Bar-Ilan University’s Ingeborg Rennert Center for Jerusalem Studies last week bestowed its Guardian of Zion Award upon Rabbi Israel Meir Lau, former Chief Rabbi of Israel.
In delivering the annual Distinguished Rennert Lecture, entitled ” “From Shoah to Revival: Reflections and Conclusions Regarding Dramatic and Historic Events”, Lau spoke of a number of worrisome threats facing the Jewish people.
The first, he said, is the growing tide of “cruel anti-Semitism” around the world. Referring to this week’s attack on Jewish siblings in Melbourne, Australia, he asked, “Why do they hate us in Melbourne? What did we do to them?” In 1982, when visiting Australia, he himself encountered a verbal anti-Semitic attack. “There is nowhere in the world that is safe for us other than our own homeland,” he said.
He recalled that former Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon, two days prior to suffering a stroke that left him permanently incapacitated, expressed his concern about growing gaps between Israel and the Jewish Diaspora. In that telephone conversation with Sharon, he told Lau that he had formed a new political party called Kadima. He was sure he would win the upcoming Israeli elections and would form the next government. “On Sunday I’m undergoing a medical treatment, but I’ll be back on Monday and we’ll discuss how we can address this problem in the next government,” Sharon said.
Another worrisome threat, said Lau, is the growing detachment of Israeli youth from the values of faith and tradition.
Rabbi Lau placed these problems in the perspective of his and others’ personal journey from the Shoah to Revival, and particularly how they began to regain a semblance of human feeling and self-respect. He described the events and tension surrounding a “party” for children who survived Buchenwald and how they all cried for the first time, tears which represented the beginning of their return to some type of normative life. The continuation took place in Israel.
This placed Rabbi Lau in the unique position of being able to speak directly to the youth of Israel regarding the importance of Israel and Jerusalem in the process of restoration: “to those coming back from the March of Life,” said the Rabbi, “I tell them to kiss the ground upon your return. They do not yet know how to appreciate Israel. I do,” he added. “There is nobody who has done more to foster this feeling for young and old alike than Rabbi Lau,” said Rennert Center Director and event moderator Prof. Joshua Schwartz, in his remarks at the gala ceremony at the King David Hotel in Jerusalem.
“I know very few people who are committed to Jerusalem like you and your family – not just in words but in deeds,” Jerusalem Mayor Nir Barkat said in praising the Rennerts. Barkat also commended President Donald Trump for “making order in the house” over the past year. “He has made a clear statement regarding Jerusalem and he moved the US Embassy here last week. We’ve waited 70 years for this,” he said. Barkat added that the Guardian of Zion honorees over the last 20 years have been people who tell the story of how you can love Jerusalem in so many different ways. “This prize is an honor not just for the recipients but to have the privilege to award it each year to those who are a symbol of unity,” he said.
Bar-Ilan University President Prof. Arie Zaban spoke of the message of determination that resonated throughout the Guardian of Zion Award ceremony. “We just heard about Rabbi Lau’s determination to emerge from the horrors of the Holocaust and his arduous journey toward becoming the Chief Rabbi of Israel, shaping values into reality. We heard about the transfer of the US Embassy to Jerusalem – another story of determination – and we will continue to speak for a secure Israel. The Rennert Center for Jerusalem Studies has conducted research for 22 years on Jerusalem from ancient to modern times, creating an academic background for our existence in the Land of Israel. And for 22 years the Guardian of Zion Award has been given to outstanding ambassadors of Israel that convey our values to the rest of the world, a message that can be summed up in one phrase: the Land of Israel with its eternal capital, Jerusalem.”
The Ingeborg Rennert Center for Jerusalem Studies was established at Bar-Ilan University in 1995 by US Jewish community leaders Ingeborg Hanna and Ira Leon Rennert as an expression of their heartfelt commitment to the preservation and advancement of Jerusalem’s unique heritage. Integrating studies on the history, archaeology, geography, demography, economy and sociology of Jerusalem, the Rennert Center has become the foremost academic center in the international academic community studying aspects of Jerusalem’s past and present.
This is the twenty-second year the Rennert Center conferred the Guardian of Zion Award, which honors those dedicated to the perpetuation and strengthening of Jerusalem. Last year’s award was bestowed upon US National Security Advisor John Bolton. Other previous recipients have included World Jewish Congress President Ronald S. Lauder, former US Senator Joe Lieberman, Lord Rabbi Jonathan Sacks, Israel Museum Director James S. Snyder, the Israel Antiquities Authority and its late Director, Shuka Dorfman, Amb. Dr. Dore Gold, Malcolm Hoenlein, Caroline Glick, Norman Podhoretz, Dr. Daniel Pipes, the late William Safire, Arthur Cohn, Dr. Charles Krauthammer, Cynthia Ozick, the late A.M. Rosenthal, Herman Wouk, and the late Prof. Elie Wiesel.
Edited by: JV Staff