Appealing to the Diaspora community, President Reuven Rivlin, while addressing the Jewish Federations of North America's General Assembly, told the audience that he hopes that ''we can return to the table and reach an understanding'' on the divisive issue of the Western Wall. Rivlin did, however, remind the audience that ''Israel's democratic process, decision-making process'' must be respected with regards to internal matters.The Western Wall has, in recent months, become a source of strain between Israel and the Diaspora. Many progressive Jewish leaders and groups both outside and within Israel have pushed for an egalitarian prayer space to be instituted at the wall, which the government has refused to implement, despite orders from the High Court. Rivlin, speaking about future arrangements for the wall, said specifically that the process for implementing future plans would be ''led by the government.''
Over the course of the keynote - Rivlin's first major speech to North American Jewry - the president addressed several key issues that have been cause for debate between Israeli and foreign leaders, including Israeli security and the protracted conflict with the Palestinians. An apolitical figure, he did not suggest policies, nor did he condemn existing ones, rather offering messages of hope and optimism for a future without the tensions that pervade today. He harped on Israel's economic growth, its innovations, and its place as a home for all Jews. ''Israel is the most daring enterprise in the history of the Jewish People. The Jews of the Diaspora, especially in North America, are full partners - not only in the establishment of Israel, but also in its development. I am here today to say that this cannot be taken for granted.''While much of his speech emitted a feel-good vibe among those to whom he spoke, he did not hesitate to address more contentious issues, including Iran. “Iran is the number one exporter of international terrorism. It is a country whose leaders call openly for the destruction of the State of Israel. We cannot allow Iran to have a nuclear capability. That is madness. We must work together to prevent that.'' Praising the Diaspora, he applauded the ''real, positive, and effective impact '' that non-Israeli Jews have on Israeli society and politics. Rivlin lauded the commitment that Diaspora Jewry has to Israel, and the commitment they have to defending the country, whether by fighting antisemitism or by working to defeat BDS resolutions on college campuses. He concluded his speech, lauding both Israeli and Diaspora communities for their humanitarian work, leaving with an inspiring message: ''Just imagine the change we can make together.''
President Reuven Rivlin addresses the JFNA General Assembly in Los Angeles, November 2017. (GPO)