This article was originally published in Hebrew in Yedioth America

Charles Bronfman is known as a philanthropist and tycoon whose name often appears in the various institutions and places he has helped establish. Today, at the age of 87, he is still enthusiastic about helping the State of Israel. “I remember when we had the country of dreams” he says, “with the pioneers, with the first settlements. Today at the age of 70, Israel is a wonderful country with wonderful people in an particularly tough region in the world. Israelis have been through hell, the Jewish people have been through hell, and this will not happen again, that’s what’s important, and so to keep Israel secure we do things that aren’t always easy to do.”

A son of the Bronfman legacy, according to Forbes, Charles Bronfman is the eighteenth richest person in Canada. Over the years, he founded the Bronfman Foundation, among others, and is a major contributor to the project Taglit, which flies Jewish students and teenagers on a trip to Israel to encourage their Jewish identity in the Diaspora, as well as their connection to Israel.

Now, among additional involvements, he is advancing IPF Atid, a special program of Israel Policy Forum, an organization that aims to promote the idea of two states for two peoples. He is enthusiastic about the idea of the organization expanding its activities in four large US cities. This year Israel Policy Forum plans to gather 25 young professionals for three days in a unique conference to provide them with tools and knowledge, where they will be able to expand their activities towards a two-state solution in their own communities. “I hope that these 25 people will be able to advance this idea,” Bronfman told us.

When we ask him how 25 local leaders will respond in a reality where the notion of two-states is only becoming more distant, where neither the Israeli government, the PA, nor the US are fighting for the cause, Bronfman seems surprisingly optimistic and patient. “I believe this is the only solution that can save Israel. We must ensure that the fire does not burn out, we must ensure that that the people in Washington are informed and understand that this is the only solution. It is also clear to me that for this to happen, it will ultimately require two particularly courageous leaders. I hope this will come before the Messiah does.”

Bronfman has supported Israel since her establishment. He remembers the wars, the excitement of Israel’s very existence, and the rumors he heard as a young man in Canada about the voluntary flight of the Palestinians (“For many, many years we really believed that this was true”). He recalls: “I remember that I had tears in my eyes on the lawn of the White House during Rabin’s signature. I danced in my living room in Montreal when Sadat arrived in Israel. We were very optimistic.”

We met with Bronfman on the day Donald Trump issued offensive remarks aimed at Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau. When Trump’s name is mentioned, Bronfman requests that we change the subject. “I’m Canadian and I’m pretty angry today. Administrations come and go. The Torah teaches us that we cannot always fulfill the task at hand, but we must begin, we must try. It probably won’t happen when I’m alive, and I know too well the disappointments from Oslo, and many more disappointments, but we must continue trying. Either we go to apartheid or to a non-Jewish state, and at the rate of what is happening today, that’s where we’re heading.”

An additional problem, of course, is the local support in Israel. “In the past, Jews in the US supported Israel immediately, naturally, and without reservations. Today the situation is different,” he admits. “The explanation is simple. In the past the world saw Israel as David and the Arab world as Goliath, but starting in the 1980s when Israel entered Lebanon, we saw a change in which suddenly Israel became Goliath, and the term “occupation” became acceptable. We see manipulations in the way the situation in Israel is being reported, media reports portraying the situation through a hard rhetoric of strong and weak. In the media, you don’t see a child in the kibbutz after a bombing, only Israelis with guns or tanks. You don’t see armed Hamas members, but old women and children crying out for help. This has been the picture for too many years.”

Given this backdrop, recruiting young Jews to Israel’s cause is becoming increasingly impossible. “In the past, we all  helped Israel economically, morally, academically, but today Israel is a rich, successful country that does not need us economically but needs our support in Washington. But today young Jews are mostly liberals who see that Israel is in excellent shape, and that Gazans are hungry, and they believe that their Jewish values obligate them to help and fight for the weak.”

“Another problem”, he stresses, “is Israel’s lack of acceptance of the various Jewish streams in the United States, with the ultra-Orthodox in Israel having too much control. The straw that broke the camel’s back for many here, of course, is the recent law of the Western Wall. I think that Israelis need to understand that the various ways Jews practice their Judaism, and need to be accepting of them all. The Israeli government doesn’t really pay attention to this unless it serves them.”

Bronfman is impassioned when he sees young leadership spearheading the two-state solution. Adam Basciano is only 24 years old, but he already has the stature of an avid Zionist. For two years he has been active in the organization Israel Policy Forum, which is fighting to advance the two-state solution. “I come from a background of Holocaust survivors, but my household was not too Zionist. Only when I went to Israel during my high school years, did my connection to Israel shift to a different dimension, and became very deep. That visit filled me with love for Israel, and I continued to travel there again and again. I even studied in the Hebrew University for a semester where I became much more connected and involved in the story of the conflict and in the push for a two-state solution.”

Adam tells us that he hopes that through the idea of a two-state solution more and more Americans will connect to Israel. “I wanted to convey a message of hope that is connected to a solution that is good for both countries. I think there is a lack of awareness or acceptance of the idea, and this is mainly related to the political landscape. Another problem is that after quite a few failures, people can no longer hear it. The idea of two states is despicable to many.”

With the organization guiding leaders throughout the US and, even against the backdrop of the increasing negative attitudes among American Jews, he believes that many are willing to listen and open up through the prism of the solution. “Our program aims to provide a learning space about all that is happening throughout the year. We connect young Jews to experts on the subject, and they, leaders themselves, pass this knowledge to their own communities. We see that this is already having an impact. We have nearly forty young adult leaders in four cities and they are helping with the strategies and initiatives we invest in.” Adam, like Bronfman, does not believe that a solution is close to realization, but working towards it, he says, is more important than ever.

At the upcoming conference for young leaders, Bronfman does not expect to deal personally with the difficult questions about Israel, but assumes that young people who come will aspire for Israel’s best interests and pave the way towards a solution. “In order for something to change in Israel, it has to come from the Israelis, not foreigners. We are still foreigners.”