Shalom. My name is Ariel Dybner. I’ve been a member of CBI since 1999. I’m here to speak to you about the importance of Israel Bonds.
150 years ago, in his fantastic travel memoir, The Innocents Abroad, Mark Twain wrote about his experiences in the Holy Land. He described it as “… [a] desolate country whose soil is rich enough, but is given over wholly to weeds – a silent mournful expanse … A desolation is here that not even imagination can grace with the pomp of life and action … We never saw a human being on the whole route …. There was hardly a tree or a shrub anywhere. Even the olive and the cactus, those fast friends of the worthless soil, has almost deserted the country.”
Now Twain may have exaggerated for effect, but today, Lonely Planet describes Israel as follows “Nowhere else on earth stirs up passion the way Israel does: the breathtaking beauty of its green hills and valleys, the eerie stillness of the Dead Sea, the multicolored canyon of Makhtesh Ramon, and the ancient walls and pathways of Jerusalem. But there are plenty of ways to relax: the bars and beaches of Tel Aviv and Haifa and the wineries of the Galilee. For the curious visitor, Israel never fails to challenge and confound, excite and surprise, leaving an imprint that lingers long after the return flight home.”
So obviously, a lot has changed since Mark Twain’s time. In the intervening 150 years, as we are all taught, Israelis made the desert bloom by developing the first modern drip irrigation system. But even more amazingly, they’ve made seawater drinkable. We may not realize it, but the Middle East is in the midst of a terrible drought, by some estimates the worst drought in 900 years. But thanks to world-leading desalination technology, Israel has a water surplus. And Israel is using its water expertise to help its neighbors – and hopefully bring about long-term peace in the region. In 2013, Israel, Jordan and the Palestinians came together to use Israeli technology to take water from the Red Sea at Aqaba, turns some of it into drinking water for Eilat and Aqaba, and use the rest to replenish the Dead Sea.
Just this past July, Israel and the PA agreed on dramatically increasing the drinking water available to the Palestinian people in the West Bank and Gaza. By sharing water and technology with the Palestinians and Jordan, Israel makes war much more difficult.
Israel’s water technology is not only helping in the Middle East – it’s helping in the United States as well. Since 2014 Israel has partnered with California to create joint projects and research in water conservation. This partnership is already bearing fruit and an Israeli company has opened the largest desalination plant in the Western Hemisphere.
You may be thinking, OK – I know, the Israelis are good at technology. I use Waze. But what does this have to do with Israel Bonds?
Well, I wish I could stand here and say it’s direct. I wish I could say that yes, the technology that is changing the world came right from bonds purchased for my bar mitzvah in 1982. But that’s not exactly true. Instead, the effects of Israel Bond purchases are indirect. Israel Bonds bolster the Israeli economy as the money raised goes to the Israeli government’s general budget – so, for example, the money is used to fund emergency response teams that rush into hurricane ravaged areas of the United States and earthquake stricken Mexico, and it’s used to fund some of the best research universities in the world, including the Technion and Hebrew University, and fund roads, and fund teachers, and fund old age pensions and fund the IDF.
Today, Israel Bonds play an important role in helping Israel. Last year, a record $1.127 billion in bonds were sold. But it gets even better – in today’s extremely low interest rate environment, with 10-year Treasuries paying only 2.3%, many prominent non-Jewish investors have caught on to the idea of Israel Bonds, which can pay as much as 130 basis points above Treasuries and have never missed a payment in 65 years. After all, you don’t have to be Jewish to invest in Israel. In the last few years, Warren Buffett has bought and encouraged others to buy Israel Bonds. According to Buffett, “The purchase of Israel bonds is a sound investment and a deserved endorsement of a remarkable country.”
Imagine that, you can do what Buffet does – invest a piece of your portfolio in a sound investment that helps continue to make Israel a wonder of the world.
One of the great things about CBI is that there are many ways to get involved in Israel. Last November, I joined many of my fellow congregants, my fellow Desert Dawgs, on my first trip to Israel, a trip of a lifetime where we biked from Jerusalem to Ashkelon to Eilat, seeing the country in spandex, from the hills of Jerusalem down to the Mediterranean Sea, then through farms and kibbutzim along the Gaza Strip, down through the desert to Eilat, before finally hoisting my bike aloft triumphantly while standing in the Red Sea.
If biking is not your thing, then you can attend the annual AIPAC Policy Conference with CBI. More than once, I’ve had the unmatchable naches to watch my oldest daughter sit in a small room on Capitol Hill and competently discuss the U.S.-Israel relationship with my Congressional Representative. If you have teenagers, bring them to Policy Conference. They will love it, and you will feel enormous pride watching your child make a difference on issues that matter.
I understand that attending the Policy Conference is time consuming, and staying in DC can be expensive – but if you want to learn more about Israel, you don’t have to go far – through CBI’s Lifelong Learning programs, you can take courses with Rabbis Bayer and Litwin, on Israel’s Milestones and their Meanings, exploring pivotal events from the Balfour Declaration to the Six Day War. More information is available on the CBI website.
I hope after services you’ll take the Israel Bonds card with your name on it, fold down an appropriate tab, and put it in the box outside the office and continue the Diaspora’s support for the modern day miracle that is the State of Israel. In these divided times, there is something important that needs to be said — Buying an Israel Bond is not an endorsement of any particular Israeli government, policy or politician. It is an endorsement in a belief about the vitality of the Israeli people and the unbreakable bond between the Diaspora and Israel. It is a tangible way to say that Yes – I believe in Israel, whether it is led by Likud or Labor. It is a way to say that whether I’m #neverTrump or #MakeAmericaGreatAgain, whether I’m Democrat, Republican or Independent, I stand with Israel.