Now that a year of reviewing and celebrating Israel's first half century has passed, it's time to ponder the next 50 years. That's the premise behind a daylong conference taking place on Jan. 24 in West Los Angeles.
Sponsored by the Jewish Federation's Jewish Community Relations Committee and 30 other Jewish organizations, "Israel: 1999 and Beyond" will bring together an impressive array of journalists, academics, religious leaders, politicians and community leaders to participate in a variety of panels. Between 400 and 500 people are expected at the event, which is aimed at attracting young adults in their 20s, 30s and 40s.
"This conference is really for the generation that has grown up since the days of Israel's wars," said JCRC Executive Director Michael Hirschfeld. "This is where young people can determine what their relationship with Israel is going to be in the future."
The list of topics includes: "The Threat of Weapons of Mass Destruction in the Middle East"; "Prospects for Peace in the Middle East"; "Orthodox View of Israel"; "Tensions in Israeli Society: Class, Gender, Ethnicity"; "Terrorism and the Challenge to Israeli Intelligence"; "American Jewry's Changing Relationship with Israel"; "Search for Spirituality in Israeli Life"; "High-Tech Israel"; "New Israeli Culture"; and "Interpreting the Zionist Dream in the Next Millennium."
A keynote panel of well-known journalists will address "Israel and the Future," and Avraham Infeld, founder and president of Melitz Centers for Jewish-Zionist Education in Israel, will deliver the closing address.
"We put together an extremely broad base of speakers that spans the gamut of political viewpoints," said Marc Benezra, who is co-chairing the event with Monique Maas Gibbons. "We are looking to really explore the issues with evenhandedness. We have no motivation or directive to try to influence anybody's position, whether on the right or the left."
Benezra, an attorney, described himself as "extremely passionate" about the state of Israel. "I think it's important to explore that passion with others who are equally passionate, or to light the passion of those who aren't," he said.
A partial list of panel participants includes CBS correspondent Dan Raviv; David Makovsky, correspondent for Ha'aretz and U.S. News and World Report; New York Times reporter Judith Miller; Stuart Schoffman, associate editor and cultural columnist for The Jerusalem Report; U.S. Rep. Howard Berman; Rabbi David Eliezrie, director, North County Chabad Center; Rabbi Chaim Seidler-Feller, director, UCLA Hillel; Yoram Ben Ze'ev, consul general of Israel, Southwestern States; Yoram Ben-Horin, founder and senior fellow, Wilstein Institute of Jewish Policy Studies; David Myers, director, Center for Jewish Studies, UCLA; Brian Jenkins, former director of research on political violence, the Rand Corp.; Jordan Frankl, senior lobbyist for AIPAC; and Galia Golan, Peace Now professor at Hebrew University.
Funded through the Jewish Community Foundation, the event is being coordinated by Rachel Andres. A continental breakfast, lunch and a cocktail party, all strictly kosher, are included in the $55 price tag. The $4 parking fee is extra. The cost is $40 for full-time students with ID. The event will take place at The Olympic Collection, 11301 Olympic Blvd. For more information, call (323) 761-8160.