Address by Prime Minister Ariel Sharon to the United Jewish Communities General Assembly

Jerusalem, November 16, 2003

Dear Friends from the USA, Canada, Israel and all over the Jewish world, Good evening.

I am happy to welcome you in Jerusalem, our eternal capital. Welcome home.

Several days ago, I read a moving letter sent by a young Jewish boy who lived in Israel last year, during a period in which the terror attacks were extremely severe. The letter was addressed to his friends who were debating whether or not to come to Israel the following year. I quote:

"There is a word in Hebrew without a solid translation in English – ‘davka’. In essence, ‘davka’ means doing or thinking something both in spite of and because of a given situation. I realized after the end of my Jerusalem period, that davka, this year I am having the single most important and valuable experience of my life. I can [honestly] say that being in Israel this year, ‘davka’ – with all the misfortune that has been visited upon Israel – has been without doubt such an utterly life changing experience that given the choice being on Year Course this year or 3 years ago, I would easily choose this year.

I do not wish for a second that you would think I am in any way thankful that the conditions of my Year Course are the way they are. I have felt the pain of terrorism deep in my heart, and know what it feels like to hear the word pigoo-ah. That having been said, the things that have made my experience this year so rich are exactly the things you are afraid of and concerned about. So, do it."

Ladies and Gentlemen,

I would like to thank you for coming here, to show solidarity with the people of Israel. ‘Davka’ – ‘davka’ now, ‘davka’ to Israel, ‘davka’ to Jerusalem. The solidarity you demonstrate here touches the heart of every Israeli. Our joint work in shaping our common future is of critical importance to the Jewish people.

One thousand, nine hundred and thirty-three years ago, on a hill not far from here, Roman soldiers burned the remains of our Temple, believing that by doing so they had put an end to the Jewish history and legacy. The historian Yosef Ben Matityahu at the time wrote that the destruction of Jerusalem was so widespread: so that one who passes over the place of the destruction, would not believe that there was in this place an inhabited city. However, their plan did not succeed.

This is how we are. Despite repeated attempts to eradicate the Jewish people from the face of the earth, we davka grew and davka developed a rich culture. We have davka always maintained a connection with our homeland. Even during very hard times, there were always Jews in Israel, and with G-ds help, we have succeeded in realizing the dream of re-establishing an independent and democratic Jewish state.

During the last few years, our enemies have risen against us again. Here in Israel by murderous terror attacks, and all over the world, in hate-filled anti-Semitic assaults against the Jewish people and the Jewish state. Yesterday, we received a hard reminder. On Shabbat, synagogues were attacked in Istanbul and Jews were killed and injured during their prayers. Our enemies have yet to understand that the Jewish people cannot be broken – cannot and will not be broken. Faced with these attacks, we will not be deterred and will continue the journey which began thousands of years ago. ‘Davka’, we will carry on with the tremendous efforts we are investing in our young generation – our future, and teach them the history, culture and legacy of our people. ‘Davka’, we will continue to bring thousands of olim from the diaspora, including the United States and Canada, to the only country where Jews can lead full Jewish lives, to Israel. Aliyah will strengthen Israel and ensure its future. A strong Israel is a guarantee for preserving the existence of the Jewish people. Much as, during the past three years, despite all the difficulties, we brought over a hundred thousand Jews to Israel. Davka, we will develop our country, the State of Israel, in our land, the Land of Israel, and in its center, our city – united and undivided – Jerusalem.

Dear Friends,

In a few days, you will return to your homes. When you get there, our work will only just begin. What can you do?

1. First and foremost, be Jewish. I am a Jew, and for me, to be a Jew is the most important thing. Educate your children to be Jewish and invest in Jewish-Zionist education.

Make Aliyah to Israel, help those who want to make aliyah and encourage your friends and relatives to visit Israel. I have a dream, that every Jew will visit Jerusalem at least once. I believe we must set a goal that every young Jew will live here at least one year during their lifetime.

2. Invest in Israel. Help us develop and strengthen the State of Israel, especially Jerusalem, the Negev and the Galilee.

Be ambassadors for the Jewish people and the Jewish state. Each and every one of you can make a difference. I believe that if we join forces, we will be able to ensure our future, bring peace and security to our country and -with God’s help – realize all our hopes and dreams.

Ladies and Gentlemen,

Let me add something personal. I remember when I was wounded and left alone during the battle to lift the siege over Jerusalem. Being wounded was painful, but being left alone was even more painful. 55 years later, we are still fighting for Jerusalem, but when I see you all here tonight, I know that there is one big difference: today we are not alone.

Thank you.