Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Chairman of the Jewish Agency
Executive Natan Sharansky at the Board of Governors in Jerusalem.
February 24, 2010 / 10 Adar 5770
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu pledged to double his efforts to strengthen Jewish identity in his address to the Jewish Agency for Israel Board of Governors on February 22, 2010, at the Inbal hotel in Jerusalem.
The Board of Governors, which began Sunday and ends Tuesday, Feb. 22, is made up of members representing Keren Hayesod, the World Zionist Organization, and the Jewish Federations of North America.
"We have to teach the children of Zion about Zion – about our connection to this land and to each other," said Netanyahu.
Intermarriage and assimilation are the "greatest toll takers of Jewish numbers over the last half century," said Netanyahu, adding that the Jewish population today is the same as it was after the Holocaust.
Praising programs like MASA and Taglit-Birthright Israel, which bring young Jews from abroad to Israel, Netanyahu said he was committed to increasing resources for this common effort and vowed that the State of Israel would continue to work with the Jewish Agency and other partners to bring more young Jews to Israel and to send more ambassadors from Israel to university campuses abroad.
Netanyahu also spoke of increasing Jewish identity in Israel to keep talented young Israelis from leaving the country.
A big part of this renewed campaign to connect young Jews to their roots is to restore sites of modern Zionism and to present Jewish Zionist history "warts and all" through a Jewish Heritage program, according to Netanyahu.
"The greatest experience we can have for young Jews from abroad is to come here and walk this land, to study it, feel it, and learn about our heritage and to make our heritage a part of the foundation of our future," he said. "I don't think any other people can be as proud of our ancient and modern history as the Jewish people. This pride is part of our identity and it connects us to this land and to each other, and also Jews around the world to the Jewish state."
Netanyahu publicly stated that he wants to bring the Jewish Agency into this Heritage program, adding that it is "…not merely an exercise in education but an exercise in survival."
The Prime Minister concluded his speech by addressing the threat of nuclear attacks.
"The greatest challenge facing the world is the rise of militant Islam and the attempt to acquire nuclear weapons," he said.
Since Iran has shown itself to be a tyrannical regime whose "secret" nuclear facilities have been exposed, Netanyahu called upon the international community to take action. "Now we know this is a tyrannical regime that has threatened to use these bombs. This is a formidable combination: A militant Islamic regime that can use atomic weapons as nuclear terror," he said.
The only solution, said Netanyahu, is to enforce "crippling sanctions" to prevent the export of oil from Iran and the import of refined oil into Iran.
"And not watered down sanctions, but effective, biting sanctions to prevent and impact the importing and exporting of oil to Iran. This is what we must do now. Immediately. To quote Hillel the Elder, 'If not now, when?'"