“If You Will It, It is No Dream”–Theodore (Binyamin Ze’ev) Herzl
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu issued a special statement for the occasion, saying, “On this Independence Day we mark two of the Jewish nation’s miracles: The miracle of revival and the miracle of building. The miracle of revival, because I an not familiar with any other nation in history that was scattered all over the world and lost control of its destiny but still managed to return to its homeland and rebuild its sovereignty there.
“The other miracle is building: What we have built in this land since the State of Israel’s inception. Israel is quickly becoming a regional economic superpower and a global technological superpower. In this world of knowledge in the 21st century our possibilities are endless: In science, medicine, technology and art. In each and every field, the forces of genius within our nation break out and create a magnificent country,” the PM’s statement read.
Netanyahu also mentioned the nation’s capital, saying, “We are not here by chance. We are here because this is our land. We’ve returned to our land, to our city – Jerusalem – because this is our land, this is our city.
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Knesset Speaker Reuven Rivlin lit the first beacon at the ceremony, and emphasized Israel’s commitment to the unity of Jerusalem in his address.
“We will not apologize for building up Jerusalem our capital,” Rivlin said during his Independence Day speech, which focused heavily on Jerusalem and on the divisions within the city and its population.
“In an era of cultural openness, we are witnessing a dangerous process of deepening entrenchment of each group behind its four walls. This entrenchment only creates cultural and political polarization.
“Look at what Jerusalem has become in the past decade: separate neighborhoods, separate public transportation, separate shopping malls for Haredim and seculars, Arabs and Jews,” he said, referring to this separation as ghettos within the city.
“Our fear of the ‘other’ across the wall, especially in Jerusalem, whether Arab or ultra-Orthodox, goes against the Zionist spirit,” said Rivlin.
“The mentality of concrete and barbed wire; the mentality of enclosure in homogenous neighborhoods, and the mentality of escaping a dialogue with the ‘other’ is not only destructive to our social and national foundations,” said the Knesset speaker, “but also enables the rise of the very voices who today demand the division of Jerusalem.”
Rivlin also spoke of Herzl’s legacy during his Independence Day address, calling Zionism an act of courage.
“Sixty-two years after the prophecy of [Herzl’s] Altneuland was realized, we, the generations of those who established the country, know very well that Israel’s salvation did not come from prophets or from diplomats,” said Rivlin, “but from those who dared to stop dreaming and start realizing the dream; in the hands of those who stopped waiting for the establishment of Israel and made the dream a reality.”
Rivlin continued, “The Zionist act is an act of courage, executed by individuals who take a leap of faith from dreaming to action.”
Rivlin concluded by saying that Israel will retian its Zionist character and make no apologies for it.
“Make no mistake, there will be no cooperation with those who demand that we diminish the country’s Zionist identity. We will not apologize: not for conquering Katamon, Jaffa or Safed, not for freeing Hebron, and not for building Jerusalem our capital,” Rivlin said.