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President Rivlin meeting Israeli heads of diplomatic missions, 10 December 2018..(Photo by: AMOS BEN GERSHOM, GPO)
Rivlin mellows on definition of a Zionist
By GREER FAY CASHMAN
02/20/2019
Rivlin said on Wednesday that his visit was by way of showing appreciation to the people and government of Canada for the bipartisan stand that Canada has taken in the fight against antisemitism.
Prior to his official visit to Canada at the end of March, President Reuven Rivlin met with a delegation representing the Board of Directors of CIJA – the Center for Israel and Jewish Affairs – which is the advocacy agent of the Jewish Federation of Canada.

Rivlin said on Wednesday that his visit was by way of showing appreciation to the people and government of Canada for the bipartisan stand that Canada has taken in the fight against antisemitism.

Rivlin confessed that in his youth he believed that the only true Zionist was a Jew who came to live in Israel. While he has not deviated greatly from that concept, he now realizes that “Zionism means understanding, love and connection to Israel” and that “Israel and diaspora Jews are part of one family which must be together.”

Voicing Israel’s concern over anti-Israel and antisemitic incidents now permeating the world, Rivlin said “It comes and goes in waves but it never stops.”

He disclosed that he had written a letter to French President Emmanuel Macron to thank him for the strong stand that he had personally taken in response to the large-scale desecration of Jewish graves and for visiting the Jewish cemetery at Quatzenheim and the Holocaust memorial in Paris. “The mass desecration of Jewish graves with symbols of neo-Nazism is a shocking reminder that antisemitism is still amongst us,” Rivlin wrote.

As he has done with many other groups Rivlin made it clear to his Canadian guests that the creation of the State of Israel was not by way of compensation for the Holocaust. For centuries, he said, Jews had been told by people in the host countries in which they were living to go back to the land of the Bible, and out of 70 Diaspora communities that included Holocaust survivors, the State of Israel had built a nation.

In a reference to Israel’s global reputation as a start-up nation, Rivlin attributed this to Israel’s ability to turn challenges into opportunities – often due to defense needs.

Within the realm of current challenges, Rivlin said that what is happening just now in the region should be watched with concern – especially the Iranian presence on Israel’s northern border – a factor which for Israel signifies a redline because Iran is always calling for Israel’s destruction.

Israel is also mindful of the fact that Russia is holding positions next to the Mediterranean, he commented.

As for Syria, Rivlin noted the misplaced thinking of all those who thought that Syria’s President Bashar Assad was history.

“He’s killed almost 800,000 people, and Syrian refugees are spreading over the world,’’ said Rivlin, who doubted that Syria could ever become a secular democracy given its complicated demographic composition.

During his visit to Canada, Rivlin will be in Ottowa and Toronto and, in addition to his meetings with senior government officials, will be the guest of the Toronto Jewish Community.

When arrangements for the visit were initially made, Rivlin was also scheduled to spend time in New York, but that part of the visit was canceled following the announcement that Israel’s national elections would be held on April 9.

Rivlin wanted to be sure that he would be home well in advance of Election Day.
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