5758 – 1998
The State of Israel is celebrating the jubilee of its independence this year. Over the past fifty years, despite all the internal and external difficulties, we have built an outstanding country. We have a thriving economy, a level of technology among the most advanced in the world, impressive scientific research, highly developed agriculture, and a very rich cultural life. Concurrently, we have had extraordinary success in meeting the Zionist challenge of absorbing immigrants from all over the world.
In the past few years we have absorbed 750,000 Jews from the former Soviet Union and another 80,000 from Ethiopia. They make an important contribution to our society and to the country. Unfortunately, not all our Jewish brethren have come to Israel. To you, our brothers and sisters in the diaspora, I say – the gates of the State are open to you; our air and sea ports are open; our hearts and our arms are open to welcome you. Come and join us in building an exemplary society and an outstanding country. Come and realize the Zionist dream together with us in Israel.
Upon achieving independence, Israel’s population was 600,000. Since then, it has grown tenfold, to nearly six million, including more than one million Arab citizens enjoying equal rights. This is a very diverse society, but despite its many contrasts, loyalty to the state is shared by all.
During this century, the Jewish people experienced one of the most terrible events in its history, the Holocaust in Europe, but also reached one of its most impressive achievements – the creation of the national home in Israel, turning Israel into the center of world Jewry and reviving the Hebrew language, which had not been forgotten during two millennia of exile.
We still have security problems, but we are on the right path, the path to peace, and I believe that within a few years we shall attain comprehensive peace in the Middle East.
Today we enjoy quiet borders and peaceful relations with Egypt and Jordan, and we have hopes of a peace settlement with the Palestinians. In the Declaration of the Establishment of the State of Israel, we state that we "extend our hand to all neighboring states and their peoples in an offer of peace and good neighborliness and are prepared to do our share in a common effort for the advancement of the entire Middle East." This call is, of course, still valid today. It is my hope that we shall renew the peace negotiations with Syria and Lebanon and establish diplomatic relations with all the countries which as yet have no ties with us.
When, in retrospect, I contemplate our accomplishments in the past fifty years, I am filled with hope and confidence about what Israel will achieve in the coming fifty years.