June 20, 2004
Welcome to Israel.
Welcome to Jerusalem.
Welcome to Mount Scopus.
According to the famous historian, Josephus Flavius, Mount Scopus was named because above its summit the city is revealed to those coming from the desert; and "the Temple Mount is revealed in all its splendor".
For many generations, on this mountain ridge, Jews came to mourn the destruction of our Temple and prayed, And to Jerusalem, Your city, return in compassion May our eyes behold Your return to Zion in compassion.
This place, which connects east and west, past and future, was appointed as the location of the Hebrew University, which symbolizes the great Zionist vision the renewal of Jerusalem as a spiritual and cultural center of the entire Jewish people and to all peoples.
The realization of this vision would not be possible were it not for one man, who died one hundred years ago, Theodor Herzl.
In 1895, Herzl said: "We are a people one people",and with this statement he awakened a divided people, spread in all corners of the globe, hopeless because of persecution. He inspired them and gave them new hope. A Jewish nation, which claimed rights for itself was born into the New History with Theodor Herzl.
Herzl felt his pride and honor as a human being and a Jew. He was the first Jew in hundreds of years who spoke with kings and rulers as the spokesperson for a nation with equal rights. As the writer Israel Zangwill said at the end of the First Zionist Congress: "By the rivers of Babylon there we sat and also wept when we remembered Zion. On the river of Basel, we sat and determined to weep no more! This is Herzl's legacy.
100 years after his death, Herzl lives on, and will live on forever, among us.
Today, we also celebrate the Jewish Agency's 75th Anniversary. The story of the Jewish Agency is the story of the fulfillment of a vision, despite many hardships. It is hard to imagine the map of Israel, and the situation of the Jewish people, without the Jewish Agency's contribution.
However, this event is not a time to rest. This event marks a time to marshal all our strength to find an appropriate answer to the challenges that will face the Jewish people in the coming years.
Several weeks ago, the Government of Israel approved the Disengagement Plan.
It promises many benefits for Israel's diplomatic position in the world an issue that you are certainly sensitive to. The Disengagement Plan will improve the security of the citizens of Israel, it is good for Israel's economy, it provides a primary response to the demographic balance, and reduces friction between Arabs and Jews in the Land of Israel.
Above all else, the Disengagement Plan gives the people of Israel hope for a better future. And in this country we do not underestimate the power of hope. It is not for nothing that our national anthem is "Hatikva" - "The Hope".
Following approval of the Disengagement Plan, the Government approached the Jewish Agency with a request to take part in the challenge of relocating settlements to the Negev and the Galilee. I know that this is a great challenge for you, and am confident that you too attribute great importance to its realization.
The Disengagement Plan is not the only step we must take to ensure our future. We must increase Jewish-Zionist education. My Government views as one of its primary goals increasing the future generation's knowledge of their Jewish heritage, and training them to face the challenges of tomorrow.
Next year, we will start implementing the largest reform of our education system since the first years of the State. This is a wide-ranging national plan. We are determined to implement this plan.
At the same time, we started a joint project with the Jewish Agency to encourage Jewish youth to come and live in Israel for a long period of time. Our goal is that every Jewish youth should live here for at least a year. There is no better Jewish, moral and challenging experience for Jewish youngsters than living in Israel.
We also regard the issue of Aliyah as a guarantee for the future of the Jewish people. During the past three years, despite all the hardships we faced, we absorbed here over one hundred thousand new immigrants. This trend must be increased as much as possible.
There is no safer way than Aliyah for every Jew to ensure that his grandchildren will remain Jewish. There is no safer way than Aliyah to ensure the future of the entire Jewish people.
Ephraim Kishon, the famous Israeli-Jewish satirist, once said that Israel is a country in which people do not wish for miracles, they count on them. After all, the establishment of the State of Israel, the ingathering of the exiles, and the revival of the Hebrew language can all be considered miracles.
I call upon you to continue taking part in the existence of this miracle, to continue taking part in building and developing the Jewish nation.
Together, we will realize Theodor Herzl's famous saying:
"If you will it - it is no fairytale".
I believe that if we will it - it will not be a fairytale.