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NEWS - News of B'nai B'rith

Written by Alan Schneider, Director, B’nai B’rith World Center, Jerusalem...
B’nai B’rith hosted a six-member delegation of young Finnish political leaders for a five-day mission to Israel January 29-February 2.

The group was assembled by Cata Mansikka-aho, a political assistant for the ruling National Coalition Party and pro-Israel activist and included representatives of coalition and opposition parties: Aki Ruotsala, Chairman of the Young Christian Democrats; Heikki Autto, a member of parliament for the National Coalition Party, Chairman of the Rovaniemi City Government and Chairman of the Young Conservatives of Scandinavia; Razamyar Nazima, a naturalized Afghan refugee who came close to winning a seat in the last elections for the Social Democrats; Antti Kurvinen, Chairman of the Young Center Party and Simon Elo, Chairman of Young True Finns.

The mission was facilitated by B’nai B’rith’s Director of European Union Affairs Nuno Wahnon Martins, with major funding provided by the Israel Ministry of Foreign Affairs and B’nai B’rith Europe. The B’nai B’rith World Center devised an intensive itinerary for the group that included a meeting with Jerusalem Municipal Council member Yakir Segev, meetings with young Israeli political activists and parliamentary aides, guided tours of the Old City of Jerusalem and Yad Vashem, and in-depth briefings by senior Foreign Ministry officials.

At the Knesset the group met with MK Einat Wilf (Hatzma’ut) and conferred with visiting leaders of the Confederation of Iranian Students, a leading Iranian dissident organization representing 8,000 students and anti-regime activists in Iran and around the world who seek to topple the Iranian regime. The mission also met with Rev. Dr. Petra Heldt, Director of the Ecumenical Theological Research Fraternity in Israel and early-Christianity expert Malcolm Lowe, who spoke about persecution of the Christians of the Middle East,  and with Dr. Manfred Gerstenfeld, author of “Behind the Humanitarian Mask: The Nordic Countries, Israel and the Jews”.

The short visit included a tour around the Jerusalem security barrier with former IDF spokesperson Miri Eisen (facilitated by the Israel Project), a visit to the southern city of Sderot, still terrorized by rocket fire from Gaza, and a guided tour of the Israeli Museum at the Rabin Center. They also participated in a session of the 12th Herzliya Conference on the Balance of Israel’s National Security, featuring the Israeli Chief of Staff Lieutenant General Benny Gantz, and met with Finnish ambassador to Israel Hon. Leena-Kaisa Mikkola .

Wahnon Martins said that the mission offered an important opportunity for these young politicians to experience Israel directly and without distortions imposed by much of the media - and expressed the hope that B’nai B’rith would host other similar missions from Europe in the near future. B'nai B'rith World Center director Alan Schneider noted "The mission from Finland is an important contribution to B'nai B'rith's efforts to expose the State of Israel to a broad range of political, cultural and business leaders around the world."