Support for the communities of the Gaza Strip and their surrounds should not be confined to a security, political and humanitarian crisis period such as the one that has been experienced for more than a month, President Reuven Rivlin said on Wednesday.
Rivlin was in Beit Shemesh in advance of the opening of the new school year.
He said that differences over the commencement of the school year should be settled as quickly as possible so that children can get back to school on time.
With reference to the conflict with Gaza, Rivlin said that the nation owes a great debt of gratitude to the IDF and the security forces as a whole and should find a way to properly express its appreciation.
As far as the southern communities are concerned, Rivlin declared that the government must change its attitude from that of the past and give these communities every possible support.
Rivlin came to Beit Shemesh to spread the message of unity, democracy and equality, knowing in advance that in Beit Shemesh there have been sharp divisions on these issues in the recent past, particularly during the last municipal elections.
At meetings with the Mayor Moshe Abutbul, council members and children from the various schools in Beit Shemesh, Rivlin emphasized the importance of mutual respect. The State of Israel aims towards peace, he said, but the people of Israel must also have peace amongst themselves and learn to live together in harmony regardless of racial, religious and political differences.
The president’s visit coincided with the beginning of the month of Elul, which in Jewish tradition is a month of penitence where people who have wronged each other ask for forgiveness and pardon each other in addition to asking for forgiveness from God and improving their behavior accordingly. In speaking about the month of Elul, Rivlin acknowledged that it is not always easy to forgive and to adopt a different path. He called on the people of Beit Shemesh “in this month of penitence and compassion” to declare that they would go out together to seek a new path for the ultimate benefit of the city and its residents. He asked them to work together and to talk to each other in a civilized fashion with regard to matters of dispute and to learn the art of compromise.
Rivlin also related to the murder in Taibe of school principal Yusef Haj Yihye and said that the education network should be “a zone of non violence,” a place in which students and teachers alike can feel safe. The evil of violence in schools must be uprooted, he said, calling on law enforcement officials to come down with a heavy hand on anyone who violates this principle.