דברי הנשיא בערב הגאלה של יהדות התפוצות לכבוד 75 שנה לישראל


קרדיט צילום: עמוס בן גרשום, לע"מ

 "הנה מה טוב ומה נעים שבת אחים גם יחד". How good and pleasant it is to be amongst brothers and sisters. To be stepping into this remarkable moment, where we have gathered, together from across our vast Jewish diaspora to celebrate a momentous milestone for our nation:75 years of our beloved State of Israel.

There is. So much. To celebrate.  Hanging in the balance between life and death in the war of Independence in 1948, we survived. On the ashes of the greatest tragedy in our people’s history, we rose up again with the unbeatable spirit that defines our people.

We have, over 75 years, cultivated a thriving center of Jewish and Israeli life that is creative, warm, bold and innovative. We have woven a rich and beautiful human tapestry. We have built an army – a people’s army – which brings people together from every walk of life to protect our nation. Among them are hundreds of lone soldiers, who choose to hear the calling from around the world. And come to Israel without their families to defend our nation.

We have blossomed across so many fields. And we have harnessed our creative power and entrepreneurial spirit to be a force of good in the world. Bringing ourselves to the front lines of solutions to the most pressing needs of our times.

The Jewish people throughout the globe, our Jewish diaspora, has contributed immensely to this nation-building project that is Israel. And it has been nourishing for both sides. For decades, Israel has been a source of inspiration and identity to Jews everywhere. While global Jewry has been there for Israel from the beginning, with endless love, devotion, loyalty, and commitment.

The global Zionist organizations that are our hosts this evening – The Jewish Agency for Israel The World Zionist Organization, and The Jewish Federations of North America and Keren Hayesod – have been remarkable partners in empowering this ongoing relationship. And in building this country. It is a powerful and strong partnership which has, quite simply, changed the world. And I am overwhelmed with appreciation and admiration. I applaud these organizations. And their leadership now and over the years. And I applaud you – all of you – here tonight. You are a powerful and impressive collective. And I know you’re capable of pretty much anything. You have so much to be proud of.

But, friends, within the abundance of our gifts, we can also acknowledge that there are some concerning trends in our peoplehood. Trends that cast a shadow on our joint future. We recognize them not to lament our fate. Or to be critical, blaming or despairing. But as a first measure in responding to them. This is what we do in healthy families. This is what we do in healthy nations.

The fact is that between our Jewish communities, we are growing more distant from one another. The gaps between us are growing wider. On some of the most essential questions, we are unable to agree. But – more concerning – often, we are unable even to discuss. That critical web of connectedness – the sense of shared purpose and destiny that has sustained our people for millennia – seems to be loosening. Growing numbers of Jews are choosing either stricter affiliations, or no affiliations at all. And for many in the next generation, Israel has not been as accessible as the binding thread that has united our people through the turbulent changes of the last century.

Along with that, the failures of the global political culture – of, at times, shallow, superficial discourse – are evident within our Jewish people, too. Our echo chambers are growing louder and more narrow. And our ability to see each other, to hear each other, and to make contact beyond ourselves, seems to be weakening.

While the hold of our story loosens, our chances of interacting with one another, of actually meeting one another across our divides, are growing ever smaller. Without contact, we begin to develop indifference. And indifference further erodes our sense of belonging to one another and to our collective story. Erodes the ties that make us one nation. One small, but eternal nation, עם הנצח.

At the same time, we are not doing enough to cultivate the next generation of Jewish leaders, who can bear the torch of our peoplehood and infuse it with new life. Keeping it relevant, vibrant, and alive.

Of course, the fierce debate over Israel’s direction in recent months is a striking example of the ways that alienation between different groups, and polarization that festers for years, becomes corrosive. And weakens the pillars that hold our nation together.

Now, The external threats we face in Israel and as a Jewish people are real.

We are a small nation. Some 15 million people in a world of 8 billion. Anti-Semitism, and calls for Israel’s destruction remain pervasive. And poisonous.  And, still, I am convinced that there is no greater existential threat to our people than the one that comes from within: Our own polarization and alienation from one another.

Friends, Our Jewish culture is one that celebrates the living vitality of discourse. Of contact between different people and different positions. Even, and especially, when they don’t agree. It is one that recognizes that, in order to grow, we need to be able to bring a genuine receptiveness to listening and learning and really hearing each other. Disagreement – rather than pushing us apart – can be the force that builds us and binds us .מחלוקת לשם שמיים, שסופה להתקיים

This is the essence of the Jewish culture of beit midrash. The essence of our Talmudic culture of dialogue that is rich, challenging, and fertile או חברותא או מיתותא. Companionship that challenges us and our assumptions is basic to growth.

I believe that it is only through dialogue between us that we can possibly allow our moments of crisis to turn into moments of growth. That is why I have put dialogue at the center of my seven-year meta-strategy for my presidency.

Through programs like מחליפים מילה — Time to Talk we are bringing Israelis from every walk of life together to look at the tough issues. To see and to hear each other. It is why at this time of crisis, I am insisting on internal Israeli dialogue that looks honestly at where we are divided. And it is why here tonight, I wish to insist on dialogue within our Jewish people more broadly, too.

Friends, We need to find a way to start making contact with one another. To deepen the conversation between us. So that we can find the paths back to a broad narrative that is compelling, binding, and wholesome for all of us. What I believe we need in order to get there is a place where we can come together to hear each other. A place where we can look at the most pressing matters facing the Jewish people. And where we can develop the next generation of committed Jewish leaders, who will bring their gifts and their talents to preserving our precious peoplehood. What we need, friends, is a global Jewish beit midrash.

As president of the State of Israel, with resonance throughout the Jewish world, I have personally committed myself to making this happen. At the beginning of my presidency, I asked our friends at the Jewish Agency and the WZO, to join me on a groundbreaking initiative. I am pleased to be able to say that they came fully aboard. And I am very grateful to them. Over the course of the past year, their talented staff has been working with my staff. Jointly, we have developed a brand new initiative called: קול העם- שיח יהודי עולמי Voice of the People: The President’s Initiative for Worldwide Jewish Dialogue.

Its vision is to launch a first-of-its-kind global council for Jewish dialogue. You might call it a Jewish “Davos.”  Nonpartisan and apolitical, Voice of the People will be a collaborative forum. One that can hold and reflect the full and diverse range of Jewish voices. It will be a place where we can engage in serious, sensitive and strategic discussions on the most complex and pressing issues facing our people. A place where we formulate concrete proposals and actions items to address them.

But, most important, a place to cultivate the next generation of Jewish leaders. I consider this to be its most important function. We need our best and our brightest to show up on the front lines for our people. To pool their resources of vision, courage, and capability to help position our nation to survive and to thrive. These are the building blocks on which our future world depends. And we cannot afford to neglect them.

Over the next months, we will be spearheading a broad consultation process with all of you, and with Jewish leaders and thinkers across the globe, to further develop this vision. So that this new platform will be optimally equipped to serve its purpose.

We are delighted that prominent philanthropic actors have seen the potential in this project. And will be bringing their capabilities and resources to the table as well.

In his iconic book, “God in Search of Man,” the legendary Rabbi Abraham Joshua Heschel speaks about the personal calling this moment holds for each of us, in carrying forward the legacy of our nation. He says: “What is at stake in our lives is more than the fate of one generation. In this moment, we, the living, are Israel. The tasks begun by … countless Jews of the past, are now entrusted to us. We are the only channel of Jewish tradition… those who must hand over the entire past to the generations to come.”

So, my dear friends. Here we are, now. We, too, are that one living generation in this one living moment. For the sake of everything we have achieved, and everything we aspire to achieve, let us commit to working together, hand in hand, shoulder to shoulder, to shape our shared future. And write the next chapter in the story of our people. With 75 years of evidence of what we can do with faith, determination, and shared vision, there is no question that together, we can bring new life to the story of our peoplehood.

Good luck to you. Good luck to us! עם ישראל חי! Happy 75th, Israel.

יום עצמאות שמח, ישראל!