photo credit – Mark Neiman (GPO)
Israel President Reuven (Ruvi) Rivlin 22 October / 13 Cheshvan, spoke at the General Assembly (GA) of the Jewish Federations of North America (JFNA) at the Exhibition Grounds (Ganei HaTa’arucha) in Tel Aviv. Over 1,200 members of Jewish federations from across North America are participating in the conference.
The president opened his remarks by welcoming the conference participants: “Good morning to all of you, my friends. It is been a year since we last met in Los Angeles. Last year, I traveled 8,000 miles to see you; this year it is less than an hour away. The fact that the GA is hosted in Israel every 5 years is not to be taken for granted. I want to thank the heads of the JFNA For this important statement. It gives us pride to see you all here – and so many of you.”
The president added, “The title of this GA is ‘We Need To Talk’, and I cannot agree more. We need to talk, we have to talk, and we need to listen. We are not ‘strategic allies’; we are family. We do not have ‘shared interests’; we have a shared fate, a shared history, and a shared future - a very bright one. It may not be easy to have a truly honest conversation, But this is, I believe, what needs to happen.”
“Just a week ago, in the opening session of the Knesset, I said that our biggest threat is our inner war,” he continued. “I said that victory in the battle between us means losing the war of existence. This is true for Israeli society, and this is true for the Jewish people. We must establish the importance of our relationship as a value that is above debate.”
“We cannot escape from returning to the table and re-discussing our disputes. It is our shared responsibility for our children, for the future of the Jewish people. The Blaustein-Ben Gurion agreement of 1950 defined the relationship between Israel and American Jewry. This document cleverly captured the delicate balance between deep mutual responsibility and non-interference. We must cherish this principle out of respect to our peoplehood on the one hand, and to our two democracies, on the other. On the same note, it is time to update or formulate a new ‘Blaustein-Ben-Gurion- agreement. An agreement that meets the current realities and challenges.”
The president added, “Dear friends, we need to create wider circles of awareness here in Israel. For many young Israeli Jews, being a Jew means being Israeli. We must increase their exposure to your schools, camps and communities. They need to realize and feel that they have a family, a family they must take into account. I support the idea of creating a “Reverse Taglit” trip for young Israelis to get to know Jewish communities worldwide. Many such delegations targeted for Israeli opinion leaders are already making a change. My staff at the President’s Residence, together with the Ministry of Diaspora Affairs, is developing an active community for graduates of these delegations in order to increase their impact, and to start exploring finding out the important things we can do together - Israel and Jewish communities worldwide. Dear friends, we must take upon ourselves joint new missions in order to inspire our relationship. I have been promoting cooperation between the State of Israel and the Jewish people in investing and creating partnerships in the developing world. The Zionist vision has always strived for Israel to be an essential and inspiring member in the family of nations, rooted in the Jewish notion of ‘Tikun Olam’,” he continued.
President Rivlin talked about his goals for Israel in the international arena: “I returned from Ethiopia a few months ago. I was accompanied by a delegation that included senior public figures, business people, academics, doctors and representatives of civil society. For the first time, significant members of the Jewish world took part in the delegation of the President of Israel. We were joined by the Chief Rabbi of Great Britain, and leaders of large Jewish organizations from around the world. Together, we deepened our partnership with Ethiopia in promoting development goals. This experience was wonderful. Israel, with its innovative capabilities should strive to be a significant partner in dealing with global development goals. We can do this even better when we work together with the Jewish people. I think the time is ripe for A joint Jewish fund, supporting innovations that promote development goals. We do good, but we can do much better together,” he said.
“Dear friends,” he continued, “In our Declaration of Independence the core identity of the State of Israel was defined as a democratic Jewish state. The declaration says that the State of Israel will be based on the values of liberty, justice and peace, and will ensure total equality for all its citizens. Let us not forget: this declaration was not written when we had safely returned to our homeland. On the contrary, we committed to these values on the eve of the War of Independence; at a time when we did not know whether the State of Israel would survive. But, even then, in the shadow of catastrophe, we were proud and confident and we saw in those values the compass that guides us and will guide us in the only democratic Jewish state. Then, as today, we will never compromise, neither on our values nor on the security of our citizens.”
Concluding his remarks, the president said, “In this divided world, I believe that Israel can shine as an example of partnership built on diversity. This is what ‘Israeli Hope’ is about: establishing partnership between the four tribes, ensuring that Israel will continue to thrive as a Jewish Democratic State. We, in Israel, together with you, my dear friends - the fifth tribe - must all work together, as one tribe. I thank you for your great efforts to bring Israeli hope to every child in Israel, to ensure the bright future of Our Jewish state. Thank you all.”
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