by Dr. Dov Maimon and Ambassador Gideon Behar
~The challenge of climate change may constitute a unique opportunity for joint action, especially among young Jews in Israel and the Diaspora, that would not only benefit the entire world, but also help create a renewed sense of mission for the Jewish people. Jews from across the globe could be mobilized for a task that transcends narrow Jewish interests: that of building an ecologically and socially responsible world, or in traditional Jewish terms: Tikkun Olam.
Unlike the issue of human rights that galvanized young people a generation ago but also led to many disagreements, the climate crisis sparks no inherent tension between Diaspora and Israeli Jews. It is a global phenomenon, everyone is “in the same boat” facing dangers that are already making themselves felt.
Beyond that, Israel has a major competitive advantage in conceiving, designing, and advancing eco-friendly technologies, as well as unique technological capabilities for mitigating the dire effects of climate change and other environmental threats.
For example, Israel is a world leader in the development of cutting-edge methods to combat desertification – one of the greatest threats facing mankind. About 75 percent of the land area in more than 100 countries suffers from desertification processes, and it is estimated that about 50 million people may be displaced from their homes by 2030 due to this environmental challenge.
For Israel, the growing global mobilization around environmental issues is, therefore, a unique opportunity to strengthen ties with Diaspora communities. Jewish youth around the world and in Israel share an increasing concern about the severe perils of climate change and seek significant ways to mitigate them. The time has come to launch a global Jewish call for action in response to this pressing challenge.
Repairing and improving the complicated relationship between Israel and the Diaspora requires a new approach. Collaboration to achieve unifying goals, such as addressing climate change, makes good sense.
This new call to action should meet two criteria that are not tactical/utilitarian but rather ideological and spiritual in nature: the new mission proposed for the Jewish people will have to be consistent with moral messages embedded in Jewish tradition, and it will have to resonate with an existential urgency for a large share of young people in the West.
From our experience in the Ministry of Foreign Affairs over the past year, which included organizing joint events for Israeli and Diaspora activists through Israeli missions abroad, we see that this direction is bearing real fruits.
The enthusiasm evident in these meetings attests to a new positive energy that should be harnessed to strengthen ties within the Jewish people for the benefit of all mankind. We saw in the participants a great passion for the cause and a desire to continue to developing dialogue toward joint action.
It is without a doubt a bridge, a means to bring Jewish hearts together with a sense of shared purpose and a desire to unite to make a better world and ensure a viable future for the next generations.
Dr. Dov Maimon, Senior Fellow at the Jewish People Policy Institute (JPPI), coordinates JPPI’s activity in the sphere of climate change. An expert on Jewish thought and an agricultural engineer by training, he teaches in the Social Leadership MBA program at Ben-Gurion University.
Ambassador Gideon Behar is the Special Envoy for Climate Change and Sustainability at Israel’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs.