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Friendship Leagues with Israel

FRIENDSHIP LEAGUES WITH ISRAEL

Societies established in various countries for the promotion of friendly and cultural relations between their countries and Israel. Listed below are the countries where such societies exist. They have a total membership of about 30,000. Although a number of them were formed immediately after the establishment of the State in 1948, the majority were formed after 1965.

The leading members of these societies include distinguished citizens from all walks of life. The societies organize lectures, seminars, Israeli art exhibitions and concerts, and receptions for Israeli personalities. Some of them also organize annual study tours to Israel for their members. They publish pamphlets, quarterlies, and books on life in Israel. In Latin America, these organizations take the form of "cultural institutes."

Though a few societies tend to be of a more political nature, the majority concentrate on cultural relations. They are composed mainly of non-Jews, but in some countries Jewish community leaders are also active as officers or members. In addition to the friendship leagues, there are a number of pro-Israel parliamentary groups e.g., in Great Britain, West Germany, and France. In Britain three such groups, Conservative Friends of Israel, Labour Friends of Israel, and Liberal Friends of Israel, are active mainly in political circles.

In Israel, corresponding societies promote friendship with 27 countries, while the Israel-Asia Friendship Council and the Israel-Africa Friendship Association are roof organizations to promote relations with the two continents as a whole, and the Central Cultural Institute in Jerusalem coordinates the work done for Spanish- and Portuguese-speaking countries.

The Council of Israel Friendship Leagues coordinates all these activities, which include the spreading of information of the respective countries and their cultures, contacts with sister societies abroad, entertaining visitors, and arranging concerts and exhibitions.

In their respective countries the friendship societies cooperate with the local Zionist federations and with other Jewish bodies, receiving support from the External Relations Department of the World Zionist Organization.

By the late 1970s the countries with Friendship Leagues and Cultural Institutes were as follows: Australia, Mauritius, New Zealand; in Europe – Austria, Belgium, Denmark, Finland, France, Greece, Holland, Ireland, Italy, Norway, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, the United Kingdom, and Germany; in North America – Canada and the U.S.; in Asia – India, Japan, Nepal, Philippines, South Korea; Latin America (Cultural Institutes) Argentina, Bolivia, Brazil, Chile, Colombia, Costa Rica, Ecuador, El Salvador, Guatemala; Honduras, Mexico, Nicaragua, Panama, Peru, Uruguay, and Venezuela; Australia. Through its Youth Ambassador Student Exchange program for secondary school students, the America-Israel Friendship League, founded in 1971, has brought together over 5,000 students.

bibliography:

Letter, published periodically by External Relations Department, Jewish Agency, Jerusalem (Jan. 1962–June 1965); Record of Activities of the Friendship Leagues Abroad and in Israel (November, 1965– ); Benjamin Jaffe, Twenty Years of Activities (1977). website: www.aifl.org.

[Benjamin Jaffe]

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