Yom Ha’atzmaut – Melbourne

May 6, 2010 Agencies
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Over 350 people,including Victorian Premier John Brumby, attended a Yom Ha’atzmaut Cocktail Party this week in Melbourne’s Windsor Hotel.

Ted Baillieu, John Searle, Premier John Brumby, Danny Lamm, Minister James Merlino

The guests, including Ted Baillieu, the leader of the Victorian Opposition Party, Israeli Ambassador Yuval Rotem and former Australian Ambassador to Israel and now Ambassador for People Smuggling Issues, John Searle, president of the The Jewish Community Council of Victoria and Zionist Federation president Philip Chester heard the following speech from Zionist Council of Victoria, Dr Danny Lamm:

Welcome to our annual Cocktail reception, celebrating Israel’s 62nd Independence Day. We value your friendship with Israel and the Jewish community and thank you for joining us this evening.

The Victorian Jewish community has a proud history of friendship and contribution to the broader society of our state. We also have a very solid connection to Israel – and we are proud that the relationship between Israel and Australia is strong and based on values we all hold dear – justice, democracy and equality; education and innovation. Our two nations now share trade and intellectual capital and have embarked upon joint ventures which will have major positive effects in areas of medical treatment, water and environmental management and high tech for both Australia and Israel.

John Searle, Danny Lamm, Premier John Brumby

For example, the Jewish National Fund and Monash University have initiated a project to develop the means to harvest and treat urban storm water run off, to increase Israel’s drinkable water supply and simultaneously reduce ocean pollution. Israel, like Victoria, is challenged by water conservation and drought, and this project has the potential to divert storm water run off and convert it to drinking water. The implications are profound.

We have fortunate commonalities in terms of the economy as well: Like Australia, Israel recovered very quickly from the Global Financial Crisis. Israel’s strong economy and highly regulated banking systems were enough to make it among the first of the developed nations to officially emerge from the GFC.

There is a major practical difference between our societies, though. Here in Australia, we are not confronted with hostile neighbouring nations which are intent on our destruction. We don’t face the insidious demonization of our nation

and people, the intended delegitimisation of our right to exist as a sovereign state, as Israel does. Sadly, international terror is not a stranger to us here – the Bali bombings are still a raw memory – but we don’t need to direct a vast proportion of our financial and human resources into defence, as Israel does. And I take this opportunity to remind you that it’s almost 4 years – 1410 days today – since Gilad Shalit, a then 19 year old soldier was captured from Israel’s southern border. Gilad has been held in captivity since, in an unknown place, deprived of contact with the outside world. We pray for his well being and for his return to Israel and his family.

Israel’s advancements in science, medical and high technology and humanitarian efforts are revealed all the more starkly against this background. Israel is a nation built on the biblical values of morality and strong ethics, where intellectual capital is its greatest asset. In its 62 years, it has emerged as a leading innovative nation, it has reclaimed deserts, created a vibrant, cultured society and has shown leadership in humanitarian assistance where catastrophes have occurred throughout the world. Israel’s efforts in the Haiti earthquake were remarkable, with medical response units being flown in and working directly with the victims of the disaster.

On this occasion, as we mark Israel’s 62nd anniversary of Independence, we celebrate her achievements together, in the true Australian spirit of friendship.

It is my great pleasure to call upon the Premier to bring greetings on behalf of the Government of Victoria and to propose the toast to the State of Israel.”

Lamm made a special presentation to Ambassador Larsen saying:  “James Larsen served as Australia’s Ambassador to Israel for three years, from 2007 – 2010. During that period, he has done an outstanding job not only of representing Australia’s interests in Israel, but also of further developing and building on the solid relationship that Australia and Israel shares.

James – it has been my great pleasure to meet you and hear from you on several occasions both in Australia and in Israel. You have opened your offices and your heart to Australians in Israel, and you were always open and willing to discuss issues and to host visiting Australian groups whenever possible.

As I mentioned earlier, Australia’s friendship with Israel is both historical and strong. Your service as Australia’s ambassador has strengthened these bonds of friendship.”

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