PM Sharon Addresses the Jewish Agency Assembly
Jerusalem, June 23, 2002

(Communicated by the Prime Minister’s Media Adviser)

Prime Minister Ariel Sharon on Sunday afternoon, June 23, 2002, addressed the Jewish Agency Assembly, at Binyanei Haouma in Jerusalem. Following is the transcript of his address:

"Chairman of the Jewish Agency and Zionist Federation,
Chairman of the Board of Governors,
Members of the Board of Governors,
Honored Guests,

I would like to welcome you to Jerusalem, the eternal capital of the people of Israel for 3000 years – and forever. These assemblies, here in Jerusalem, have great symbolic meaning – particularly during these difficult times that the residents of this city, and the whole country, are going through. It is a very impressive demonstration of Jewish unity encompassing the world. It is a message to all the Diaspora of Israel that our people are steadfast, rooted in its homeland and strongly meeting every challenge as one – and emerging victorious.

105 years ago during the summer of 1897, the visionary of the state (Theodore) Binyamin Zeev Herzl said a wonderful phrase in the opening address of the First Zionist Congress: "Zionism is the return to Judaism even before the return to the land of the Jews." This phrase is the fulfillment of the essence of Zionism as a national movement – first and foremost, before all else, the return to Judaism.

The Zionist ideal could have united all opinions and streams, and all the communities and tribes of the communities of Israel solely based upon its being anchored in the deepest Jewish root of all: The root of faith. The root of hope. The root of vision. The root of Jerusalem. Because Zionism is Zion, and Zion is Jerusalem, and it is Israel, homeland of the Jewish people, stronghold of the yearning of all generations.

Zionism, in the words of Herzl, is a return to Judaism’s roots. Return of the Jewish people to its land, fulfillment of its historic right to it and founding of the State of Israel. It is an act of historic justice, no greater to be found in the history of nations.

The State of Israel has been dealing with a murderous terror offensive that has been forced upon it over the last 21 months.

While we are convened here, our defense forces are deployed across the whole country fulfilling their mission – defending the security of the citizens of Israel.

We send from here greetings and support to the IDF soldiers, the officers of the Israel Police and Border Police, the agents of the ISA and Mossad, firefighters, Magen David Adom personnel, hospitals, Disaster Victim Identification, and volunteers in all the volunteer organizations that are on guard day and night.

Israel is a state that pursues peace, but we will not compromise on our security. I have clarified this in my many discussions with the leaders of the free world, the President of the United States – who leads the brave global campaign against terror – first and foremost.

Israel aspires to engage in a diplomatic process with the Palestinians as soon as possible. In order to accomplish this, in order to achieve peace, two things must happen:

  1. A complete cessation of terror, violence and incitement.
  2. A complete change in the Palestinian Authority. Real reform, a different Authority.

We must stand with determination on these conditions. Only in this way can we achieve peace in the region in which we live.

My dear friends,

One of the founding fathers and giants of the Zionist movement, Zeev Jabotinsky, described 68 years ago the aims of Zionism in this way:

"The first goal of Zionism is the creation of a Jewish majority in the Land of Israel. But this is not the final goal. After we constitute the majority in the Land of Israel and are able to take upon ourselves an administration based on broad democratic principles, we will still have the second task, which is perhaps more important than the first: The Return to Zion, i.e. the creation of conditions that will give every Jew – who cannot, or does not want

to, remain in exile – the ability to return to the Jewish state and honorably earn his bread there. And after this, perhaps we will stand before the third and most important task: Making the Land of Israel a state the leaders and laws of which will serve as an example to the rest of the world."

I see these words of Jabotinsky’s as a precise definition of our goals today as well. We must make a clear call to Jews in all the countries of the Diaspora: Make aliyah to Israel. Make aliyah to Israel.

In the previous decade, in an effort that many felt would not succeed, the four million residents of Israel absorbed another one million Jews, most of whom had arrived from the countries of the former Soviet Union and Ethiopia. We must continue this effort in the coming decade as well – to absorb another one million immigrants in Israel.

To this end, we are continuing our wide-ranging activities in the republics of the former Soviet Union and have begun a great effort to bring in immigrants from Argentina, France and South Africa.

I want to use this opportunity to thank you for responding to my call on behalf of Jewish immigrants from Argentina, for your assistance in the ‘Israel Now’ campaign and for all of your steps of support and encouragement for the State of Israel in these difficult times. Israel needs you, today, more than ever.

My friends.

As a young IDF commander, I was fortunate enough to meet David Ben-Gurion, Israel’s first Prime Minister. During one of his speeches, Ben-Gurion told IDF commanders:

"We have one secret weapon … which is perhaps the main one which promises the chance of victory and we must strengthen it. This secret is in your hands – in the hands of those who are here and in the hands of those who are not here – the spirit, and that is what will be decisive in the war in which we find ourselves… The spirit will be decisive but not when it is alone. All of the artillery and airplanes will be of no help if a spirit does not rise up in us; until today, this spirit has given us the power to endure and with

it, we will be victorious…"

And indeed, in the power of the spirit, Zionism has cut through all obstacles and risen from the abyss of the Holocaust to the peak of national revival. The State of Israel, the fruit of the Zionist vision, has gathered the dispersed of the people and risen anew on the stage of history: A free and democratic nation, strong and prosperous, which has taken upon itself the responsibility for its own fate and restored the Jews to honor.

Countless threats and obstacles have laid in wait for us along the way – wars, terror and economic boycott. We have been forced to pave our path with courage, strength and victims – there are none dearer. But we always overcame.

At the beginning of the 21st century, the Jewish people are faced with many complex challenges and campaigns. I am among those who believe that in the power of the spirit which resonates within us, we will pave our way with courage and strength and we will overcome all challenges and campaigns that stand in our way.

The spirit about which Ben-Gurion spoke still lives within us. Just as it has through all the years of Jewish history, it gives us the power to ‘endure and with it, we will be victorious…’ And with God’s help, we will be victorious.

Thank you very much.