Our land of dreams and opportunity

"The 'magic kingdom' is not in Orlando or Anaheim, it is here, right in front of our eyes, in Jerusalem."

March 18, 2015 21:54
4 minute read.
Reuven Rivlin

Dov Lipman and President Reuven Rivlin present a ID card to a new immigrant to Israel in July. (photo credit: SASSON TIRAM)

King David describes the return of the Jewish people to Zion as a time when dreams come true. There need be no greater proof of the fulfillment of this prophecy than what I experienced these past two years.

Thirty years ago, as a young teenager, I participated in a demonstration outside the Soviet Embassy in Washington, DC. The organizers gave us signs to hold up and my sign read, “Free Yuli Edelstein.” Thirty years later, less than 10 years after making aliya, I had the honor and privilege of serving in the Knesset – a Jewish parliament, in the Jewish capital of a Jewish state – alongside the speaker of the Knesset, Yuli Edelstein.

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Thirty years ago I was an American teenager, not thinking about aliya and Israeli politics, while Yuli was languishing in a prison cell in Siberia. Dreams certainly come true. We need to reorient ourselves from a notion which captivated us as youngsters; the “magic kingdom” is not in Orlando or Anaheim, it is here, right in front of our eyes, in Jerusalem.

My dear friends throughout Israel, over the course of the past two years, I viewed myself as your representative in the Knesset. That, in and of itself, was a great honor and nothing gave me greater satisfaction than helping thousands of English speaking immigrants with the myriad number of challenges and problems they were facing. However, there was something much more significant which came from my connection with the broader English speaking immigrant community throughout Israel during these past two years.

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I met the most remarkable people, who have not only moved to Israel but have also stood up to make a difference.

I learned that, quietly and without fanfare, we, English speaking immigrants, are working to change the face of Israel. I met talented and dedicated men and women involved with special education programs, unity projects, technological advancements, environmental progress, general philanthropy and much more. This has been a tremendous source of inspiration for me and further reinforced the “magic kingdom” and “dreams come true” notion which touched me every morning as I went to work in the Knesset.

Despite the fact that I will not be serving in the 20th Knesset, I am proud of Yesh Atid’s accomplishments in the 19th Knesset and its election results despite a very complex election campaign. I look forward to seeing all the good that Yesh Atid, with its unique approach and ideology, will do in the 20th Knesset and beyond. I thank God for the opportunity given to me to serve in the Knesset and look forward to continuing to work from outside the Knesset on the same issues which drove me during these past two years.

We must continue the trend which we started of thousands of haredi (ultra-Orthodox) young men getting training and going to work. We must continue to find ways for haredi children to study math and English and to enable them to get higher education. This will create the reality of their entering the workforce and supporting their families with dignity. We must continue to break down barriers and work toward a more tolerant society in which Jews learn to live alongside one another and in which Jews can co-exist respectfully with non-Jews. We must continue our efforts to give secular Jews the ability to embrace their Judaism as they understand it by eradicating religious coercion and inspiring a renewed connection to Judaism and Jewish values throughout Israel.

Continuing the theme of Jewish values, we must continue to work to improve the environment and public health and prevent the suffering of animals. We must enhance and intensify our efforts to present Israel’s case to the world. We must continue to inspire more aliya and ease the absorption process for those who have made the sometimes difficult decision to immigrate.

Ironically, I may be able to make more progress on these issues from outside the Knesset because of the political and bureaucratic challenges and obstacles of parliamentary work – especially in the current Knesset system. We, who gave up so much to fulfill the dream of making aliya, must continue to stand tall and make a difference in a country which needs much improvement in so many realms.

Thank you for enabling me to serve you in the Knesset whether or not you voted for Yesh Atid. I look forward to sharing my next steps with all of you and to celebrate our communal successes together.

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