Monday, May 1, 2000
(as published by Yad Vashem, The Holocaust Martyrs’ and Heroes’ Remembrance Authority)
In the twentieth century, the Jewish people knew one of their lowest points during the Holocaust but also accomplished one of their most impressive achievements in the founding of the State of Israel as the Jewish national home and a center for world Judaism.
After thousands of years of exile and disconnection from their homeland, the Jewish people, who have been schooled in suffering and agony, have found redemption in their own country with the founding of a national home in the State of Israel.
The State of Israel is the best guarantee that the horrors of the Holocaust that befell the Jews will never happen again.
As I stand before you on the eve of Holocaust Martyrs’ and Heroes’ Remembrance Day, I would like to emphasize one subject: the centrality of the State of Israel to Jewish existence after the Holocaust. The reality that we have created here in Israel is beyond what anyone could have ever imagined.
Very few of us guessed that our situation would be so good after fifty years. I am not ignoring our problems, difficulties and disagreements, but, for the first time since the days of the Kingdom of Israel, the State has become the center of the Jewish people.
Another of our important achievements is the resurrection of the Hebrew language, which we never forgot, even after thousands of years in exile.
The Jewish people, in addition to possessing memory, also have imagination, strength and determination. However, their memory and their imagination are not compatible. What imagination could have foreseen the vision of the revival of the State of Israel in its own land and the founding of the Jewish State only three years after leaving the valley of slaughter? As we look at our achievements over the last fifty years, I am filled with hope and encouragement for what Israel can achieve in the next fifty years.
The whims of history, in a mysterious way, put me, the President of the State of Israel, at the center of the symbol of German sovereignty. Four years ago, I stood before the German parliament in order to represent the revival of the People of Israel in their own land, and I spoke in Hebrew.
It is hard for me to think of another occasion that would symbolize so clearly and definitively the failure of the Nazi idea and the vitality of the People of Israel.
Germany specifically and the Western world in general cannot settle for soul searching that is confined to the past. They must also confront the threats of the present, as well as any attempts to deny or minimize the Holocaust. We demand that the nations of the world recognize all the horrors of yesterday while continuing to fight the threats of today.
The State of Israel is acting to eradicate racist and antisemitic phenomena all over the world. As an open society, we must teach the values of tolerance, mutual respect and the recognition of our fellow man.
Tomorrow, during Holocaust Martyrs’ and Heroes’ Remembrance Day, I will take part in the "March of the Living" in Auschwitz together with cadets from the Israel Defense Force and thousands of Jewish youth from Israel and from all over the world. There, in that terrible place, in those horrifying fields of slaughter, I will say:
"We will defend ourselves and our freedom, and we swear that, as long as we have breath in our bodies, there will never be another Auschwitz, nor will there be death marches of Jews to crematoriums and mass graves. We came here from Jerusalem, the eternal capital of the people of Israel, to announce to you, our brothers and sisters, that we have triumphed over those who seek to do us evil! We have come to tell you that we have established in Israel a home and a country for the Jewish people and that the prophecy of Ezekiel has been fulfilled: "I will put my breath into you and you shall live again, and I will set you upon your own soil.""
In a week, we will celebrate Israel’s 52nd Independence Day. Today, we enjoy quiet borders and peaceful relations with Egypt and Jordan. There is hope for a peace settlement with the Palestinians. I also hope for the continuation of peace negotiations with Syria and Lebanon. We extend our hands in peace and in the hope for neighborliness with all the countries around us; this is what was written in the scroll declaring our independence, and this call is valid today and will stay so forever.
Since I began my tenure as president, I have called repeatedly for our brothers all over the world to join us and immigrate to Israel. I want to repeat this call: Rise and immigrate to Israel and the verse of the prophet Isaiah, "So let the ransomed of the Lord return, and come with shouting to Zion, crowned with joy everlasting," will be fulfilled in you.
Here on the Mount of Remembrance in Jerusalem, standing with us, are the six million who were murdered, and their call rises to heaven, "Never again."
Joining in their call are millions of citizens of sovereign and independent states, and millions of Jewish people in the Diaspora.
May the memory of the six million be kept in our hearts forever!
|Yad Vashem – Holocaust Martyrs’ and Heroes’ Remembrance Authority – Special Remembrance Day section|