Jeremy Jones, Director of International and Community Affairs for the Australia/Israel & Jewish Affairs Council, was one of a small, select group of podium speakers at the inaugural World Culture Forum (WCF), an event eight years in the planning which host country Indonesia plans on making an equivalent to the Davos World Economic Forum (WEF).
Taking place in Bali, the WCF involved nearly 1,000 delegates including government ministers, politicians, senior bureaucrats and cultural experts from over 90 countries. The Forum was opened by Indonesian President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono with keynote addresses by Nobel Prize Laureate Amartya Sen and prominent international journalist Fareed Zakaria.
As the only identifiably Jewish participant in a conference involving many delegates who had previously not had opportunities to speak directly to a Jewish person, Jeremy Jones was, in a very constructive way, involved in conversations with officials and leaders from many societies on a slew of matters relating to Judaism and Israel.
Speaking in the session devoted to Interfaith Dialogue, which Indonesia’s president had identified as a key area for social cohesion, Jeremy Jones outlined the progress on inter-religious dialogue in Australia, South-East Asia and Oceania, after briefly explaining the significance of the proximity of the timing of the Forum to the Festival of Chanukah, in which the Jewish people celebrate a successful fight for the right to practice Judaism.
In his presentation he also referred to the different qualities of the “Four Species” on the Festival of Sukkot and how they are held together in blessings.
“The academic organisers, Professor Amareswar Galla and Professor Azyumardi Azra, did a wonderful job in ensuring all sessions provided maximum opportunities for information to be transmitted and full and frank discussions to take place, with a diverse selection of experts and well-moderated discussion periods”, Jeremy Jones said.
“From a personal point of view it was encouraging to hear not only of the interest in Jews and Judaism but a widespread admiration for Jewish survival, commitment to education and willingness to dialogue”, he said.
“In his keynote speech, Fareed Zakaria, the host of CNN’s flagship foreign affairs programme, highlighted the number of Jewish Nobel Prize Laureates, arguing that commitment to education and promotion of creative thinking were at the heart of the major Jewish contribution to the world, and he received an overwhelmingly positive reaction”, Jones reported.
On his final two nights in Bali, Jeremy Jones lit Chanukah candles in the main foyer of the conference venue, leading to a number of friendly and constructive discussions on Judaism and Jewish practices.
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