Confronting the past and embracing the challenge of the future

Israel’s 10th President commends the efforts and achievements of March of the Living over the last 30 years, but counsels that the work is not finished.

Reuven Rivlin
Firstly, I want to thank all the participants. All those who have come for many years, and those coming for the first time. I want to thank the survivors, and the families of the survivors. You have all come here to stand at the gates of hell, at the gates of the greatest factory of death ever known to mankind. You have to come to give a voice to the six million of our brothers and sisters who had their voices stolen by the Nazis and their collaborators.
The message is clear. Never Again. Not just for the Jewish people, for all peoples, never again will we allow humanity to stand by and watch the systematic attempt to annihilate a people. “Never Again” will we allow hatred to go unchecked. Never Again will we allow such darkness to arise - as we know all too well it tries to again and again. This is our duty as Jews as it is the duty of all peoples.
But of course, we have another message as we stand in the shadow of the crematoria whose fires were extinguished now more than seven decades ago - after 70 years of the State of Israel, and the rebirth of the Jewish people’s independence in our homeland, we say clearly, Am Yisrael Chai. The people of Israel lives. This is a march of living in the place where there was only death.
This is a bright light in the place where there was only darkness. It is a light that reveals all the sins and the crimes committed against our people. And it is a light that guides us forward.
There are many challenges that we face, but I think there are three that we face specifically as a people. We must work on strengthening the bond between Israel and the Jewish communities around the world.
We must work - especially with the next generation - to ensure that we have better understanding, better knowledge of one another. We cannot just assume this will happen without our efforts and dedication to the task. Jewish identity, and the centrality of Israel as the historic homeland of our people is something that must be at the top of our agenda.
The next challenge is indeed the security of the Jewish people and the State of Israel. We must stand united against antisemitism. We must fight it wherever it is found. We must not allow people to hide their hatred of Jews with support for Israel. We must not allow antisemitism when it is disguised as anti-Zionism. And we must not tolerate the denial of the Holocaust or the attempts to change the history of that dark time.
And when we talk of security, I don’t just mean physical security. Of course this is crucial, and the threat of Iran and its proxy armies is a very real danger.
Israel knows how to defend itself, and I have full faith in the Israeli security forces who work day and night to safeguard our borders and our people. But we also must look at our economic security, and the well-being of our society.
Israel today is made up of four communities, four tribes, of increasingly equal size, with different identities and aspirations. We must work to bridge the gaps and build understanding between all these groups - economically, socially, culturally – we must work to build shared hope for all the citizens of Israel. This is the challenge of Zionism today - this is Zionism today. And it is a mission in which another tribe, the fifth tribe, the Jewish communities around the world, is also a key partner.
The final challenge that we must always face with dedication and courage, is to help Jewish communities in need around the world. I am so proud of all that is done in this important cause in which Israel and the Jewish communities around the world are partners. We should expand even further and work even closer together on the great work we are both doing to help others all over the world – Jews and non-Jews – whether it be using technology to promote food and water security in Asia, Africa, and Latin America, or whether it is in disaster relief around the world. We can double our impact if we work together.
BEN-GURION always said that to be a realist you had to believe in miracles. In Israel we have made miracles an everyday occurrence. We have made the desert bloom and hi-tech boom. We have brought together 70 Diasporas from the four corners of the globe. We have developed a modern economy and are a regional superpower.
We have Nobel Prize winners, leading universities, and world renowned hospitals. We have made peace with some of our neighbors and we have not given up in our search to make peace with others. We have become a fact. Can I pick one achievement? I think the greatest achievement is that even though we saw our dream - our 2000 year old dream - come true, we have not stopped dreaming. We have not sat back and said, “That’s it we have Israel.” We have continued to fight and drive forward to be even better.
We have to be clear that no antisemitism, indeed no racism or hatred, is acceptable.
We, the Jewish people, the survivors of the Shoah, carry this responsibility perhaps more than any others. Today, antisemitism likes to hide. Sometimes it hides as anti-Israel, and sometimes it hides as pro-Israel.
The best way to combat hatred is always education, and getting to know the other. And we need to continue to promote Holocaust education especially as we must say goodbye to more and more of the survivors, the witnesses of those crimes.
But we must also fight this diplomatically, to stand on the world stage and be very clear that the echoes of the past are getting louder, and that Never Again means Never Again.
I want to pay tribute to the many organizations, key among them Yad Vashem and March of the Living, who are dedicated to this important task every minute of every day. And I think they have shown us how to pass the torch on to the next generation.
Remembrance and education through experience and understanding. Today there are more tools, there is social media, there are more and more student exchanges, and we must continue to harness all the resources at our disposal to be sure that the universal value of Never Again remains just that, a universal value. But there is no substitute for education, testimony, and remembrance, and that is why March of the Living is such an important event.