GLASGOW NEWS
Ruth didn't hesitate to help promote Israel

RUTH Kennedy jumped at the chance to become director of the new Centre for Israel and Scotland Relations.

The CFSIR office opened in February, 2015 in the JCC, Giffnock. Its director was already well used to backing Israel.

Ruth said: "I started to look for ways to improve relationships between Scotland and Israel when I began working in the Church at Stirling on the Jacob Plan.

"I had already been very active in creating links between Evangelical Christians and Scots on the Israel front. From 2002, I organised the Scottish Night for Israel in Glasgow.

"When I was approached for this role, I realised it was going to be very challenging, but I didn't hesitate to accept.

"That's because I knew that there was a great need for a significant, proactive project to happen in Scotland.

"We have been warmly received with every approach we have made though and it was not nearly as challenging on that front as expected. It was a pleasant surprise.

"The embassy wanted to complement its existing work in Scotland with an initiative that would build and develop relationships between the two countries.

"Over the past few years, we had looked at identifying and growing support for Israel beyond the Jewish community.

"The perception was that there were very few friends of Israel here. Fortunately, that was a misconception and there were actually plenty of friends."

She added: "The vision of the deputy ambassador Eitan Na'eh was to have a proactive development in Scotland that would form good working relations across Scottish society.

"You might say it was divine timing that at the same time that the centre started, Nigel Goodrich came on the scene and helped set up all the Friends groups.

"I've been able to bring in the centre to give them a good connection between grassroots supporters and the diplomats.

"The growth of the Friends groups is crucial. It ensures that the Jewish community is seen to have friends around it.

"When I meet with politicians, it's not just government to government, but with the awareness that there's broader support across Scottish society for Israel.

"A lot of the anti-Israel rhetoric we hear comes from lack of knowledge and misinformation.

"To combat that, the centre covers approaches to academia, business and trade, culture, the media, politics, sports, technology, religious communities, the Israeli community and grass roots support.

"Part of the original concept is that the centre is an interface between Scotland and the embassy and reflects and represents the diplomats in London for each appropriate area.

"To help with this work, the embassy sends diplomats up to Scotland once a month."

Ruth continued: "One of the first things I did when I started was to meet with the Scottish Council of Jewish Communities director Ephraim Borowski and the Glasgow Jewish Representative Council president Paul Morron.

"What has made the biggest difference to the work I've done has been the way the Jewish community and its leaders have welcomed and supported me at the centre.

"What was flagged by Paul and Ephraim was the number of Scottish Parliament motions that contained anti-Israel rhetoric.

"I was aware that to have any influence with our politicians, there needed to be a good support base at constituency level.

"That's why it is so important that we have seen this phenomenal growth in Friends of Israel groups in Scotland."

Ruth says the highlight of the year was February's debate in the Scottish Parliament, raised by Jackson Carlaw.

"It was the first ever positive motion on Israel debated at Holyrood," she said.

"Mr Na'eh was officially welcomed by the Scottish Parliament - the first time that has happened for an Israeli diplomat, as far as I'm aware.

"Also, we had around 70 Friends supporters outside and then in the gallery. The whole day was fantastic and made all the hard work worthwhile.

"I'm delighted that in Eastwood, the constituency where the vast majority of Jews in Scotland live, the MSPs from the three main parties have been outspoken in their support for Israel.

Ruth and her fireman husband Stuart live with their three children in the Trossachs National Park.

She spends her spare time with her family in the 'great outdoors'.

Ruth said: "I am looking forward to working with the next cohort of MSPs after the May election.

"What would make the biggest difference would be for supporters of Israel to keep doing what they are doing, with a warm and friendly demeanour -telling the people on the streets, in the offices and the political chambers of the goodness of Israel."

She added: "I would encourage anyone who supports Israel to engage with their local politicians. There are more than 11,000 councillors in Scotland due for election next year.

"It's a real help for the work we do when groups meet with their local councillors and voice their concerns.

"For those who have questions about Israel, it would be best if they ask them to the right people. If you are not a supporter, come and ask us the questions."

Contact Ruth at office@scotlandisrael.co.uk


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