Thank you very much Mr. President. It’s a pleasure to see the General Assembly presided by the Ambassador from Israel, and it’s good to see all of you, distinguished delegates.
Ladies and Gentlemen, Three thousand years ago, King David reigned over the Jewish state in our eternal capital, Jerusalem. I say that to all those who proclaim that the Jewish state has no roots in our region and that it will soon disappear. Throughout our history, the Jewish people have overcome all the tyrants who have sought our destruction. It’s their ideologies that have been discarded by history. The people of Israel live on. We say in Hebrew Am Yisrael Chai, and the Jewish state will live forever. The Jewish people have lived in the land of Israel for thousands of years. Even after most of our people were exiled from it, Jews continued to live in the land of Israel throughout the ages. The masses of our people never gave up the dreamed of returning to our ancient homeland. Defying the laws of history, we did just that. We ingathered the exiles, restored our independence and rebuilt our national life. The Jewish people have come home. We will never be uprooted again.
Yesterday was Yom Kippur, the holiest day of the Jewish year. Every year, for over three millennia, we have come together on this day of reflection and atonement. We take stock of our past. We pray for our future. We remember the sorrows of our persecution; we remember the great travails of our dispersion; we mourn the extermination of a third of our people, six million, in the Holocaust. But at the end of Yom Kippur, we celebrate. We celebrate the rebirth of Israel. We celebrate the heroism of our young men and women who have defended our people with the indomitable courage of Joshua, David, and the Maccabees of old. We celebrate the marvel of the flourishing modern Jewish state. In Israel, we walk the same paths tread by our patriarchs Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. But we blaze new trails in science, technology, medicine, agriculture. In Israel, the past and the future find common ground.
Unfortunately, that is not the case in many other countries. For today, a great battle is being waged between the modern and the medieval. The forces of modernity seek a bright future in which the rights of all are protected, in which an ever-expanding digital library is available in the palm of every child, in which every life is sacred. The forces of medievalism seek a world in which women and minorities are subjugated, in which knowledge is suppressed, in which not life but death is glorified. These forces clash around the globe, but nowhere more starkly than in the Middle East. Israel stands proudly with the forces of modernity. We protect the rights of all our citizens: men and women, Jews and Arabs, Muslims and Christians – all are equal before the law.
Israel is also making the world a better place: our scientists win Nobel Prizes. Our know-how is in every cell-phone and computer that you’re using. We prevent hunger by irrigating arid lands in Africa and Asia. Recently, I was deeply moved when I visited Technion, one of our technological institutes in Haifa, and I saw a man paralyzed from the waist down climb up a flight of stairs, quite easily, with the aid of an Israeli invention. And Israel’s exceptional creativity is matched by our people’s remarkable compassion. When disaster strikes anywhere in the world – in Haiti, Japan, India, Turkey Indonesia and elsewhere – Israeli doctors are among the first on the scene, performing life-saving surgeries.
In the past year, I lost both my father and my father-in-law. In the same hospital wards where they were treated, Israeli doctors were treating Palestinian Arabs. In fact, every year, thousands of Arabs from the Palestinian territories and Arabs from throughout the Middle East come to Israel to be treated in Israeli hospitals by Israeli doctors. I know you’re not going to hear that from speakers around this podium, but that’s the truth. It’s important that you are aware of this truth. It’s because Israel cherishes life, that Israel cherishes peace and seeks peace.