The Honorable Minister of Public Security, Minister Avi Dichter,
My dear friends, initiators and supporters of the Heseg Foundation, my dear friends from Canada, Heather Reisman and Gerry Schwartz,
Guests from Israel and abroad,
Chairman of the Association for the Wellbeing of Israel’s Soldiers, Maj. Gen. Yitzhak Eitan,
My multi-talented friend, Moshe Ronen,
Soldiers – none of you is alone here now. You are all embraced with great love by all of us.
Good evening everyone.
Last Succoth I hosted in my home a large group of soldiers whose technical status in Israel was that of "lone soldiers", i.e. soldiers who arrived here from different parts of the world, without their families, immigrated to Israel and volunteered to serve in the Israel Defense Forces. When they shared their experiences with me, I thought to myself then and I think now – seeing you here and thinking of your special connection to us and our connection to you – that despite all our hardships, about which we so love to complain, our country is still one of a kind in the world.
You saw this guy from Australia who was standing here a few minutes ago – I didn’t hear whether he was from Sydney or Melbourne and therefore I will not venture a guess because they are very sensitive in Melbourne and Sydney about their status. Think about it, think about where he came from, what great distance he traveled to be here, to live in this country, because there is no place other than Israel in which he and you, who have come from so many places, can feel that you are truly home, in the only home that we have. Believe me – you know, but we may not always know – that there are many places in the world, Canada, the United States, Australia and many more places which offer a comfortable living, a living that is not so difficult and in some sense even safer, but there is no place in the world where Jews can be at home as they are here.
I met in Moscow with the Rothstein family, whose son, a medical doctor in the IDF, fell in the recent fighting in Lebanon. I looked at those parents who came to Moscow to see me from the town of Irkutsk, in the heart of Siberia, and traveled a greater distance than that which is between London and Jerusalem, and I saw the terrible loneliness of their grief. They were at the other end of the world and their son fell here, and I told them: in the name of all of you and in the name of the people of Israel, that in the whole world there are no people like them, who instilled in their son this enthusiasm which brought him from Irkutsk to fight for our lives in this land and who fell in Lebanon for our lives in this land.
I want you to know that even if we do not always show it, and even if somehow, in all the tribulations which we experience in this country, we do not always express it, the fact that you are here moves us to the bottom of our hearts and makes us proud of you and proud of our country. The fact that you have come here from all the places you came from to live in our country is probably the best testimony to the fact that we have a great future, which no danger, threat or hardship can sabotage, because we have you and we have ourselves. For this I want to thank you, on behalf of the State of Israel and the Government of Israel, and I want to embrace you with great love and appreciation and tell you that when you are here we are all much happier and much safer. And I do want to thank – and this I will do in English – my two friends, Heather Reisman and Gerry Schwartz.
I can’t tell you how proud we are of you that you are here, and how grateful I am personally that you made it possible for me to join you, even for a short time, this evening, tonight. Because I called you in Canada and I said to you: do me a favor, there is no way that I can make it in Tel Aviv today, but I want to be here because I want every one here and hopefully everyone in Canada to know how proud the State of Israel is of people like you, and I wanted to be able to speak to you directly and personally, and you agreed to move this event from the greats of Tel Aviv to the seriousness and to the dignity of Jerusalem. And I am so grateful to you, that you agreed to do it.
But I am more grateful to you even for what you are doing for our sake – this phenomenon of young Jews who come from across the world to the State of Israel, hopefully all of them will stay for good. But I’ll tell you the truth, I’m not certain, maybe some of them will still go back to their respective countries, will study there, will stay awhile, maybe then they will come back, I don’t know. I know only one thing – that what you are doing makes it more possible for many of them to live here in somewhat improved circumstances, which can increase the chances that they will stay for good in the State of Israel.
Very often I am asked what is the one thing which I think is perhaps the most important, the most significant, that people can do for the State of Israel. And when all is said and done, at the bottom line, there is one thing which is more important than all: for Jews to make Aliyah and live here. Now I know that Heather and Gerry at this stage in life – although I’m not giving up on you – maybe it is somewhat difficult for you. But when you make it possible for so many of those to live here, you contribute to the wellbeing, to the strength, to the future, to the security of the State of Israel in a dramatic and significant way, and on behalf of the State of Israel and the Government of Israel, I want to thank you from the bottom of my heart.
You are really good people; you are wonderful Jews; you are wonderful human beings. I am proud to be your friend and I am proud that I can share this pride that I have in you with all of the people present here and many more whom I hope will hear about what you are doing for us. Allow me to conclude with one request, which is not unimportant. I want to share with you something about them. Gerry and Heather are not just helping us here. They are helping us there just as well. Their voice is heard in Canada. Their voice is heard in the highest echelons of Canada, everywhere. And in difficult times, and there are difficult times for the State of Israel, when their voice is heard, Israel benefits. One of the best friends in Canada is also the Prime Minister of Canada, Mr. Harper. Canada has been absolutely incredible, friendly and supportive to us since the first day that Mr. Harper took over as Prime Minister. And I request, I ask, on behalf of my government, Gerry, that when you will talk to the Prime Minister of Canada, tell him that we thank him for his friendship, and that we thank Canada for its support, for the soldiers of Israel, for the fighters of Israel and for the people of Israel, and that we will be more than happy to welcome him as our official guest in the State of Israel, with both of you, as soon as possible.
And again, thank you for everything which you are doing, for everything that you did, and for everything that you will continue to do for our country and for our people. Good evening.