Ambassador Matthew Gould, his wife Celia and their daughters, with young people from AKIM Givatayim who came to help decorate their succa..
(photo credit: COURTESY BRITISH EMBASSY)
Lod is going through a process of no-return, President Reuven Rivlin said toward the end of an initiative that has been dubbed the traveling presidential succa.
Whereas in the past, the presidents of the state held open house at the president’s official residence during one or two of the intermediate days of Succot, Rivlin in addition to abiding by tradition has introduced a custom whereby the president visits residents of other towns and cities during the holiday period.
Rivlin opted for the long-troubled Lod, in the center of the country, not far from Tel Aviv, a mixed Jewish-Arab city that had a low socioeconomic image and a reputation for crime, violence, drug addiction and intolerance.
All that is changing.
Lod is Israel’s melting pot at its best, Rivlin said as he congratulated Mayor Yair Revivo on the city’s extraordinary physical and social face-lift.
Thousands of residents lined the streets of the city and gave Rivlin a rousing welcome. Revivo told Rivlin of how happy and proud the people were that the president had chosen to begin one of his projects in Lod.
Lod exemplifies the human mosaic of Israel, said Revivo, with haredim, traditional Jews, secular Jews, Arabs of different backgrounds, veteran Israelis, new immigrants, senior citizens and young people.
Rivlin and Revivo sat down for a round table discussion with key representatives of the city including Labor MK Itzik Shmuli, who opened the discourse and said that it was a historic day because it was the first time that Lod has been recognized as a model to emulate and as a source of pride.
Pointing to some of the negative aspects of Israel, Shmuli said that it was up to the younger generation to promote and bring about change. It is not very clever to come to the government with complaints he said. The clever thing is do something – even one small thing – to make a difference. Speaking on behalf of some of the young people present, he said that what they had chosen to do was to come to live in Lod.
Following the discussion, the president toured the succot put up by the city’s organizations and institutions, and marveled at how Lod has flourished.
From what he saw, he said, there is no doubt that Lod is integral to Israel’s future.
Seizing on the message of the day, Rivlin said that Succot more than any other festival symbolizes unity among the people of Israel. “Even though there are differences and arguments and we may not always agree, we all understand that this is where we must live together.”
Wishing everyone a year of quiet, tranquility coupled with enhanced knowledge, health, strength and wisdom, Rivlin invited them all to come to visit the president’s succa in Jerusalem on Monday morning.
On Monday afternoon, Rivlin will be too busy to greet them, because he will be hosting United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon. The two men will discuss regional developments following Operation Protective Edge.
Before his time with the president, Ban will visit Ramallah, and on Tuesday, he will be in Gaza.
In the evening, Rivlin will address 5,000 people from more than 80 countries who are attending the annual Feast of Tabernacles organized by the International Christian Embassy Jerusalem. He will be joined by World Jewish Congress President Ronald Lauder. The two men will speak out against the increasing persecution and murder of Christians throughout the Middle East.