Yom Ha’azmaut celebrated in Sydney

May 8, 2015 by J-Wire News Service
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More than 600 people have joined in a belated celebration of Israel’s 67th birthday in Sydney at which NSW Premier Mike Baird was guest of honour.

Premier Mike Baird    Photo: Nadine Saaks

Premier Mike Baird Photo: Nadine Saaks

NSW Premier Mike Baird was the guest of honour at the function organised by The New South Wales Jewish Board of Deputies, The Executive Council of Australian Jewry and the Zionist Council of NSW.

Among the other speakers were Israel’s ambassador to Australia Shmuel Ben-Shmuel, NSWJBD president Jeremy Spinak and ZCNSW president Richard Balkin.

Premier Baird announced his pre-election commitment to visit Israel next year.

In his speech he said: “I’m honoured to join the Jewish community in celebrating the success of the State of Israel this Independence Day and I wish the people of Israel stability and a lasting peace on this national day of celebration.”

Ambassador Shmuel Ben-Shmuel     Photo: Nadine Saaks

Ambassador Shmuel Ben-Shmuel Photo: Nadine Saaks

One of the first election commitments I made after becoming Premier was to visit Israel, and I’m pleased to announce I will be headed there next year.

Our diplomatic relationship with Israel is helped greatly by our cultural and business links within Sydney’s Jewish community and I look forward to visiting next year.

“Friends celebrate milestones and are engaged in each other’s history and culture, which is why next year I am aiming to celebrate Independence Day in Jerusalem.”

In his address, Spinak said: ”

Every Jewish person here tonight is first and foremost an Australian….so why do we celebrate Israel’s birthday—a country that is thousands of miles away?

The answer is that, when it comes to Israel, there is a bond that exists with nearly all Jewish people all over the world that cannot be broken.

It is not a bond that is 67 years old, but many thousands of years old. It is a bond that transcends the middle-eastern politics of the day. A bond that is not about Bibi or Buji or Tsipi but Abraham, Issac and Jacob. Our soul is not just tied to the State of Israel but to the Land of Israel.

NSWJBD president Jeremy Spinak   Photo: Nadine Saaks

NSWJBD president Jeremy Spinak Photo: Nadine Saaks

What Israel’s detractors do not understand or chose to ignore—whether it be a first year student on campus or a one-time statesmen—is that Israel is not some western colonial invention of the last 67 years, nor is it not some post war act of contrition—it is instead the apotheosis of thousands of years of Jewish struggle.

A return to Israel has been one of the foundations upon which the arc of jewish history and peoplehood has been built.

It has been the promise of a return to Israel that has enabled jews to weather the hardships and tragedies that have befallen us throughout history…..

….from the huddled families in shtetls in medieval Europe wishing each other a “next year in Jerusalem” or Theodore Herzl watching Alfred Dreyfus stand accused and resolving that this must never happen again—a return to Israel has been woven deep within our peoplehood and our consciousness.

So today, we do not celebrate 67 years since the birth of a nation but 67 years since its rebirth, a rightful return home.

This acknowledgement does not trivialize the struggles of other peoples, it does not belittle the aspirations of others nor take away from the tragedies of the current situation in the middle east—you can love Israel and dislike its politicians—but do not pass off attempts to deny its right to exist, to de-legitimise its people or boycott its goods as honest debate.

At events like these we say the words “Am Israel Chai” it means “The People of Israel Live.” That through hardship, through struggle, through joy and through pain The People of Israel Live. That seed which was sown during the time of King David is now a tree of life, a desert blooms, a democracy thrives, technological achievement abounds and of course a people endure.

That’s what we recognise today, the life of a nation, a history of a people and a hope for a future where we no longer have to pray for peace.

Am Israel Chai.

The event was attended by a plethora of diplomats, politicians and interfaith identities. Among the specially invited guests at the city’s Four Seasons Hotel was NSW Police Andrew Commissioner.

NSWJBD CEO Vic Alhadeff told J-Wire: “It was the largest turnout we have had for many years.”

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