James, I’ll reverse your practice. I’ll start in English briefly and go to Hebrew of which you’ll understand every word. First, I want to express my appreciation for our indefatigable President, Shimon Peres. He just came off the plane, was visiting two countries, he comes here and he expresses deeply-held values for the Jewish people and, I think, universal values, and he’s seen as such across the world, so it’s a wonderful thing we have occasions like this so we can see each other even more often, Shimon. And I want to, at the same time, recognize also the President of our Supreme Court, Dorit Beinisch; and the Mayor of Jerusalem, Nir Barkat; our Ministers; Members of Knesset; Ambassadors, Ambassador of the United States and his wife, Jim Cunningham, and those who worked tirelessly to advance this magnificent institution. James, you were wise enough to take Itzik Molho. You make a formidable team. It’s impossible to stand up to your demands. Itzik, I hope you’re doing the same work – I know you are – in our quest for peace, and I want to thank you for what you’ve been doing all these years, and this year, to advance the goal of peace; the Kollek family that is here and the various contributors and workers for the Israel Museum.
I grew up not far from here. When we were children we would play here in the Valley of the Cross and we had a game of sneaking individuals onto this hill –which was rocky – and there was an acorn tree on the hill. Minister Dan Meridor is smiling – he remembers this. This was a symbol for all the children of Jerusalem – the acorn tree – and I remember it as one of the significant points of my childhood in Jerusalem.
One day the acorn tree disappeared. In its place you can now find the artists Modigliani, Jacques Lipchitz and Pissarro – these are the Jewish artists. You can also find those that were married to Jewesses – Rembrandt – and even non-Jews – Van Gogh and others. World culture is displayed here in its entirety in a quiet fashion, as the President of Israel said, but it kindles astonishment. I can tell you that it kindles astonishment among both young and old, because our son, my wife Sara’s and my son, Yair, sketched here for eight years in the youth and children’s sections of the museum. He learned to become acquainted with the museum and was enriched by it. As parents, we would come to different events and we were able to absorb the vast openness to art and world culture from all the surrounding objects. This is the basis of the foundations of the renewed Jewish people which is expressed here in the Israel Museum.
But the Israel Museum is first and foremost the Israeli Museum. It is also the official museum of the State of Israel. And it is a wonderful expression of our heritage in archaeology, ethnography and Judaica. It contains a collection unrivalled internationally and this is manifested above all, in the presence of all, in the Shrine of the Book. I remember many years ago, we came here with our two sons, and this wonderful experience of walking around the range of the scrolls – with a child in second grade who can read Isaiah in the original, in the language of the past – this is the greatest archaeological finding of the People of Israel, and in my opinion, the greatest of all peoples. It resides here, on the acorn’s hill.
I think that this wonderful combination between the values of our heritage and world culture is in fact the bridge that connects us to our past and our future and preserves our uniqueness. The investment in the Israel Museum doubles itself every day.
I only ask that you find ways, James Snyder and Itzik (Isaac Molho), to bring more international visitors and visitors from Israel so that they see the breeding-ground that is the treasure house of the People of Israel and the State of Israel.
Many congratulations. May you continue to ascend and succeed.
Thank you very much.