Members of the Knesset, Taglit Birthright visitors, Michael and Judy Steinhardt and Miri and Sheldon Adelson [inaudible]
I want to tell you what their idea was. Seventeen-eighteen years ago, my God, some of you had just been born, well, they came to me and they said: "Look, the State of Israel has been helped by the Diaspora for the last 50 years. Isn’t it time that we reverse this? That Israel help the Diaspora, not only have the Diaspora helping Israel." And I thought, well, I think we’ve come of age, we’re going to have a great economy, so here’s the revolutionary idea – that we will join them in giving – are you ready for it? – money to bring young Jewish men and women like you to Israel who haven’t seen first-hand what is [inaudible].
Well, it’s a pleasure to see you all, along with Meir Shamir and Gili Martin (ph), excellent staff, who are here. It’s a pleasure for me to welcome you to Israel, our homeland, your homeland.
I’m delighted to celebrate with you this visit that marks 600,000 Jewish participants in Taglit. It’s fantastic.
You have come from 67 countries around the world. There are 4,000 of you here tonight from the UK, from Canada, from Argentina, from the United States, from many countries. Let’s hear it for the thousand Israeli soldiers who are here with us tonight.
These brave men and women of the IDF, who are on the frontlines at all times keeping the one and only Jewish state safe. They help to ensure the Jewish future. By coming here, you’re helping to ensure the Jewish future.
And your opportunity here is to see firsthand our deep roots in our land, our proud history, our warm people, our bustling cities, our beautiful countryside, our vibrant free society.
What I want you to do is to take everything that you see, absorb everything, get it inside your mind and your heart and then take it all and share it with others. Tell others about the miracle of Israel. Tell them about this liberal democracy in the heart of the Middle East – no small feat, believe me. If you look around, you can see how rare and how wonderful Israel really is. It’s a hi-tech superpower, it’s a country that feeds the hungry, heals the sick and helps keep people safe in Africa, Asia and around the world.
This is the real Israel.
It’s a strong country that is ready to defend itself against any threat and our hand is outstretched to peace, a genuine peace, with all our neighbors.
This is the real Israel.
And you should tell everyone about it. Everyone. And you should do so proudly and when they attack stand very proud and say: "Who are you with? The free people of Israel who defend the religious rights of all or those who chop heads, those who show the greatest intolerance that we’ve seen since the Second World War? Choose, are you with the free or are you with the enslaved? If you’re with the free, then you should stand proud with Israel and with the truth."
You know, maybe the Iranians should study Jewish history because last week in Tehran they put up a digital clock counting down to Israel’s destruction. Well, we were here in this land for thousands of years before the Ayatollahs took the people of Iran hostage and we’ll be here long after their theocratic tyranny is just a footnote of history.
So as you go back home, tell your family, your friends, your classmates, your colleagues about Israel. Tell them to come see it for themselves and then come back soon to visit, to study, to live. We’ll be waiting for you because this is your birthright.
Thank you very much. Thank you all.