The following text is speech given by Israeli President Shimon Peres at a gala dinner, celebrating the 35th anniversary of the Masorti Movement.
Address of the President of the State at a gala dinner to celebrate the 35th anniversary of the Masorti Movement
January 5, 2012
Mrs. Emily Levy-Shochat, President of the Masorti Movement,
Rabbi Mauricio Balter, President of the Israeli Rabbinical Assembly,
Advocate Yizhar Hess, Executive Director of the Movement,
Mr. Yoav Carmel, Chairman of the Convention,
Dear guests, members of the Masorti Movement and convention participants from Israel and abroad,
The Masorti Movement in Israel is marking its 35th anniversary.
Quietly, systematically and guided by a love of Israel, the movement succeeded in establishing itself in Israel, building around it a large number of communities and synagogues throughout the country, and winning hearts.
The challenge ahead of you is great and the road is long. I am confident you will rise to the challenge.
The movement has assumed a commitment to humanism, peace, human rights and the rights of citizens.
The unforgettable sight of the professor, the rabbi, and poet, Avraham Joshua Heschel, walking arm- in-arm with Martin Luther King in the march for equal rights for the blacks in America shortly before Dr. King was assassinated is still engraved in my heart.
Rabbi Heschel returned from the march and summed it up in memorable words: “I was praying with my feet.”
The people sang: “Let my people go.”
[For more on Shimon Peres’ speech click here]
The exodus from Egypt is still not over. Even in our day houses of bondage still exist, and in them, regrettably, there are more women than men.
We wish all the citizens of the Middle East to come out of their bondage and be free from the house of masters. That the Promised Land becomes a Land of safety.
The fight for the dignity of man and the rights of citizens is at the core of Judaism. We were all born free and every individual, according to Jewish custom, was created in the image of God. Whether man or woman. Jewish or not Jewish.
This is the vision of the prophets. And in keeping with our tradition, the viewpoint of the prophets rises above the standing of kings.
Israel’s society today is facing controversies created by fringe extremist groups.
There is nothing new in that. A diversity of Jewish movements existed before the establishment of the State of Israel, and continued after its creation.
But we always succeeded in finding common ground, devising ways that enabled us to live together despite the disagreements and without their degenerating into a war between brothers.
The issue today has become more acute. Not because the religious, the Haredim, the Masortim and the secular are unable to live together.
But because the extremists, even though only few, are seeking to undermine the togetherness.
I am aware that they are the extreme margin, and believe that the majority of Haredi, Dati-Leumi and secular communities seek to live together in a spirit of mutual respect, tolerance and brotherhood. And to each their way of life.
For democracy in our time is not only the right to be equal, but also the equal right to be different.
The problem is that this marginal minority breaches the law. They are a law unto themselves, and slander the country. They disgrace the state.
Whether by violent and shameful acts such as “Tag Mehir” against Palestinians and attacks on IDF soldiers, or by behaving in an unacceptable manner in public places, or defacing holy places of other religions.
Israel cannot and must not come to terms with this situation.
The law-enforcing authorities must put a stop to these manifestations that cast a shadow on Israel. And the public must stand at the side of the law and voice their desire to live together.
We must repudiate those marginal militarist fanatics and respect the majority of law-abiding citizens that reject violence.
Judaism is not only a faith, it is a civilization, a rich multi-faceted world of culture, with deep roots.
The Ten Commandments, a word of which has not been changed for 3,500 years, has turned into the founding stone of world civilization.
Different streams exist in Judaism, which has room for conservative and liberal viewpoints, for those who abide by the 613 commandments and those who say “Shma Israel.”
To be a Jew is not a matter of public relations, but to be historically part of a great collective spirit that crossed oceans of hardships, deserts of suffering. And which never stopped yearning for the Promised Land, nor abandoned the aspiration to be the chosen people. A light unto nations.
The thousands of olim that were brought to Israel by your movement, from North America and other countries, carry the distinctive Zionist message. They are living proof of your success – our success.
The tens of Masorti communities in Israel, the Noam Youth Movement, synagogues, religious services, educational programs, and above all a unique and uplifting Bar/Bat Mitzvah program for children with special needs, enabling them to celebrate this special day, a Jew like all Jews, are initiatives for which we say: “Toda Ve’Bracha.”
Ladies and Gentlemen,
The world has changed, and continues to change. Globalization challenges long-established ideas, brings down barriers, erases borders.
An individual with a SmartPhone in his hands carries a source of information on the world and the universe like never before.
Communication openness has spawned social transparency. It has made the lives of dictators impossible. The policy of lies and deceit they assumed with their people has now been refuted by civilian uprisings. And even by soldiers who refused to shoot at their people.
The Middle East has witnessed the birth of a young generation of Arabs that calls for freedom, demands its dignity and an outlet for its potential and skills.
The changes around us prohibit us from resting on our laurels, inspiring us to seek new ideas and engage in initiatives in keeping with the new era.
As we speak a meeting has taken place between Israeli and Palestinian representatives on the initiative of the Jordanian king.
I thank King Abdullah. I am grateful for the meeting.
We must not, Israelis and Palestinians as one, miss any opportunity, brief as it may be, even a fleeting one, without trying to embark on serious negotiations that will bring peace and security.
There was a measure of skepticism regarding this brief meeting too. The skeptics still exist, but who is to say that the skeptics are right?
Israel itself was an uncertainty before it became a state. And today it represents concrete proof that something uncertain is able to become a miracle.
The outline of a permanent solution is clear: two states for two peoples, living side by side within recognized and secure borders. Security for Israel. Independence for the Palestinians.
Regrettably, many windows in our region are progressively closing.
Happily, the Palestinian window is still open. Abu Mazen is at their head, distinctly voicing his opposition to violence and terror, and in my view, he prefers peace between us over any other option.
I am of the opinion that it is possible to build sound relations and ties of cooperation, including in security-related areas, with the Palestinians, along the lines of those existing with the Jordanians.
I pray that we shall return to the negotiating table, to a full dialogue, as soon as possible.
Iran still constitutes the greatest danger to world peace. Its government represents the worst possible form of corruption, moral corruption. And nuclear arms in the hands of a self-righteous and extremist leadership represent a danger to every place and every person in the world.
It is the duty of the international community to consolidate its efforts in the face of this danger, and take the necessary steps to stop these weapons of mass destruction from falling into the hands of a regime that is rearing for war and aspires for hegemony over all the peoples of the Middle East.
The leaders of the world have committed themselves to this. And they must stand by their commitment.
The large Jewish community of North America, and within it the Conservative Movement, is using the full weight of its influence to remove the nuclear threat that is undermining peace in the Middle East and which represents a danger to all its peoples.
Also for this your movement merits our gratitude and thanks.
In conclusion, I want to extend my personal good wishes to the recipients of the prestigious award conferred on them by the Masorti Movement.
You are deserving of the blessing we recite in synagogue: “Yashar Koach!” and “Hazak Ve’Baruch!”
I thank you and wish you a productive and successful conference.