(photo credit: MARC ISRAEL SELLEM/THE JERUSALEM POST)
President Reuven Rivlin addressed the relationship between Israel and the Diaspora community during an official memorial ceremony that marked the anniversary of Israel's first prime minister David Ben-Gurion's death.
“Ben-Gurion stuck to his decision to compromise, in order to establish and maintain the connection between Israel and Diaspora Jewry. Two years after the establishment of the state, he signed a historic agreement with the leader of American Jewry, Jacob Blaustein. A unique agreement between a state and a people’s representatives," Rivlin stated.
The agreement underlined the fact that the State of Israel only represented its citizens; American Jews were only loyal to the United States; Israel did not expect American Jews to make aliya; and neither Israelis nor American Jews would interfere in the political decisions of the other.
"For almost seventy years, this agreement formed the framework of understandings between Israel and Diaspora Jewry. This agreement was the bridge on which strong and firm relations were built between the State of Israel and the largest Jewish community in the Diaspora,” Rivlin continued.
Rivlin's statements come amid controversy over comments made by Deputy Foreign Minister Tzipi Hotovely
on i24NEWS, an Israel-based English-language news channel.
“One of my goals,” she said, is to “bring American Jews closer to Israel... Everyone is welcome to come here to influence Israeli politics.”
Hotovely: US Jews lead ‘convenient’ lives, don’t serve in the military (i24 News)
She then courted disapproval by many, including Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, by saying: "People that never send their children to fight for their country, most of the Jews don’t have children serving as soldiers, going to the Marines, going to Afghanistan, or to Iraq. Most of them are having quite convenient lives. They don’t feel how it feels to be attacked by rockets, and I think part of it is to actually experience what Israel is dealing with on a daily basis.”
Rivlin countered her claims by talking about his recent visit to the United States: “I saw the immense love of Diaspora Jewry for Israel. I also saw deep concern and pain from the loosening of the ties which link Israel and Diaspora Jewry."
He continued, "Almost seventy years after that historic agreement, here, over Ben-Gurion's tombstone, the time has come to declare: it is time for a renewed alliance, for a common language, between Israel and the Diaspora, before we are too late."
The president stressed that Israel and the US Jewish community had both changed over the decades since the agreement had been made.
"The [US Jewish] community longs for a connection with Israel, but wants a relationship between equals - not of philanthropy on the one hand, and blind admiration on the other," he said. "Israeli society, for its part, is not in the same place compared to the Diaspora as in the past. Our economy is strong, thriving, and is an example of technological innovation and entrepreneurship.
“Therefore, we must embark on a new path: no longer a relationship of charity
, but a shared commitment to justice, to Jewish and human mutual responsibility. No longer with the silencing of mutual criticism, but with courageous and sincere openness... this we will honor the memory of David Ben-Gurion, and do justice to his legacy."JTA contributed to this report.