Wednesday, June 25, 2014
Address by PM Netanyahu at Birthright
http://www.pmo.gov.il/English/MediaCenter/Speeches/Pages/speechtaglit240614.aspx This is like the Jewish Mondial. From Argentina, did you see that goal? It was Messi, wasn't it? And Brazil and France and the UK. Is Canada there? Well, in the hockey Mondial. And of course the USA. So we have wonderful friends here who've supported Birthright all along and some who are supporting it now, among them our friend from the USA, Governor Mike Huckabee, a personal friend, a strong friend of Israel. Many years ago, you'd be too young to remember, Dr. Yossi Beilin who's sitting here with us, came to me, I remember, with evidently a crazy idea, and the idea was to bring thousands, tens of thousands, hundreds of thousands of Jewish young men and women to the State of Israel. Now, the idea was so far-fetched that I thought: well, if he's crazy, I'm crazy too, but I could put in so much, I did, as the Prime Minister of Israel, but he found other crazy partners, and two of the most distinguished ones who are putting their hearts, not only putting their hands in their pockets, putting their hearts into this are Dr. Miri and Sheldon Adelson – two pioneers and visionaries. And Sheldon and Miri, I want to salute you for doing the impossible, along with so many others who are here, and I want to congratulate all of you. I'm sure I'm going to miss out names, I know there are people here from Spain, I know there are people here from Los Angeles. Yohai Schneider, David Hatchwell, Meir Shamir in Israel and so many others, I want to thank you personally for what you've done, and to you, Gidi Mark, for what you are doing in moving this program forward.
I just met, with my wife Sara, we just met Ryan Hunter. Ryan Hunter comes from the USA, he's number 400,000. And with him was Ma'ayan, a soldier from the Oketz Unit. She's the 70,000 Israeli who's participated in this program. Together, that's almost half a million youngsters who have been in this Taglit-Birthright program. And I want to welcome you to our homeland. This is your homeland. See, I don’t care wherever you're coming from, you have to understand, it all started here, you all came from here. Now we're sitting in an amphitheater, it's a Roman amphitheater, in the city of Caesarea, who was actually built by a semi Jewish king called Herod, but it was the Roman seat of power. I think that in this amphitheater they didn’t feed us to the lions. There's another one buried in the sand where they did. They were sitting there, we were maybe sitting here or standing here or crawling here, but they vanquished us, they exiled us, we were dispersed to the four corners of the earth, we were finished. A great historian, or so he thought, by the name of Arnold Toynbee, he said, early on in the previous century, he said: the Jewish people, there's no such thing, the Jewish people are a fossil. Did you hear that? Some fossil. We've come back, we're here, you're sitting here, Israel is standing here. We've preformed a remarkable restoration and rebirth and there's been nothing like it in history. There is a force within our people that has allowed us to turn our country into an amazing success story. You're looking at Israel today, but 66 years ago, when we gained our independence, our population was a lot smaller. It increased tenfold, our economy has grown a hundred fold, and Israel has become a world center of technology, of innovation, of…you know this word? Seichel? I don’t know how you say that in Spanish, but you know what it is, and because of this we can take this country and make it the number one recycler of wastewater in the world. We can take our innovation, our ingenuity, and I'll ask you a question – do you know which cow produces most milk in the world? You think it's a Dutch cow? Maybe it's a French cow? No, it's an Israeli cow. Every moo is computerized, everything. You have cell phones in your pockets. There's a piece of Israel in there. You have medicines that you take, there's a piece of Israel there. You eat a salad, you know those round tomatoes? That's a piece of Israel. Israel is contributing to the entire world, but Israel is reshaping the Jewish world, and there's an amazing energy here which you can see. You're now in the shores of the Mediterranean, you can go to the Sea of Galilee or to the Dead Sea or to the Red Sea, and you'll see, as you travel this country, you'll see the amazing rebirth of our people. And the most important thing that I want to communicate to you is to tell you that this is your land, this is where it all started and this is where it all continues. And I know that not everyone in the world can accept this marvelous transformation. There are those who wish to extinguish the Jewish present and the Jewish future. There is rampant anti-Semitism still around. It's an age-old disease that doesn’t stop. What has changed with the rebirth of Israel is our ability to confront our vilification, our ability to defend ourselves against our enemies, and we do that with the proud soldiers, the brave soldiers of the IDF. Now we're engaged in many many challenges. There's no lack of challenges. We have three teenagers, they're probably more or less your age, and we will not rest, we will not let up until we find those boys and bring them home, and we will also find their kidnappers. And the vilification of Israel is there, it's in Europe. The violence is not only directed here, you saw it in Toulouse, you saw it in Brussels in these horrific attacks. We have to fight them. We have to fight not only a physical fight, but a moral fight, we have to fight the slander. The only way you can fight slander is with the truth. And I think it's important to tell the truth. You know, I heard, Governor Huckabee, I heard that a Presbyterian association in the United States decided to join the divestment campaign against Israel. Did you hear that? So I suggested to them that they should come to Israel, tour the country as you're doing and then take a bus tour to the Middle East. They should go to Libya, Syria, Iraq. They'll see Christians persecuted, churches burnt, minorities butchered, majorities butchered. And I have only two suggestions to them. One, make sure that it's an armored-plated bus, and two, don’t say that you're Christian. But there is no such problem in Israel. It's a vibrant, free, prosperous democracy. It respects human rights, it respects every religion. We are firmly anchored in the past, but we also enthusiastically seize the future, and this is your future. I want you to go back to your countries and I want you to tell everyone what you saw there. Tell your families obviously, tell your friends, tell our friends and tell those who are not our friends. Tell them the truth about Israel. Tell them that you had visited your homeland, that this is your birthright. Tell them the truth, stand up for Israel and then I want you to come back on Aliyah and help us build this country. Thank you very much, thank you, all of you. Congratulations. ________________________________________ IMRA - Independent Media Review and Analysis Since 1992 providing news and analysis on the Middle East with a focus on Arab-Israeli relations Website: www.imra.org.il