About 150 rabbis and leaders from 32 countries are participating in the annual conference and opening day was largely dominated by discussion regarding the division of Jerusalem, whose future is currently up for debate in Israeli political circles.
Assimilation amongst world Jewry was also a hotly-debated topic. Rabbi Yuval Sharlo noted that he “is gravely concerned about this expanding ‘silent Holocaust’”, and proposed strengthening ties between world Jewry and Israel as a possible solution. “If a child from the Diaspora spends even a week in Israel, he is far less likely to assimilate,” asserted the rabbi.
"We must bring as many Jews as possible, of all denominations and backgrounds, to Israel, especially as part of a Religious-Zionist initiative,” he said. He also noted that “he is frightened by the number of Jews who are putting up Christmas trees in their living rooms tonight.”
Former IDF Chief of Staff, Moshe Ya'alon addressed the conference and discussed the "existential threat" the Jewish people and Israel in particular must face in wake of the Annapolis peace summit.
However, said Ya’alon, he remains hopeful.
”We may not have oil, uranium or other coveted natural resources, but we have the 'Jewish brain' and our joint, strong commitment to Israel - and these have brought us quite far over the last 60 years in terms of education, technology and economics.”
Chief Rabbi weeps at thought of dividing Jerusalem
Sephardi Chief Rabbi Shlomo Amar spoke mainly about the possible division of Jerusalem, growing emotional and breaking into tears as he spoke. “Recently we have heard much talk about the division of Jerusalem, our holy city,” he said. “The thought of this happening appalls me, especially as someone who has always had a strong connection to the city. I am anxious about Jerusalem’s future.”
The world conference is organized by the World Zionist Organization and will continue Tuesday with more lectures and discussions as well as a visit to the rocket-battered town of Sderot.
The theme of the conference this year is "Sixty years of the State of Israel and solidarity with the residents of the South".