President Reuven (Ruvi) Rivlin today, Thursday 3 October / 4 Tishrei, addressed the festive opening of the 22nd Knesset.
President Rivlin’s remarks in full:
“Honorable Members of the Knesset, my fellow Israeli citizens. There is a story about President Chaim Weizmann, who was at his home in Rehovot with an unhappy look on his face. ‘Why are you so sad?’ he was asked. ‘After all, Moses was in the desert for 40 years and never got to the Land of Israel. You led the people for nearly 40 years through the wilderness but you realized the dream. Our state has been established and you are the head of this dream.’ The president replied, ‘No, I’m in a much worse position than Moses. It’s hard,’ he said, ‘hard to live the dream.’
at times like this it feels hard to live the dream, but we should not forget for a single minute that we made it. We realized the dream. The State of Israel is a miracle, a Jewish and democratic state at one and the same time. A home for us all, a place of safety. Never let us forget for a moment where and why that journey began.
my call for a broad government met with criticism from left and right. I hear that criticism. It is legitimate and contains some truth. I know that a broad government, or a ‘government of national unity’ is not what every Israeli citizen voted for at the elections. I also know that if such a broad government is formed, some of you will find yourselves in the opposition. And yet I, from the bottom of my heart, and in order to carry out my role, am asked and ask to be your president too. Not just of the majority, not just of unity, which by definition leaves large parts of society without influence.
And yet, there are some moments in the life of a people when the president is required, as part of carrying out his official role, to intervene. To guide and calibrate the system which is struggling to get back on track. As President Herzog said when he resolved to intervene and try and form a national unity government, ‘Our democracy is in peril, and without a democratic regime based on the will of the majority of the people, the State of Israel has no future. The greatest danger lurks here, within us,’ he said. ‘It comes from the lack of tolerance and discourse between religious of one kind and of another, between religious and secular, between different ethnic identities, between different peoples. And, to our shame, it already appears in scary and appalling public statements.’
So said President Herzog
and it sometimes feels like he was talking about today. My power, too, is limited. I have nothing but words. I can only suggest, and perhaps try to build bridges. I also do not know whether I am the most appropriate mediator. But I know this – we are facing a time of crisis for the House of Jacob, an emergency for Israel’s security and for Israeli society, an emergency for Israeli democracy: all that is dear to us.
Forming a government is not only the wish of the people. More than ever, in times like these, it is an economic and security need the likes of which we have not known for many years.
As we read in the Book of Ecclesiastes
‘There is a time to keep and a time to cast away, a time to tear apart and a time to sew together, a time to be silent and a time to speak, a time to love and a time to hate, a time for war and a time for peace.’
My friends and teachers, fellow Israeli citizens, along with the frustration at the political deadlock we are in, the election results are also a badge of honor for Israeli society. They are a red card from Israeli citizens to their elected officials. A red card for populism, for a political system that feeds on picking away at the differences between us and that sees all our fears, each of the other, as something to exploit.
You, elected officials and leaders of the people, face an opportunity and a chance to form a broad government. One that will allow us to put the disagreements between us to one side and to work on finding areas of agreement. To work for the people of Israel, its economy, its security and in so doing, to give us all an opportunity to breathe a little, to heal. In a government of this kind, no one side will be able to make a name by attacking and delegitimizing the other. In a government of this kind, you will need to excel in doing things that affect real life. Making day-care cheaper. Dealing effectively with Hamas, Hizbollah and Iran. Increasing economic productivity. Caring for the elderly and the disabled. Raising the standard of education. Creating real equality of opportunity for those in social and geographical peripheries. Tackling crime and violence that are overtaking Arab society and have become a national emergency.
A broad government of this kind would be an opportunity for us all to remember that while there may be real areas of disagreement between us, there is also a wide range of challenges that we can all agree to tackle.
Honorable Members of Knesset
the eyes of the nation are on you, small parties and large. Elections are the most expensive reality show in town – 1.7bn NIS. You must remember that each season, the ratings are likely to drop, while the result remains the same. As I have said before, I have no magic solutions. But this people does not need solutions of that kind, it needs leaders. It needs you. It chose to put its faith in you who are sitting here. Guard that trust, because there is nothing more precious. Without it, what will become of us?
Congratulations to the members of the 22nd Knesset. I hope this Knesset serves its full term and that it expresses its confidence in a new government for Israel, a government for the people of Israel. In honor of the Knesset, in honor of Israeli democracy, and in honor of Israeli citizens.
My fellow Israeli citizens
at the end of my remarks, I would like to act according to Jewish tradition, which believes that Yom Kippur cannot take away sins committed between an individual and their fellows until that person asks for forgiveness. I ask for forgiveness if I have acted or spoken in a way that was unbefitting, or if I was silent and did not speak out against improper occurrences. I ask for forgiveness from anyone I have hurt, from anyone hurt by my words, my actions or my inaction. From anyone hurt by what I said or what I did not say.
As we read at the end of Yom Kippur, ‘the needs of your people are great, and they know not how to express them.’ The needs of my people are great, and I know not how to express them.
And, as we say in these days of repentance between Rosh Hashana and Yom Kippur, ‘Heavenly Father, heal those of your people who are sick and see the gravity of the hour. Bring peace between us, bring tranquility to our palaces. Grant peace in this land, grant peace to this kingdom. Bring blessed dew and rain in its time. Give seeds for sowing and bread for eating. Give food to the infants until they are satiated.”
A good and final inscription – Gmar Hatima Tova. A good year – Shana Tova – to you and to all the people of Israel, to all the people in Israel.
G-d Bless You.”