Address by Prime Minister Ehud Olmert at the Atidim Conference Honoring the State of Israel’s 60th Anniversary
Photo by GPO 

Honorable Deputy Prime Minister, Minister of Transportation and Traffic Safety, Former IDF Chief of General Staff, Former Minister of Defense and the father of Atidim, my friend, Shaul Mofaz,
Honorable Chief of General Staff of the IDF, a celebrated fighter and a man who serves as an example of courage, determination and security, Lt.-Gen. Gabi Ashkenazi,
Chairman of the Jewish Agency and the World Zionist Federation, and a close friend of Atidim, Ze’ev Bielski,
My friend, husband to Ariela, the driving force, the man with the vision, the man who dedicated so much time to this philanthropic activity and to so many others in order to build the State of Israel, Eitan Wertheimer,
Director General of Atidim, Brig.-Gen. (Res.) Ms. Devorah Hasid,
The man who came up with the idea which was just presented to you and received well-deserved recognition and gratitude, Avner Barzani,
Members of the Jewish Agency Board of Directors,
Representatives of Bank Leumi,
Contributors from overseas,
Representatives of the IDF and the Ministry of Defense,
But mostly you, members of Atidim,

When one stands up here, it is hard to see because the spotlights are blinding.  I would like to hear these wonderful young people sitting here tonight say one time: “Good evening to the people of Israel!”

[Transcription] I want to say just a couple words to some of my friends from overseas who I see are sitting in the first and second rows.  And then I will talk about you in Hebrew, but what I want to say to you is this:  we never ever take you for granted.  We never thought that this is the most obvious and natural thing for you to respond to the needs of the State of Israel the way you do.  What you are doing is inspiring, is heartwarming, is encouraging and is enormously important for the future of the State of Israel.  On behalf of the State of Israel I want to thank all of you. 

[Translation]  I am certain you understood, but nevertheless I want to say: there are people sitting here who live in various countries – in the United States and other countries – who live good lives.  They do not want for anything.  If they have moments when they are truly bothered, it is when they think of our hardships, our problems; when they hear about Qassam missiles being fired on Sderot; when they hear of the difficulties in the North; also when they think about the problems facing the Druze population in the State of Israel; and also when they think about the feeling burdening so many young Arabs, citizens of the State of Israel, who want to be an inseparable part of us, rather than clashing, in peace not in conflict, in brotherhood, helping one another, heart to heart.

I would like to tell you something, and I did not come here tonight to make a long speech.  I want to tell you: if there is something I remember, it is these ceremonies held by Atidim throughout the years.  We held them in smaller places, and every year, we expand the location where we gather together the people connected to Atidim because every year there are more and more.

There are two basic things which make this event so moving and so promising for us all.  First of all, there is an opportunity for self-actualization.  In the large audience sitting here, there are people who come from the most distant and weakest locales, from places which seem the most neglected, and they are, in fact, people with capabilities, with potential, with talent, with a future – but only if we create for them the opportunity for self-actualization, for each and every one of them.  I am proud that there are those in Israeli society – as opposed to what is sometimes said about it, as opposed to the fashion to which we sometimes become addicted to the point where we lose all sense of proportion – there are people here to whom this is not a formal duty; they do not represent any elected institution; they do not represent any governmental authority for which it is a duty.  They are citizens of the country who love you, who know that this country has one treasure unique in all the world, and this treasure is you – it is our human power, it is our human resource, it is the talent, the energy, the creativity, the imagination, the caring, the dedication, the love for this land which only need the opportunity to burst forth and be expressed.  And then, suddenly, we discover how wonderful Israeli society really is, and how we all could be.  Those who pave this path, in most cases, are people like Eitan, like the contributors from overseas who do not have to, they do not do so because someone told them to; they do so because they have big hearts, they care and they love this land.  The result is that each and every one of you has the opportunity for self-actualization, to do that which otherwise may have been impossible, and now there is no limit to what you can achieve and what you achieve is extraordinary by any standard, not only in our own terms, but in international terms.

The second thing is seeing this system also in terms of its national contribution.  Eitan already said, gentlemen, that we are a country which made tremendous strides in the past several years in the economic field.  We also need to resolve our social problems.  I say this first and foremost as Prime Minister – we, the Government, cannot avoid the responsibility we were charged with to ensure that in every moshav, every village, every small town, every community in the western and eastern Galilee, in the Galilee panhandle in the north and south, in every corner of this country, we establish the educational and welfare infrastructures, the institutions, the means, the professionals who can provide Israeli society with the possibility of developing as it truly should.  What Atidim does, it does in a manner which changes the quality of life in this country.

On behalf of the Government of Israel, I hereby announce that for the first time, in 2009, the budget we will submit will have as its heading, or its goal – and this has never happened before, there were people who sat in the Government meeting when this was presented, and said that tears ran down their faces.  For the first time, the Government announces that the goal of the national budget is growth in order to reduce the gaps in Israeli society.  We will invest more in education; we will invest more in children at risk; we will invest more in the periphery; in children up to the age of six; in all these things – and will bring you into the embrace of Gabi Ashkenazi, when you arrive (and some of you have already arrived there and succeeded and moved on), but to all of you who are still waiting in line, we well bring you there more prepared, better, more qualified, making a greater contribution, more involved and, ultimately, also more successful.

When you are more successful, the people of Israel and the State of Israel will be more successful, and will move forward, succeed, win, ensure security for the people of Israel and bring about peace for us and all our citizens and our neighbors, so that it will be possible to transform our country and the entire Middle East in the Garden of Eden in can be.

Good evening to you, thank you and good luck.