Rivlin does his best to pla­cate US Jews at GA in LA

The Jerusalem Post - - NEWS - • By GREER FAY CASH­MAN (Mark Ney­man/GPO)

In an ad­dress to the Gen­eral As­sem­bly of the Jewish Fed­er­a­tions of North Amer­ica on Mon­day, Pres­i­dent Reu­ven Rivlin at­tempted to heal the grow­ing rift be­tween Di­as­pora Jews and Is­rael re­sult­ing from bro­ken prom­ises over the right for dif­fer­ent streams of Ju­daism to wor­ship at the Western Wall in Jerusalem.

“The sym­bol of unity, the Wall of our tears and joy, has be­come a sym­bol of di­vi­sion and dis­agree­ment,” said Rivlin. He voiced the hope “that in the fu­ture we can re­turn to the ta­ble to­gether, and reach an un­der­stand­ing on this im­por­tant is­sue. We must all re­spect Is­rael’s demo­cratic process, the de­ci­sion-mak­ing process. Whether we like it or not, in the only Jewish demo­cratic state, religion and state is a po­lit­i­cal is­sue.”

The GA meet­ing had not ini­tially been on Rivlin’s over­seas travel sched­ule for this year, but his con­cern for Jewish unity and the pos­si­ble loss of a Jewish Di­as­pora con­nec­tion to the Jewish home­land, caused him to di­vert his plans for this week and to ac­cept the JFNA’s in­vi­ta­tion and to go to Amer­ica only a few days af­ter re­turn­ing home from Spain.

In his first ma­jor ad­dress to the Amer­i­can Jewish com­mu­nity since tak­ing of­fice three-and-a-half years ago, Rivlin de­clared that the “State of Is­rael al­ways was and al­ways will be the home of ev­ery Jew – Ortho­dox, Re­form, Con­ser­va­tive, sec­u­lar, tra­di­tional, Ashke­nazi, Sephardi.”

He did not men­tion the prob­lems en­coun­tered by some con­verts to Ju­daism whose con­ver­sions are not rec­og­nized by the Is­raeli Chief Rab­binate re­gard­less of how ob­ser­vant such con­verts might be.

Rivlin pre­ferred to fo­cus on chal­lenges fac­ing Jews in gen­eral, such as the fight against an­ti­semitism, the preser­va­tion of Jewish iden­tity, the safe­guard­ing of Is­raelis se­cu­rity and the need to pass on such du­ties to fu­ture gen­er­a­tions.

Rivlin also un­der­scored that Di­as­pora Jewry, es­pe­cially the Jews of North Amer­ica, had been full part­ners in the es­tab­lish­ment and de­vel­op­ment of the State of Is­rael. “You are true share­hold­ers,” he told them. “You stand be­side us at times of cri­sis and joy. You dream with us. You chal­lenge us. You help keep us strong. And we are strong. I am here to­day to say that this can­not be taken for granted. We thank you for this sense of fam­ily – for your un­con­di­tional sup­port and love, for your con­sis­tent mes­sage that ‘we Jews stick to­gether’, and that ‘all Jews are re­spon­si­ble for one another.’ In this, we have a lot to learn from you – that is the truth.”

Rivlin em­pha­sized the need for Is­rael and Amer­i­can Jewry to get to know each other bet­ter in or­der to re­build the close re­la­tion­ship of the past.

On the sub­ject of an­ti­semitism, Rivlin noted the im­por­tance of Is­rael and Di­as­pora com­mu­ni­ties to stand to­gether against van­dal­ism of Jewish ceme­ter­ies, ter­ror at­tacks against Jews around the world, BDS on cam­puses and at­tacks on Is­rael’s le­git­i­macy in the United Na­tions. “There is no room for hes­i­ta­tion, we must con­tinue the fight against it as one united front,” he de­clared.

Rivlin also stressed the dan­gers posed by Iran not only to Is­rael but to the world at large. Iran is es­tab­lish­ing its con­trol through Iraq, Syria and Le­banon, and up to the Mediter­ranean,” he said. “This is not just a threat to Is­rael – it is a threat to the en­tire world. Iran is the num­ber one ex­porter of in­ter­na­tional ter­ror­ism. It is a coun­try whose lead­ers call openly for the de­struc­tion of the State of Is­rael. We can­not al­low Iran to have a nu­clear ca­pa­bil­ity. That is mad­ness. We must work to­gether to pre­vent that. The cur­rent agree­ment puts both Is­rael and the United States in dan­ger, and shakes the sta­bil­ity of the en­tire re­gion. It is not enough to en­force all parts of this agree­ment. It has to be im­proved so that we will be pre­pared for the day af­ter it ex­pires.”

Re­fer­ring to the need to find a so­lu­tion to the Is­raeli-Pales­tinian con­flict, Rivlin said: “Main­tain­ing the se­cu­rity of Is­rael as a Jewish and demo­cratic state is also a found­ing prin­ci­ple in any fu­ture agree­ment with the Pales­tini­ans.” He also made the point that “the Is­rael-Pales­tinian con­flict will not be solved by boy­cotts or by uni­lat­eral steps. The po­lit­i­cal hi­jack­ing of in­ter­na­tional bod­ies, from the UN to In­ter­pol, only harms the chance of reach­ing a so­lu­tion.”

Re­peat­ing the mantra that has been his watch­word since his in­au­gu­ral ad­dress as pres­i­dent, Rivlin said: “The Jewish Peo­ple, the State of Is­rael, has never been and will never be at war with Is­lam. The lives of Pales­tini­ans and Is­raelis, Arabs and Jews, are bound to­gether. We live side by side, and with each other. We share the same land, the same holy places, the same wa­ter and the same sky. There will be no peace, un­til we all un­der­stand that we are not doomed to live to­gether, it is our destiny to live to­gether; Arabs and Jews.”

Rivlin also men­tioned Is­rael’s fallen sol­diers, Oron Shaul and Hadar Goldin, as well as civil­ians Avera Mengistu and Juma Abu Gan­ima, who are be­ing held in Ha­mas cap­tiv­ity and gave as­sur­ances of Is­rael’s com­mit­ment to their re­turn.

In his con­clud­ing re­marks, Rivlin urged his vast au­di­ence to put dif­fer­ences aside and to work to­gether for the good of the Jewish peo­ple and the State of Is­rael.

Fol­low­ing his ad­dress, Rivlin met with mem­bers of Mengistu’s fam­ily who had also been in­vited to at­tend the GA.

PRES­I­DENT REU­VEN RIVLIN ad­dresses the Gen­eral As­sem­bly of the Jewish Fed­er­a­tions of North Amer­ica in Los An­ge­les on Mon­day.

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