make the mistake my generation made. We did not believe that the Holocaust could happen in such a cultured country like Germany and, when we realized it was happening, it was too late. You [me, us, you] live in a democracy and, when you see an injustice, you must act.

Meeting our Members of Parliament, seeing our democracy in action, remembering the price Canadians have paid (In Flanders Field) I feel I am taking steps to fulfill what my grandmother, Simon Wiesenthal and others would have wanted us to do, and what our children hope we will do: get involved to make Canada, Israel and the world a better place.


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