Israel President Rivlin hosted the 23rd Bible Study Group of 929

Israel President Reuven (Ruvi) Rivlin, Sunday, 7 April / 2 Nissan, hosted the 23rd Bible Study Group of 929, on the subject of ‘From Slavery to Sovereignty: Beginning the Book of Isaiah’. The event was dedicated to the memory of Amos Oz ז"ל. President of the Supreme Court Esther Hayut, Rabbi Benny Lau and Gal Gabbai of 929, AB Yehoshua, members of the Oz family and representatives of the Or Lamishpachot charity will also participate. During the event singer Alon Eder performed two of his songs.

Attached photo credit: Mark Neiman (GPO)

President Rivlin’s remarks at the event:

“Dear friends, it is deeply moving to open this event which is dedicated in its entirety to Amos Oz. We need to say ‘and may his memory be a blessing’, but it is so hard to talk about him in the past tense because he and his words and his sharp and clear eyes are so deeply part of this country. Here we are, standing a moment before entering the Promised Land as the Book of Isaiah begins, and as we get to the border, we discuss the transition from slavery to sovereignty. The transition from a wandering people to a people with a land, with responsibility. And, as it happens, this moment before entering the Land of Israel happens the moment before the elections.

There is something wonderful about the proximity of the two. The responsibility that a people assumes when entering its land, a place where manna will not fall from heaven and they will have to look after themselves, and the responsibility that citizens will assume in two days’ time to fulfill their democratic duty and elect their representatives. And at this point in time, I would like to say a few words about the difference between sovereignty and the understanding of sovereignty. Sovereignty gives people and the states they establish the opportunity and the duty to deal with self-determination. But it is the understanding of sovereignty that gives people the inner calm required to look not only outwards, but also inwards. To look bravely at the way things divide and fragment and to take on the duty of creating ways to heal them.

Not long ago, I watched the series ‘Maabarot’ (‘Transit Camps’), which told the story of one of the greatest and most controversial stories in Israeli history. The archive materials and the testimonies were unnerving. We have so much more to learn and so many lessons to learn from that chapter of our history. The meaning of truly understanding sovereignty is to feel that the land under our feet is solid. That our existence is not in question. And when we stand on solid ground, we can go a great distance on it, and we can stop and reconsider our route where necessary, and see who and what we might have left behind, and we can be generous and tolerant. When we stand on solid ground, we can and we must work hard to ensure that everyone who is part of our sovereignty has the same opportunities.

In the last election campaign, to many films and words and reports filled us with a feeling of fear. Fear of each other, fear of the future. I think we can learn from it that, even if we are sovereign, our sense of sovereignty is not absolutely established. It’s as if we remained in the desert a moment before entering the Land of Israel and do not know which way to go, to the land of milk and honey or to the land that devours its inhabitants. And I know that this is the land of milk and honey.

My dear friends, the existence of sovereignty is not sufficient. When it exists in isolation, we are busy marking out enemies in order to to prove our sovereignty to ourselves, even when there is no need. The sense of sovereignty we need to think about now is that which allows us to look up from the day-to-day, and to create a vision that looks far into the distance. I hope and believe that on the day after the elections, the new government – whatever its composition – will also work from a sense of sovereignty. From a sense of civic responsibility for our unique Jewish and democratic state. The person who was  able to distinguish clearly between these fine differences, to talk with a confident and clear sense of sovereignty, was our dear and wonderful Amos. It is that what inspired him to write ‘In the Land of Israel’, and ‘Under this Blazing Light’ and – most of all – ‘Dear Zealots’. It was because of this sense of sovereignty that he ached, and in its name he worried and refused to give up. And it was because of this sense of sovereignty that he loved this country, this land and this people. Loved with all his heart and all his soul.

Thank you all for coming here today, and if you will permit me, most of all to Bulli (AB Yehoshua), Amos’ and my dear teacher, and to Professor Fania Oz-Salzburger, who is also Amos’ daughter, whose words at the funeral touched every soul that was open and listening and were inscribed in our hearts. Thank you all, bless you, and may our beloved Amos’ memory be a blessing.”

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