I am pleased to be here to participate in the inauguration of Terminal 3 – mistakenly labeled “Ben-Gurion Airport 2000”, while its correct name should be “Ben-Gurion Airport of the Third Millenium.” Firstly, because we are deep into the year 2004. Secondly, and perhaps mainly, because this project is characterized by its technological level and futuristic architectural design.
I doubt that many of our younger generation still make the connection between Ben-Gurion Airport and David Ben-Gurion. Ben-Gurion Airport 2000, which is entirely a product of a vision which successfully materialized, is, in my opinion, closely connected with David Ben-Gurion, the visionary. And I have a little story to tell about that.
In one of the most difficult moments during the War of Independence, a delegation from the Negev kibbutzim (which were not the large kibbutzim we are familiar with today) came to Tel Aviv to meet with Ben-Gurion. The people of the Negev were concerned by the rumors that due to the difficult situation of the communities and the invasion of the Egyptian army, the Government was intending to surrender the Negev. Ben-Gurion was busy that day. He could not meet them, but he wrote them a letter. In the letter he said that while he did not know what would happen, he knew what should happen. And what should happen was that within a year, the establishment of a port in Eilat would begin.
The kibbutz representatives thought that Ben-Gurion had gone mad. The Negev kibbutzim were barely holding on and he was talking about a port in Eilat, which was then beyond the “Dark Mountains”. But a year later, we were in Eilat.
I am telling you this story – as a Ben-Gurion lesson – which should teach us that even during the most difficult times, we must remember what is beyond the horizon.
For the past four years, Israel has been engaged in a war forced upon it by Palestinian terrorism. Our enemies have long realized that they could not defeat us, but they are still trying to harm us and wear us out. This daily campaign must not make us forget the “Eilat” which we strive to achieve – the modern Israel, Israel of the 21st century, standing alongside the most advanced nations in the world.
Even in a time of war, we must continue building this Israel – the Israel of tomorrow.
The construction of Terminal 3 – one of the greatest infrastructure projects carried out in Israel since the establishment of the state, the glorious gateway into the State of Israel, faithfully representing Israel’s status as one of the most developed nations in the world – is part of this effort.
In the framework of this effort, the Government under my leadership continues to generate actual revolutions in the infrastructures of the Israeli economy. Such is the “Railway Revolution”, in which NIS 20 billion will be invested in the framework of its five-year plan, and in whose framework we also brought the train here, to Terminal 3. Such is also the “natural gas revolution” in which by the year 2012, 50% of our energy sources will rely on natural gas. In the coming year, progress will also be made in the field of water desalination – with the activation of the first desalination facilities. This has been my Government’s policy until now and it is my intention to continue this policy in the future as well. We will continue investing in infrastructures, advancing profound structural reforms to encourage growth and responsible administration of the economy which will lead to preservation of the credibility and stability of the economy.
The literal meaning of the word “terminal” is final destination, while here, at Terminal 3, rather we are at a starting point, on the runway of the future we wish for ourselves: a future of millions of tourists who come to visit the country every year; a future of many new immigrants from around the Jewish world, who will use this magnificent gateway into the State of Israel and come here in masses; and, of course, the future of the State of Israel existing safely in its land.
I thank everyone who participated in this enterprise since this project was approved by Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin’s government – Rabin, may his memory be blessed, the engineers, the architects, the technicians and all the thousands of Israelis who created this wonder and proved once again that for them – and for us – the sky is the limit.