Netanyahu talks 'faith' with Kiev Jews

PM's speech in stark contrast to Lieberman's anti-haredi election campaign.

By
August 20, 2019 21:34
2 minute read.
Netanyahu talks 'faith' with Kiev Jews

Benjamin Netanyahu visiting Ukraine. (photo credit: AMOS BEN-GERSHOM/GPO)

Faith is Israel’s secret to success, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said to Jewish leaders in Kiev on Tuesday in an address shot through with religious motifs.

“It is very moving to be here, and to again visit Babi Yar, and to understand the incredible distance we traveled from the valley of death to the zenith of all nations. Today, Israel is a world power, a rising world power,” he said.

“Our people were almost completely eradicated,” he continued. “We were massacred without mercy. And today, our people live in a strong, robust, advanced and prosperous nation – first and foremost thanks to the strength of our faith. Without faith, nothing matters. Without faith, we would not have been able to create the miracle that is the rebirth of Israel in its homeland. It is a faith that has been passed from generation to generation, even in our most difficult hours.”

Netanyahu’s faith-infused address to Jewish leaders in Ukraine – many of them affiliated with Chabad – is in stark contrast to the anti-haredi (ultra-Orthodox) campaign being waged by Avigdor Liberman, with whom Netanyahu is now battling for the country’s 1,000,000 Russian-speaking voters.

Netanyahu participated in a memorial ceremony on Monday at Babi Yar, where some 34,000 Jews were murdered by the Nazis and their Ukrainian collaborators in September, 1941. “There were people in the valley of death who whispered [the] ‘Shema Yisrael’ prayer, and Jews who wished for the renaissance of Israel,” he said, referring to Babi Yar. “It is possible that they only said the words of the prayers but did not believe that their prayers would be realized, but they were, thanks to faith.”

Netanyahu said that the Jewish people are full of faith and a sense of purpose that, in its modern manifestation, is expressed in the rebirth of Hebrew and the Jewish national movement. None of that would have been possible without the contribution of Ukrainian Jewry, he said, which gave birth to Zionist luminaries such as poets Shaul Tchernichovsky and Hayim Nahman Bialik, and political thinkers like Ze’ev Jabotinsky and Ahad Ha’am (Asher Ginsberg).

“They were here. They came from here,” he said. “In fact, Ukrainian Jews gave us some of our greatest geniuses, and they all were infused with our heritage. They knew Jewish tradition, they did not shun it.” He said that these leaders wanted to grab the future and build a state, but did not “slam the door on the past – on the contrary. They sanctified Israel’s holiness; they embraced Israel’s holiness; and they learned about Israel’s holiness.”

“We are fighting for the glory of Israel [nezah yisrael],” Netanyahu said, using decidedly religious terminology. “God gave us a great opportunity not given to other people: to rebuild our lives in our land. And we are doing that in a logic-defying manner because of that faith. The combination of faith and mobilizing the special capabilities within our people is changing not only Israel, it is also changing the world.”


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