May 2014 Happy 66th Birthday to the State of Israel! Iyar 5774 

WELCOME to the new MERCAZ USA E-letter being sent to MERCAZ members and supporters. Information to Unsubscribe is available below.

MERCAZ USA is the Zionist membership organization of the Conservative Movement, the voice of Conservative Jewry within the World Zionist Organization, the Jewish Agency for Israel, the American Zionist Movement and the Jewish National Fund to support religious pluralism in Israel and strengthen the connection between Israel and the Diaspora. Click here to see the MERCAZ Mission Statement. Click here to (re)join for the current 2013-2014 fiscal year.

NEWS

SYNAGOGUE TRIPS TO ISRAEL
Looking to join an organized trip to Israel? Click here for a list of upcoming Conservative Movement synagogue trips for 2014.

ISRAEL ADVOCACY TRAINING SEMINARS CONTINUING
The next MERCAZ Israel Advocacy Training Seminar in its new 1-day format will be taking place Sunday, June 1, at Temple Beth Sholom in Elkins Park, PA. The conference is being run in conjunction with the MidAtlantic Regions of the Federation of Jewish Men's Clubs and Women's League for Conservative Judaism. For information and registration, contact Leonard Abrams, President MAR FJMC, leonardabrams@yahoo.com.

CONSERVATIVE YESHIVA/SKILLED VOLUNTEERS FALL PROGRAM:
Join the Conservative Yeshiva's "Volunteer & Study Program", in conjunction with Skilled Volunteers for Israel, for its Fall "Tikkun Olam" Tikkun Ha'aretz" session, October 29 to November 13, 2014. For more information and registration visit www.skillvolunteerisrael.org or www.conservativeyeshiva.org/volunteer-study.

MASORTI MOVEMENT OPENS CENTER FOR CHILDREN WITH DISABILITIES
Thanks to a generous donation from Australia, the Masorti Movement has announced the opening of the Shirley Lowy Center for Children and Youth with Disabilities, a framework that will bring under one roof all of the movement's various programs for special needs, including the Bar and Bat Mitzvah Program for Children with Disabilities, Camp Ramah/NOAM's Netaim Program, its new integrated batei midrash and other egalitarian Jewish activities. For more information about the new center and its programs, contact the Masorti Foundation's office, 212-870-2216 or info@masorti.org.

GOVERNMENT UNDER PRESSURE TO STOP KOTEL TRANSFER TO SETTLER GROUP
The Israeli government is now looking for ways to stop the El Ad (City of David Foundation) from taking control of the new "Egalitarian Kotel" following the protest raised by the Conservative and Reform Movements in Israel and in North America that condemned the announcement made earlier in the year of the planned transfer of the entire area on the southern side of the Western Wall, including Robinson's Arch, to the private organization which currently manages the Ir David National Park.

As the joint Conservative/Reform letter reads: "It is infuriating and unacceptable to find that while this negotiation [over the establishment of a site at the Kotel for egalitarian and pluralistic prayer] was going on, other negotiations were taking place to put us under the authority of a group with a right wing Orthodox religious point of view." Click here to read the entire joint letter.

FEATURE STORY

IN THE SPIRIT OF YOM HA'ATZMAUT, KNESSET TO SET NATIONAL "ALIYAH DAY"

MKs from both sides of the aisle, from both the government coalition and the opposition, have come together to propose a new national Israeli holiday, Aliyah Day, as a way to reaffirm immigration as a core principle of the State of Israel. The legislation, which follows on similar attempts in the last Knesset, was originally written by two "Anglo" immigrants: Jay Shultz, founder to TLV Internationals, and Jonathan Javor, who is working for Tel Aviv Mayor Ron Huldai.

The date chosen for the new holiday, the 10th of Nisan, has several Biblical connections. First of all, as taught in the Book of Exodus, the preparations for the Passover sacrifice were to begin on the 10th of Nisan with the selection of the animals that would be offered on the late afternoon of the 14th of the month. Secondly, the 10th of Nisan, according to the Book of Joshua, was the date on which the Israelites crossed the Jordan River into the Promised Land.

In this way, aliyah, as represented by the selection of the Paschal sacrifice and the entrance of the Children of Israel from the eastern side of the Jordan, is the necessary precondition to national liberation and self-realization.

According to the bill, Aliyah Day will "realize the value and supreme importance of aliyah in the past, present and future to the strengthening of Isarel from within, as the foundation of Israel as a Jewish and democratic state and in the creation and development of a multicultural society that shares a common language, with a shared history and united future."

The effort to establish Aliyah Day comes as initial figures for North American Aliyah for 2013 which had seemed to show an 11% drop in immigration have been revised to reveal a small increase in aliyah from the United States and Canada in 2013 over the previous year. The new figures from the Ministry of Aliyah and Immigrant Absorption now show 3,504 North American immigrants in 2013 vs. 3,389 in 2012.

At the same time, Nefesh B'Nefesh, the organization tasked with promoting aliyah from the West, is not wasting any time to achieve even higher results in 2014. It held a series of aliyah fairs earlier this Spring across North America, including an aliyah "mega event" in Times Square, featuring Immigration and Absorption Minister Sofa Landver.

The Times Square event allowed potential immigrants to meet with professionals from the Jewish Agency, universities, job placement organizations and business development programs. In addition, several mayors of cities included in the NBN "Go North" and "Go South" programs, which provide financial and other incentives for those interested in moving to Israel's periphery, participated. Click here for the four steps worth following if planning to make Aliyah.