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This article was published 18/10/2010 (4014 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.
Tel Aviv -- This year's mission to Israel of the Winnipeg Jewish Federation has been instantly transformed into a "Manitoba week" in Israel.
Led by community leaders Mel and Karyn Lazareck, the mission was joined by Manitoba Premier Greg Selinger and two of his ministers, Dave Chomiak and Christine Melnick. The leader of the opposition, Hugh McFadyen, and Dr. David Barnard, the president and vice-chancellor of the University of Manitoba, also joined the 34 members of the Winnipeg mission.
What made this year's mission particularly successful was the parallel tour in Israel of the Royal Winnipeg Ballet, the first since 1975. The RWB is expected to perform seven times in Tel Aviv, Jerusalem and Haifa and it was sponsored, in part, by Winnipeg's Asper Foundation. A performance in Amman, Jordan, was cancelled.
The Gala performance in Tel Aviv last Thursday was attended by the newly appointed Canadian ambassador to Israel, Paul Hunt. The RWB was enthusiastically received by the constantly growing dance audiences in Israel. The RWB performed a split program, featuring Maurice Wainrot's Carmina Burana and In Tandem by Peter Quantz, an emerging choreographer in the ballet world.
As a clear indication of his intention to solidify and expand the relationship between Manitoba and Israel, Premier Selinger appointed Winnipeg businessman and philanthropist Mel Lazareck as "special representative for Manitoba to Israel" to advise on various economic and community projects in Israel.
Indeed, hours after they landed in Israel, Selinger and the mission joined Tel Aviv Mayor Ron Huldai in dedicating in Jaffa The Jewish-Arab Park for Peace. The park is part of the Jewish-Arab Community Centre and was supported by Winnipeg benefactors, among them businesswoman Jackie Simkin, the niece of mega-entrepreneur Abe Simkin, who is also among the mission's participants.
Addressing the crowd, Selinger pledged the sum of $40,000 in support of a Jewish-Arab leadership program. This will enable 30 high school students from poor families to develop their leadership skills and work together on joint projects.
After the ceremony, the RWB conducted a workshop for young Jewish and Arab dancers.
This was the first time a dance group of such prominence conducted a workshop in Israel.
During its 10-day visit to Israel, the Winnipeg mission visited various sites in Tel Aviv, Jerusalem and the Galilee and spent two days vacationing at the Red Sea resort city of Eilat, in the immediate proximity of the Jordanian seaport of Aqaba.
The business part of the Selinger visit was highlighted by the signing in Jerusalem of several agreements on commercial business development, agriculture, water and ecotourism. The agreements will promote co-operation and joint marketing research between the Hebrew University and the Asper School of Business at the University of Manitoba; agricultural research in Israel and Manitoba, including work that is already being done by the Hebrew University and the University of Manitoba; and an agreement to share and develop technologies designed to improve water quality in both Manitoba and Israel.
As was to be expected, Selinger and the mission spent time meeting with Winnipeg and Canadian Jews who immigrated to Israel.
They were hosted to a festive dinner at the Caesaria residence of Sara and Winnipeg-born Avie Arennson, who is one of the most prominent builders in Israel.
Selinger urged the audience to enhance their contacts with Winnipeg for the benefit of both Manitoba and Israel.
Selinger devoted one day of his busy schedule to the West Bank and Palestinian affairs. After meeting in Ramallah with Palestinian Premier Salam Fayyad, Selinger visited the Lutheran Vocational Training Centre in Ramallah and the Augusta Victoria hospital in East Jerusalem. Both institutions are supported by the Winnipeg-based Canadian Lutheran World Relief.
"I am very pleased with my visit to Israel," Selinger told me. "I am confident that the visit will further enhance the already existing good co-operation between Manitoba and Israel to the benefit of the communities in both places."
Samuel Segev is the Winnipeg Free Press Middle East correspondent