Rivlin decries fear as being a driving force behind aliyah

Since the establishment of the State of Israel, more than three million immigrants have been absorbed – including those who came this year in the shadow of the coronavirus crisis.

President Reuven Rivlin (photo credit: MARC ISRAEL SELLEM)
President Reuven Rivlin
(photo credit: MARC ISRAEL SELLEM)
President Reuven Rivlin has decried fear as being a driving force behind aliyah.
More intent on idealism that would make immigrating to Israel a matter of choice rather than force of circumstances, Rivlin declared while hosting an Aliyah Day ceremony on Tuesday that aliyah should not be based on distress or despair, the threat of antisemitism or the fear of terror, but should rather be a decision made because the person chooses to live in Israel – and it’s Israel’s responsibility to understand that immigrants come out of choice and love.
Ordinarily, the large reception hall at the President’s Residence would have been filled to capacity with new and veteran immigrants from more than a hundred countries, but due to COVID-19 restrictions there were barely a dozen people in the hall, including Rivlin, Aliyah and Integration Minister Pnina Tamano-Shata (who was herself a child immigrant), senior members of the president’s staff and the five veteran and new olim who were recipients of the Minister’s Prize for outstanding contributions to society and the state.
Since the establishment of the State of Israel, more than three million immigrants have been absorbed – including those who came this year in the shadow of the coronavirus crisis.
Both Rivlin and Tamano-Shata were certain that this extraordinary saga will continue in the most challenging of times. Aliyah is inseparable from the history of Israel, the president said, and the tales of aliyah will continue to be told to generations of children and grandchildren.
Aliyah has enriched Israeli society, making it more interesting and more culturally diverse, he said.
Aliyah Day provides an excellent opportunity to reach out a hand to Diaspora Jewry, because Israel belongs to all Jews, said Rivlin.
TAMANO-SHATA lauded Rivlin as being a friend of aliyah and of immigrants, saying that it was an honor to join with him in making the awards to the five prize winners, underscoring that each of them is an inspiration in terms of their outstanding contribution to Israeli society.
“They are models worth emulating, both for children and adults alike. They are an example of daring to dream, reaching far and attaining the goal,” she said.
As someone who herself made aliyah, Tamano-shata said that she was happy to make the important mission of aliyah a national priority in which new immigrants should be given all the tools and assistance that they need for successful integration.
Since the beginning of this year she said, 17,000 new immigrants have been absorbed, and have become an engine for growth. In addition, 12,000 Israelis who were living abroad have returned home during the past two years. “It’s good to have them back,” she said.
The five prize winners are: Dr. Col. (res.) Avraham Yitzhak, originally from Ethiopia, who was the head physician in the IDF’s Southern Command and received the Minister’s Prize for Medicine; Ettie Tzionit Goshen, originally from Iran, who received the Art Prize; Dr. Eliahu Laizerson originally from Russia, who received the Science and Engineering Prize in recognition of his innovative patents and projects that contribute to civilian security; D. who made aliyah from France also received a Science and Engineering Prize for her contribution to state security; and oncologist Prof. Benjamin Corn – originally from the United States and founder of Life’s Door, which incorporates quality of life into the treatment of people with life-threatening illnesses – who received the Society and Sport Prize.
IT HAS long been the custom for the presidents of Israel to harvest olives from the olive trees in the garden of the presidential compound. Following the Aliyah Day ceremony, Rivlin went out into the garden to harvest the olives for the last time during his tenure.
He was accompanied by students from the Joint Israeli Leadership Program, which brings together young people from the various sectors of Israeli society – religious and secular, Jews, Arabs, Druze, Muslims and Christians, and from a variety of socioeconomic backgrounds – with the emphasis on those who live in peripheral communities.
Some of the trees in the presidential garden were planted by visiting dignitaries such as former US president Barack Obama and Britain’s Prince Charles. These are not olive trees, but the trees planted by papal visitors are obviously symbolic of peace.
One of the olive trees in the garden is an edible hybrid of olives and figs which was a favorite of the late former president Shimon Peres.
Rivlin was delighted to meet his young visitors who had come to join him in harvesting the olives. Since the limits on social gatherings imposed by the advent of coronavirus, he told them, “we haven’t had many people here and your presence simply warms the heart.”
It wasn’t just a matter of being surrounded by young people. Rivlin’s flagship project since entering office has been to close the demographic gaps between different sectors of Israeli society, which he labeled the “tribes.” He wants them to be Israelis first and whatever else they are second; to be integrated and not to be insular.
The group that came to help pick the olives represented this integrated community.
“Nothing unites us more than the olive,” Rivlin told them. “The olive is a symbol of peace, but in order for there to be peace amongst us, we have to build confidence. Nothing benefits us more than being united. You are our future, our hope – the hope of Israel.
“When I look at you, I am filled with pride at the power of our wonderful youth,” the president said. “I hope that you will be able to establish new norms of cooperation in your actions.”