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The Globe and Mail

Baird's Israel visit comes with a personal mission

Canadian Foreign Minister, John Baird, lays a wreath at the Hall of Remembrance at the Yad Vashem Holocaust memorial, in Jerusalem, Monday, Jan. 30, 2012.

Sebastian Scheiner/AP/Sebastian Scheiner/AP

For Foreign Affairs Minister John Baird, his third visit to Israel often seems to be a personal crusade.

Monday at Yad Vashem, Israel's museum and memorial to the Holocaust, Mr. Baird helped inaugurate a new international seminars wing that was paid for in large part by a Canadian philanthropist, Joseph Gottdenker, a Holocaust survivor.

Addressing Mr. Gottdenker from the podium, Mr. Baird told him "you make me very proud today to be Canadian."

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The Minister told the audience of 350 that "Israel has no greater friend in the world than Canada," then surprised people by saying "Canada does not stand behind Israel... ." After a slight pause he continued: "Canada stands shoulder-to-shoulder with Israel" in any threats and challenges it may face. He was met with warm applause.

Mr. Baird then said he had "a confession" to make. "I am not Jewish," he said. "But I have a rabbi." He then proceeded to introduce Chaim Mendelsohn, director of public affairs of the Canadian Federation of Chabad Lubavitch, whom, he said, was accompanying the Minister on his visit to Israel.

Indeed, Tuesday afternoon, Mr. Baird is scheduled to visit Kfar Chabad, headquarters of the Chabad movement in Israel and home to 8000 people. There he'll hear from Israeli victims of terror attacks supported by the Chabad Terror Victims Project.

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About the Author
Global Affairs reporter

As Global Affairs Writer, Patrick Martin’s primary focus is on the turbulent Middle East, to which he travels regularly. He has twice been posted to the region – from 1991-95 and from 2008-12. More

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