Jewish Journal

Text of Prime Minister Ehud Olmert’s speech at the 2006 UJC General Assembly

November 16, 2006 | 7:00 pm

Thank you for this opportunity; it is such a pleasure to be here with you all.

Thank you Bobby for your kind words. I have followed your career throughout the years, including during this last period at UJC. I have always been impressed by your thoughtfulness, and the practical manner in which you address the vital issues confronting the Jewish people, especially as UJC chairman. I am sure you will continue to promote other important issues for the sake of the Jewish people.

In that spirit, I welcome the new chairman of UJC, Joe Kanfer. Your responsibility ahead in guiding the United Jewish Communities is formidable, and I am sure you will represent us all with honor.

I wish to thank a dear friend of mine, who spent the past 4 and a half years here in the United States, serving honorably on behalf of the State of Israel. Israel's ambassador to the United States, Mr. Danny Ayalon. I wish to thank Danny, on behalf of the State of Israel, for his outstanding service and personal commitment through a very hectic and challenging term in the United States.

I also wish to acknowledge another special friend who is here with us today, Israel's new Ambassador to the United States, Salai Meridor. Salai, your posting here comes at a pivotal time. And as I look around this room, I see you will have many friends to help you fulfill your important mission.

Distinguished delegates of the Jewish community, ladies and gentlemen, my dear friends,

I wish to share with you just one part of one letter I received from a father mourning the loss of his son during the fighting in Lebanon:

"My name is Ami Shrier, I am 61 years old, born in Haifa, married to Yafa from the house of Rubin, may they rest in peace, survivors of the Holocaust, survivors of Auschwitz.

My parents made Aliyah in 1936 from Vilna to Israel, which allowed for their survival; the rest of our family perished in the Holocaust."

"Today I joined the bereaved families; it is difficult; it is difficult and I am only at the beginning of the way. I miss my son Iftach so very much - the salt of the earth, son of the country. Graduate of Herzl School, a leader in the Tidhar group of the scouts of Haifa. Twin brother of Jordan, born on the 11th of September, 1984.

Iftach enlisted into the paratroopers, finished his arduous training and finished both his commanders and officers course with high honors..."

"I am sorry for taking up your valuable time Mr. Prime Minister, but I grieve the loss of my child and want to strengthen you."

Ami Shrier's letter is just one of many letters I received from bereaved families during the fighting. Some letters were supportive and others critical, but all epitomized the heart and soul of the kindred Jewish spirit.

The visionary Theodor Herzl stated, "It is true that we aspire to our ancient land. But what we want in that ancient land is a new blossoming of the Jewish spirit."

This conference is a tribute to fulfilling Herzl's dream, the Jewish Nation's dream: re-discovering Jewish values, raising awareness to Jewish tradition, promoting Jewish unity, exploring Jewish identity and all while strengthening ties between the Jewish Diaspora and the State of Israel; these responsibilities are very important to you, but they are vital to the State of Israel.

UJC translates Jewish values into social action, in America, Israel and around the world. Your prompt action and exceptional generosity, which knows no boundaries, assisted Israel's reconstruction of the north with incredible vigor. UJC immediately donated 50 million dollars for emergency welfare projects during the recent fighting. Since then, over 350 million dollars were raised with the sole purpose of supporting reconstruction projects aimed at developing and strengthening the very areas adversely effected.

You also supported Israel this summer in numerous solidarity missions. To all of you who made a pilgrimage to Israel in the midst of the fighting I say: your presence reassured me and the entire population of Israel, that Israelis and the Jewish Diaspora share unbreakable bonds of allegiance.

We are one people! We have one heritage! We share one future, a future which we create together!

Together, we must also remain dedicated in our fight against those who persecute us on account of our religion. Together, we will raise awareness of the world-wide phenomenon of anti-Semitism.

We must have patience with those who challenge us. We must remain calm with those who provoke us. We must strive to inform those who have been misled about our religion. And we must never be complacent about those who seek to hurt us.

Ladies and gentlemen,

The recent fighting in Lebanon tested Israel's resilience, and despite all that has been said and written, we stood up to the challenge.

This summer the brave soldiers of the IDF, including soldiers from reserve units who volunteered in unprecedented numbers, fought with resilience and heroism. They fought without fear, hesitance or self-consideration.

They fought in a war of wanton aggression started by Hezbollah and fueled by zealotry and hate.

This was Hezbollah's war. This was Iran's war. Not Lebanon's war. And not Israel's war.

Hezbollah was dealt a blow they did not calculate and were not prepared for. Israel's response proved we would not tolerate continued threats against us. It is enough merely to quote Hezbollah's leader who said he would not have initiated the abductions had he known Israel would react with even one percent of the force we did.

The security situation in Lebanon has been forever altered - we will never return to the former status quo. The Lebanese military, and not Hezbollah, is deployed in the south. The Lebanese government is asserting its sovereignty over the entire state. Now, the main task that lies ahead is the full implementation of UN Resolution 1701.

There are many lessons that must be drawn from this war. We will learn them and we will correct whatever is needed. We already started this process.

But there is only one, ever so precious goal that Israel did not yet achieve. We have not returned home the abducted soldiers Ehud Goldwasser and Eldad Regev.

I asked Ehud's wife, Karnit Goldwasser, to join us here today. Karnit, I promise you that Israel will do, that I will do the utmost to bring back our dear sons and bring Udi back to your arms.

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