Netanyahu: Bibi goes to Moriah
Some of Australia’s youngest Jewish students were fortunate enough to witness history in the making, warmly welcoming Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu at Moriah College in Sydney’s eastern suburbs.
It is the first time that a sitting Israeli Prime Minister has visited the Australia making a moment never to forget for Jewish children from various schools attending the event. Accompanying the Israeli Prime Minister at Moriah College was his wife Sara Netanyahu, Australian Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull and his wife, Lucy Turnbull.
Moriah’s junior and high school students shared in the excitement and significance of the occasion with students from Emanuel School, Kesser Torah College, Yeshiva, Mount Sinai College, Masada College and children attending schools served by the Board of Jewish Education.
Brimming with hope and optimism, the junior school children greeted Bibi with high fives and squeals of excitement. They then welcomed the Prime Ministers with a performance of Jerusalem of Gold, the unofficial national anthem of Israel.
With Turnbull visiting Israel in October for the 100th anniversary of the cavalry charge at Beersheba, Bibi took the opportunity to urge all students to “come to Israel too.” Bibi’s historic visit to Australia will serve to further bolster diplomatic ties between Australia and the State of Israel. Already, “Australia and Israel are close friends – committed, consistent, enduring,” stated Turnbull.
He added: “We are the most successful multicultural society in the world. We could not imagine our modern Australia without the extraordinary contribution of Jewish Australians by yourselves, your parents or your grandparents, and I thank you for that contribution.”
You can do anything you want. Believe in yourselves. Hold to your Jewish ideals, hold to your faith, hold to your beliefs. Your determination will make Australia greater, it will make us stronger. Your families have helped make this nation the most remarkable nation that it is today.”
Benjamin Netanyu responded: “Mr Turnbull is right. Israel and Australia are wonderful friends. And you are wonderful representatives of this friendship. So the Prime Minister is coming to Israel. How many of you want to come to Israel too? Good! And how many of you speak Hebrew? So here is what I ask you to do: I want you to continue studying Hebrew. Study our heritage. Be proud Jews, be proud Australians and come to Israel! We are waiting for you, all of you.”
Following the performance, the Prime Ministers and their wives visited one of the classrooms where they were entertained by some of the five-yr-olds of Year K.
There was a short walk to the auditorium which was lined by more than 100 students waving Australian and Israeli flags. Both Mr Netanyahu and Mr Turnbull accompanied their wives shook hands with the exuberant students with Mr Netanyahu shared two flags with a student.
The Prime Ministers addressed a packed auditorium of high school students. Emphasising the virtues of courage and resilience firmly grounded in Jewish philosophical thought, Malcolm Turnbull stated: “A good man, a virtuous man, falls down 7 times, but every time gets up. Believe in yourselves, you can do anything in our country. In Australia, as in Israel, we are committed to opportunity. Bibi and I share a vision based on innovation and potential and ensuring that the generations that come after us can achieve greater things than their parents ever imagined.”
Bibi similarly referred to the enduring spirit of resilience that binds the Jewish people. He told the students: Now, Prime Minister Turnbull has spoken of a great Jewish warrior, a great Jewish soldier, John Monash. But Monash was the exception. And it’s important to understand what happened to our people, what happened to our people throughout our history and the great transformation that took place in the rebirth of the State of Israel.
I was born one year after the establishment of the state. You all were born later. Probably your parents were born after the State of Israel and maybe some of your grandparents even. But it’s hard to imagine what the world was like for the Jewish people before the rebirth of the Jewish state.
We take things for granted today, but they’re not obvious. You see, the fact is in modern times there were very, very few Jewish soldiers – almost non-existent. This is a great change compared to our antiquity. You know the story of the Maccabees, yes? They were great warriors. You know the story of Joshua? Great warrior. King David? The other kings of Israel? You know that story. So in antiquity, our people, though we were small, were known for their fierce courage, their ability to fight. We didn’t succeed always, but we always resisted the attempts to oppress us and enslave us, and we produced some of the greatest heroes that mankind has known.
This is the story of the Jewish people in antiquity, but because we lost our independence against mighty powers, including the Roman empire, we were able to fight for our independence, able to muster our courage, able to show gallantry in the battlefield as long as we kept our land. But once we were driven away from that land, we were stripped of our powers. Century after century, the Jews were stripped of the power to resist the various attacks on our freedoms, on our very existence. And over the centuries in the Diaspora, the Jews who had been known as gallant fighters in antiquity were known essentially as a rootless people unable to fend for themselves, unable to demand the basic rights and respect that any human being and any human group deserves.
And so we were transformed from this fierce, fighting people in antiquity gradually to a people unable to defend themselves, and this progression of calamities took place over the centuries – first massacres and pogroms, and mass expulsions and then finally culminating in the greatest tragedy of all, in the Holocaust.
There is a book, a film actually, that was produced by Claude Lanzmann, a French Jew, called Shoah. Well, in Shoah, in the Warsaw Ghetto, the darkest days of the Warsaw Ghetto, one of the survivors, one of the last occupants of the ghetto escapes through a sewage tunnel and he goes to seek help in Warsaw. And he meets some Polish resistance people, non-Jews. And he said, ‘Please help us. Help us. Bring us some help.’ And the Polish resistance responded, ‘We cannot help you. We cannot help our Jewish brethren.’
And this person goes back through the sewage tunnel, exits in the heart of the Warsaw Ghetto, and he sees no life around him. Everything is silent. Everything is dark. And he says to himself, “I am the last Jew on Earth. The Jewish people are finished.”
But it is a fact that we weren’t finished. It is a fact that we mustered that ancient courage that characterised our people, that we reestablished our independence in our ancestral homeland, that we rebuilt a state and formed an army that brought the courage of the Maccabees back to life. You see it in the soldiers of Israel. You see it in their courage, young men and women, who time after time stand up and defend our state. And the world wonders and they say, “What is this Israeli army? Where did it come from?” It’s been there all along, but we had to come back to our state. We had to come back and rekindle that spirit.
So I was five years in the Israeli army. I had a lot of training, walking around the country, hiking through it. It’s not a hike, you know? You carry a fifty kilo pack on your back. It’s not the most pleasant of experiences. Yet I remember that as we were making these marches, I still would look at the country, and I said there is something magical about it. I remember one time we came to the foothills of Masada, after a very lengthy track, and you think… You’d go to sleep, rest your body, but I couldn’t sleep. I was looking at that fortress and I was thinking of our, the great defeat that we had here, which also seemed to be the end of Jewish history. And I looked up and I said, well, we’re here. The Romans are gone. The Jewish people and the Jewish state are resplendent, back to life, able to defend themselves, able to create a future for ourselves, able to contribute to mankind.
This is the rebirth of the Jewish state, and the amazing thing is the transformation that this created for Jews everywhere, because Jews everywhere drew power, strength, conviction, and pride from the rebirth of the State of Israel. Natan Sharansky told me that when he learned of the Entebbe rescue, it gave him enormous, enormous conviction and enormous confidence in resisting the mighty Soviet empire. Jews were transformed as the Jewish state transformed Jewish history and Jewish destiny. You are part of that destiny. You are part of the reborn Jewish people.
If there’s one thing that I could tell you here today: Be proud Jews. Stand up. Be proud. Stand with Israel. Stand with our people. Be proud Jews. Do this in Sydney and do it in Jerusalem and come this year to Jerusalem.”
Moriah’s touring band played Advance Australia Fair and Hatikvah bringing the proceedings to its end. And for hundreds of schoolchildren an event created memories of two Prime Ministers pay a visit Moriah which may not be repeated from years to come.