The 2014 American Friends of Open University of Israel Gala honoring Somali-born activist Ayaan Hirsi Ali was launched at The Pierre with a spectacular buffet attended by 250 supporters. AFOUI’s president Ingeborg Rennert — resplendent in a purple and silver ensemble — presented the organization’s Tzedek Award to Hirsi Ali explaining: “Tzedek means justice — the root of the Hebrew word tzedaka, charity.”
Touting the Open University as Israel’s largest university “educating nearly 50,000 students — in a state with 8.2 million people, 123 different ethnicities and over 80 regularly spoken languages and one of the few countries in the Middle East where a Muslim can receive an open education,” Ido Aharoni, Israel’s consul general praised the audience and the Rennerts for their tireless support.
Alluding to an alleged conversation in 1920’s Vienna between Sigmund Freud and Rabbi Stephen S. Wise, founder of Reform Judaism, Aharoni said: “Freud asked Wise ‘Who are the three greatest Jews alive?’ to which Wise replied ‘One would clearly be you Freud, and the other Chaim Weizmann, leader of the Zionist movement and a famous chemist. As for the third, I can’t think of one.’ Freud suggested: ‘Rabbi why won’t you be the third?’ to which Wise replied: ‘Absolutely not. No! No! No!’ Freud responded: ‘One “No” would have been enough!’”
“What Freud was trying to each us,” said Aharoni, “ is that people do not always think what they say and they do not always say what they think, but what Ayaan is teaching us is that in the case of militant and radical Islam, you don’t have to be Sigmund Freud to get the message, all you have to do is read their charters, listen to their speeches — it’s all there. And [Ayaan] what you represent has turned you into one of the most influential, courageous women in the world and we are indebted to you for what you do.”
During her Q&A with Mimi Hass-Perlman AFOUI chairman of the Board, Hirsi Ali said: “You don’t have to be Freud or Einstein to tell the difference between right and wrong…. I get a lot of accolades: ‘you are such an inspiration, you are so courageous…’ I don’t deserve any of this. I used to hate Jews. I come from a culture, I grew up in a religion from within that culture and within that religion sprung up what has young people saying ‘We love death more than we love life’…. I love life and if you love life then I am on your side — [whatever] your skin color, sexual orientation or geographic origin….”
Asked how she came to Israel, Hirsi Ali replied: “ I was a student in the Netherlands in 1998/99 looking for a warm place and could not afford to go to Spain, Paris, Greece… Israel was cheap. When I went into politics, I saw Israeli democracy function with all its good stuff and challenging stuff…. Israel is the only country in the world — maybe in the history of humanity — that sets out to educate and rescue her enemies… and that makes me a most passionate Zionist.”