By Jason Langsner
Standing before Israel’s president, Isaac Herzog, at his residence in Jerusalem, I paused. In a millisecond, while simultaneously taking a deep breath, I reached out my hand and shared with him an award given on behalf of Israel Bonds lay leaders and investors who were there to symbolically represent the $47 billion invested worldwide in the development of Israel since the first Israel bond was sold in 1951 (and the more than $1 billion raised in 2021 alone).
On that day, as Herzog asked me and fellow young professionals (those on the trip were in their 20s, 30s and early 40s) why we invest in Israel, the irony was not lost on me as we were completing a historic and meaningful economic delegation to the United Arab Emirates, Bahrain and Israel (and the president of Israel was soon to head to the UAE to represent the Jewish state at the funeral of the late-Emirati leader Sheikh Khalifa bin Zayed Al Nahyan).
Two years earlier, it would have seemed impossible to have envisioned this opportunity of Diaspora Jews visiting the UAE and Bahrain, before flying into Ben-Gurion Airport — not from the United States, Canada or Europe, where our delegates call home, but departing from an Arab state on a Gulf Air flight that landed in Tel Aviv.
In that split-second pause, the rehearsed remarks in my head were on repeat, and I took in the moment. As co-chair for Israel Bonds New Leadership, the young professional and young family-focused division of the organization, I was walking in the footsteps of the Abraham Accords. I was honored to be there as a Jewish leader, a proud Zionist and an investor in the future of the Jewish state.
The COVID-19 pandemic may have delayed my ability to be a part of the 80-person historic delegation of leaders visiting the original three signatories of the Abraham Accords — but that delay was just that. My return to Israel was special and meaningful. Spending Shabbat in Jerusalem was deeply moving, as it always is, and brought me to recall that the last time I was in Israel was with my wife, pre-pandemic on our honeymoon, also an unforgettable moment in my life.
Aside from my meeting with Herzog, I reflect on the dialogues with Israel’s defense minister, Benny Gantz, related to the increased terror attacks across Israel and other security challenges; with Finance Minister Avigdor Lieberman on the nation’s rising GDP and falling unemployment rates; and those conversations while bonding with friends, peers or mentors on the trip.
And the personal pride and thrill felt when riding the new fast train between Jerusalem and Tel Aviv, seeing the construction across Israel and feeling that my investments in some way helped to support Israel’s economy — all of this brought me incredible joy. These highs were coupled with deep meaning as on the delegation I was also asked to speak at Israel’s National Memorial Hall for Fallen Soldiers at Mount Herzl following remarks by retired-IDF Col. Yair Ben-Shalom, the director of the memorial.
Delegates to the trip additionally visited Dubai’s Crossroads of Civilization Museum, where the first Holocaust exhibit in the Arab world is displayed, and Qasr Al Watan (presidential palace) in Abu Dhabi. They held meetings with Israeli’s ambassadors to the UAE and Bahrain, foreign and economic ministers in those countries, and met the Jewish communities in Dubai and Bahrain.
The ROI on my involvement with Israel Bonds is more than just the interest that I receive on my Israel bond investments: I’ve made lifelong friends, enhanced my Jewish identity and I’ve had the opportunity to take part in these historic delegations, where a young man who lives in Potomac can be selected to shake the hand of the president of Israel and, as Israel Bonds’ President and CEO Dani Naveh emphasized throughout the trip, represent the next generation of Jewish leaders. Leaders who are learning and getting mentored to be in a position to continue supporting Israel Bonds and other Jewish causes or organizations that were strengthened by our parents, grandparents and the giants who stood before us.
Jason Langsner is co-chair of Israel Bonds National New Leadership.