New group aims to strengthen Alabama-Israel ties

A new organization that wants to build stronger ties between Alabama and Israel is having its first events across the state this week.

The Alabama-Israel Task Force is bringing in two leaders from the Israel Leadership Institute in Sderot for a series of events in Huntsville, Birmingham and Montgomery. The meetings will focus on the Alabama-Israel relationship, and strategic challenges for Israel during a time of change in the Middle East.

On March 25, the AITF will have a statewide Alabama Celebrates Israel gathering at the Von Braun Center in Huntsville, as its first major event. The event will celebrate 70 years since the Alabama Legislature became the first governmental body in the United States to call for the establishment of a Jewish homeland in the Land of Israel.

Eeki Elner, founder and CEO of ILI, said AITF “is partnering with our leadership institute to build bridges and present opportunities for the people of Alabama — both Jews and Christians — and the people of Israel, to connect, cooperate, exchange and get involved.”

The first project chosen by AITF is to raise resources for an Emergency Preparedness and Disaster Response Center at ILI, “which will be serving both states,” Elner said.

The center will train emerging young leaders in Israel in emergency and disaster response. In a later stage, Alabama young leaders will be invited to train and share workshops with their Israeli colleagues.

Elner will be traveling through Alabama with Major General Eyal Ben Reuven, who chairs the ILI steering committee. Ben Reuven is also reserve deputy commander of the northern front of the Israel Defense Force.

Laura King, former president of the Jewish Federation of Huntsville and North Alabama, and of the Network of Independent Communities for the Jewish Federations of North America, said AITF “brings together a number of my passions, including Israel and the continuation of the wonderful dialogue we have with our Christian neighbors.”

The group’s website details the “long history of strong support for the state of Israel” in Alabama, and has a “Declaration of Reaffirmation of the Historic 1943 Resolution and Renewed Commitment in Our Generation” for Alabamians to sign.

On Jan. 22 there will be a program at The Rock Family Worship Center in Huntsville, starting at 6:30 p.m. Ben Reuben will speak on “Strategic Challenges for Israel in a Changing Middle East.” Elner will talk about leadership development in Israel, and the Alabama-Israel relationship.

Ben Reuben will speak in Birmingham at Temple Emanu-El’s 5:30 p.m. Shabbat service on Jan. 24. On Jan. 26 at 8 a.m., the program will be held at the Fresh Anointing House of Worship in Montgomery with both speakers.

The programs are open to the community.