This evening, Joel Lion, the Consul General of Israel, welcomed hundreds of diplomats, elected officials from all levels of government and leadership and friends of Israel and the Jewish community to the UN’s International Civil Aviation Organization’s expansive and impressive world headquarters.  The occasion was a celebration in honour of Israel’s 65th anniversary of independence.

Notables including former premiers Jean Charest and Bernard Landry were in attendance as was PQ minister Jean-Francois Lisée, Montreal Mayor Michael Applebaum and city councillors from Cote Saint-Luc, Hamsptead. St-Laurent, CDN-NDG and as far away as Alma and St. Agathe.

Israel's Consul General Joel Lion delivers powerful words

Israel’s Consul General Joel Lion delivers powerful words

His Excellency. Mr. Lion, welcomed the entire gathering with a passionate, energized speech citing that the Jewish Nation’s connection to the State of Israel may be 65 years old in the modern context but extends back 3700 years.  Jerusalem forms the physical and existential heart of the Jewish People, Lion said, and has been so for thousands of years.

Lion spoke of two historical figures, Napoleon and Herzl:

The story is told that Napoleon was walking through the streets of Paris one Tisha B’Av. As his entourage passed a synagogue he heard wailing and crying coming from within; he sent an aide to inquire as to what had happened. The aide returned and told Napoleon that the Jews were in mourning over the loss of their Temple.Napoleon was indignant! “How come I wasn’t informed? When did this happen? Which Temple?” The aide responded, “They lost their Temple in Jerusalem on this date 1,700 years ago.”Napoleon stood in silence and then said, “Certainly a people which has mourned the loss of their Temple for so long will survive to see it rebuilt!”

As to Theodore Herzl, who was born some 153 years ago this week, Lion cited the visionary, founder of modern Zionism, in saying, “If you will it, it is no dream.”  The Jewish People, Lion stated, never lost hope of returning to Zion, even after 2000 years of exile.

Quebec Minister of International Relations Jean-Francois Lisée addresses audience as Israel's Consul General, Joel Lion looks on

Quebec Minister of International Relations Jean-Francois Lisée addresses audience as Israel’s Consul General, Joel Lion looks on

Lion then welcomed Minister of International Affairs, Jean-Francois Lisée who didn’t find much sympathy with the largely federalist, anglo crowd by speaking of his vision of the common path of the State of Israel and Quebec. Once warmed up he spoke more personally about his upbringing in Thetford Mines. Lisée indicated that he had no knowledge of the Jewish community.  His only reference point, he said, were the letters INRI, inscribed above the head of Jesus, in the church.  The inscription signified Christ was, “King of the Jews.”

It wasn’t until Lisée moved to Montreal as a 22 year-old that he learned that the familiar Steinberg’s and Greenberg’s retail chains he knew from his hometown were actually owned by substantial Jewish families.  Only upon moving to the big city did he learn about anti-semitism, he said.

The very friendly crowd were most pleased to greet one another, shake hands with some of the personalities and enjoy the Israeli wine and off-beat musical entertainment (A Jewish rapper? Oy vey!).

Councillors Glenn J. Nashen, Ruth Kovac and federal representative Howard Liebman in ICAO entry hall

Councillors Glenn J. Nashen, Ruth Kovac and federal representative Howard Liebman in ICAO entry hall

Cote Saint-Luc was well represented by Councillors Ruth Kovac (with husband Peter), Dida Berku (and Jacob Kincler), Mitchell Brownstein (and Elaine Yagod), Allan J. Levine (with Rhoda) and yours truly (with Dr. Judy Hagshi).  D’Arcy McGee MNA Lawrence Bergman was also present and received warm applause   Mount Royal MP Irwin Cotler, who is in Ottawa (as Parliament is currently sitting) was represented by his trusty attaché, Howard Liebman.

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