5758 – 1998
This year we celebrate the State of Israel’s 50th birthday, a landmark in our history. I believe we can be proud of our accomplishments in this half century.
Even before the State was officially declared, we were attacked from all sides, and most military experts doubted that the new state would survive. But we have not only survived against great odds. We have performed what can only be described as a modern miracle. We have gathered millions of exiles to our land, developed a thriving economy, and attained international standing in the sciences and the arts, in technology and in agriculture. With resolve and courage we have proved again and again that we can defend ourselves against all enemies.
These achievements have convinced our neighbors of our permanence in the region. Egypt and Jordan have signed peace treaties with us, we have established relations with other Arab countries, and started a peace process with our Palestinian neighbors.
There are few sacrifices and concessions Israel is unwilling to make to achieve peace with all its neighbors. But a fundamental requirement must be satisfied: security.
This should have been self evident. The very definition of peace includes the absence of violence and war. Terrorism and threats of violence are incompatible with the peace process.
Yet many expect Israel to withdraw from areas that are the cradle of Jewish civilization, to relinquish control over strategic assets, and to leave itself vulnerable to attack despite the absence of any credible assurance of security. This we cannot do. To treat the matter of security lightly is to abdicate our responsibilities as a government. Jews everywhere must remain united in demanding that security be an integral, indispensable component of the peace process. Only then can we achieve real peace.
Ever since the struggling days of the State’s beginning, unity has been our invaluable weapon. And whenever cracks seem to appear in this bond, we prove time and again that in times of trouble or when facing a national challenge we set aside our differences and act as one people.
The bond between Israel and the Diaspora is vital to our survival. It is what gives the Jewish people strength in the present and confidence in the future.
Not every goal has been attained, not every challenge has been met. As we mark 100 years of modern Zionism and enter Israel’s 50th year we must not lose sight of the purpose of Zionism: the ingathering of the Jewish people in the Jewish state.
With Israel’s economy developing at an extraordinary pace and with its standard of living approaching that of the most advanced nations, there is every reason for Jews everywhere to consider Aliyah. I am certain that a majority of the Jewish people will be living in Israel by the time we celebrate the State’s 60th anniversary.
We shall also widen the circle of peace to encompass all our neighbors, narrow the socio-economic gaps in our society, and resolve the differences between our religious streams.
Let us not rest on our laurels. But let us also view our magnificent achievements with pride, and feel confident that we will successfully face all challenges and overcome all obstacles.
We are one people, united forever by faith, history and a shared destiny. With best wishes for Hag Sameach from Jerusalem, Israel’s eternal capital.