Yom Ha’azmaut in Melbourne

June 3, 2011 Agencies
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The Zionist Council of Victoria and the Jewish Community Council of Victoria held a cocktail party in Melbourne to celebrate the 63rd anniversary of the establishment of the State of Israel…..

 

Victorian Premier Ted Baillieu, Sam Tatarka ZCV, John Searle JCCV, Leader of the Opposition Daniel Andrews and Israeli Ambassador Yuval Rotem

President of the Zionist Council of Victoria Sam Tatarka said in his speech

We value your friendship with Israel and the Jewish community and thank you for joining us this evening.

Unfortunately, not all who would like to be here have been able to do so. I note in particular the apologies of Dr Danny Lamm, President of the Executive Council of Australian Jewry and Mr Phillip Chester President of the Zionist Federation of Australia.

Israel truly is a remarkable country given its size and the difficult path of its modern history. Out of an economy based in agriculture some 60 years ago has grown one of the strongest, most dynamic economies of the world today. Israel is a world leader in medicine, science, water resources, technology and research. Her impact on the quality of life of people in lands across the globe is immeasurable whether it be in the latest micro chips and anti virus software or life giving help to the victims of natural disaster in Haiti or Japan. Her artists and musicians enrich the lives of those near and far and her robust and sometimes fractious democracy is a beacon that shines brightly in her region.

In triumph there is challenge and the challenges from Israel’s neighbours have not diminished. Egypt a friend for many years is in a state of flux which calls into question the fundamentals of a relationship that has flourished since President Sadat and Prime Minister Begin made peace in 1979. Jordan and Syria are in turmoil and Lebanon is for all and intents and purposes governed by Hizbullah, a proxy for Iran.

The Palestinians have recently made an attempt at unity however there is cause for grave concern when the supposedly moderate Palestinian authority sees capacity for partnership and common cause with Hamas, a terrorist organisationthat remains sworn to Israel’s extinction and who for the past five years has held Gilad Shalit, a young Israeli soldier, hostage, all but incognito and without resort to the Red Cross or any contact with his family.

The members of the United Nations contemplate a resolution unilaterally recognising a Palestinian state without negotiations and the United States suggests yet further concessions by Israel whilst demanding nothing of significance from the Palestinians in return.

As we gather here tonight the 28th day of the Hebrew month of Iyar has just ended. 44 years ago on that day the Holy City of Jerusalem was re‐united in the miraculous victory of the Six Day War following nearly 20 years of division under Jordanian rule that saw the Jewish people denied access to the Old City and within her walls the Kotel, the Western Wall, the last remnant of our Holy Temple destroyed nearly 2000 years ago.

During its long history, Jerusalem has been destroyed twice, besieged 23 times, attacked on 52 occasions and captured and recaptured 44 times. For centuries the city has been a battleground for a passing parade of nations. Yet it has always been at the centre of our thoughts and the focus of our prayers. Since that day 43 years ago, Jerusalem has once again been a city for all faiths and all creeds with access to the Holy sites. She is a thriving hub of history, art and culture for all.

The people of Israel seek peace and pursue peace. We pray for peace three times a day every day of the year and we have shown a willingness to make significant and painful territorial concessions in order to achieve peace.

History has taught that appeasement is not the way to achieve peace and peace

will not come simply by making concession after concession to demands that are seemingly without end. Israel’s Prime Minister has accepted the establishment of a viable Palestinian State. We have yet to hear anyone on the other side accept without qualification, a Jewish State in Israel. May that day indeed come soon.

This past year has been one of change. For me it is my first year as President of the Zionist Council of Victoria and my first opportunity to address many of you in that capacity, for Ginette Searle it is her last night in the role of Executive Director of our organisation after 10 years of dedicated service and for Jane Rapke our new Executive Director it is her first night in that role.

Mr Premier, last year it was my pleasure to hear you, as then Leader of the Opposition speak of your first trip to Israel and how that trip and in particular your visit to Jerusalem touched your soul. This year it is my great pleasure to call upon you as the Premier of our State to bring greetings on behalf of the Government of Victoria and to propose the toast to the State of Israel….

and John Searle, president of the Jewish Community Council of Victoria had this to say:

John Searle

On behalf of the JCCV I also welcome everyone. It’s heart-warming to see so many of our friends here from such a diverse range of backgrounds, all here to celebrate the 63rd anniversary of the establishment of the State of Israel – the Jewish homeland.

Before I go further, I would like to acknowledge the traditional owners of this land and pay tribute to their elders, past and present.

I thank the Premier for his wonderful words a few moments ago and look forward to hearing from the leader of the opposition shortly.

I also want to thank the Premier for his words recognising the very important contribution made by CSG and for the generosity that has been displayed. It is a wonderful recognition of the work of the CSG and shows an understanding of the way the work of CSG benefits us all. I think in all fairness it is important to note that CSG has received bi partisan support and generosity and for that I express my sincere thanks on behalf of the community to both the Premier and the leader of the opposition.

It’s interesting, but focusing on GSG has made me/ Coming here tonight,  reflect upon a question I was asked not that long ago. I was having a conversation with someone, and we were talking about racism, multiculturalism and discussing the rise in anti Semitism in some parts of the world and I was asked, what is it like for a Jewish person to live in Victoria? Now, I thought about that question.

What is it like for a Jewish person to live in Victoria?

As for living in Victoria, well I’m sure both the Premier, the Leader of the Opposition and everyone here will agree with me when I say living in Victoria or Australia for that matter is pretty good. We are after all in “the lucky Country”.

Of course, there are times when I am aware of being Jewish. I don’t remember when I first became aware of the fact that I was Jewish, but I do recall there were certain racial taunts at primary school and there were times I had to stand up for who I was or rather what I was; Jewish.

Another interesting realisation for me was that I was a son of a Shoah survivor, a holocaust survivor. That was also during my primary years and of course, during my secondary years its significance became clearer to me.

My kids have also had moments of discovery. I can recall the first time my they asked me with some bewilderment why there were no security guards at a non-Jewish school we were visiting. You see they had never seen a school without security guards. Unfortunately, as many in this room will realise, because of the threats against the Jewish community all our schools have guards.

All of our synagogues also have guards.

Imagine if every time you dropped your kids off at school, went to Church, Temple or your House of Worship you saw guards out the front. Often those guards or protectors come from the dedicated band of volunteers comprising the CSG and as I said earlier, in that way they are making us all very proud, and safe.

Yet the fact that we can have these guards and talk openly about these matters makes us all the more appreciative of living in Victoria, a place where waves of new immigrants and refugees have come, landing here from all different countries and backgrounds looking for a safe, secure and free future. They came here because they value the core principles of our society; freedom, democracy, the right to free speech, respect of the rule of law.

As a kid, I was brought up in the knowledge that if I ever got lost, I should look for a policeman to help me. I teach my kids the same thing.  Yet there are people who have come from places where the police are feared. Thankfully, they are here now and will soon learn that the police and those in authority here are not to be feared.

Could you ever imagine our government turning the police or the army against us? The thought is unimaginable. Yet such events are occurring in the world today. That is why we have to do everything we can to protect the core values that are so dear to us.

So here in Victoria, we as Jews and all of us, have much to be thankful for and much to remind us that we are not so different.

The refugees who have come here are not unlike the waves of Jewish immigrants and refugees from all over the world who went to Israel to find safety and a new life. They chose Israel where they also knew they could live in a democracy, where the values that are so important to us are also important. That is why in Israel, if you travel to a school you will see Jews, Muslims, Christian and many others as both students and teachers. You will also find Muslim, Christian and Jewish people in the hospitals, as doctors, staff and patients.

Victoria and Israel really have much in common. We embrace new technology, love the outdoor life, sport, the arts and culture and treasure our democratic way of life.

So, with that thought, I wish Israel Mazel Tov on this wonderful occasion. I only hope, as I am sure you all do that Israel will find peace in the coming year. Thank you for coming this evening, for supporting Israel and for being friends to the Victorian Jewish community. I look forward to continuing our work together to make Victoria an even better place to live.

Finally, I want to thank the staff of both organisations who worked so hard organising this evening’s event.

 

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