Today, Israel’s 74th Independence Day, President Isaac Herzog and First Lady Michal Herzog hosted a festive Independence Day reception at the President’s Residence for the foreign diplomatic corps.
At the official reception in the gardens of the President's Residence, the guests were treated to a selection of boutique Israeli wines and cheeses and fine Israeli ice cream. The diplomats were also treated to a musical performance by the eclectic Jerusalem-based brass band Marsh Dondurma.
The reception was attended by around 400 guests, including ambassadors and high-ranking officials from around 120 countries and organizations. Foreign Minister Yair Lapid and his wife Lihi, Deputy Foreign Minister Idan Roll, Office of the President Director General Eyal Shviki, MFA Director General Alon Ushpiz, and other dignitaries also participated.
President Isaac Herzog’s full remarks:
It is a great privilege to celebrate Israel’s 74th Independence Day with you all, in this traditional gathering, which began with our first president, Dr. Chaim Weizmann. Gathering here amongst friends old and new, in a strong, independent, Jewish democratic State of Israel evokes the words of the Prophet Isaiah: “Joy and gladness shall be found therein, thanksgiving, and the voice of melody.”
Growing up in Tel Aviv in the 1960s, my mother and father were clear in articulating that our modern-day miracle in our ancient homeland was not to be taken for granted. They recounted in our ears the all-encompassing hope for the State of Israel coupled with the deep uncertainty they experienced with the establishment of the Jewish state.
My wife Michal and I and our friends, Minister Lapid and dear Lihi, all recall hearing from our parents the struggles of these early days. It is therefore such a privilege to gather today and salute our parents’ and grandparents' generations for what they created.
Ladies and Gentlemen, today we celebrate 74 years of a vibrant, multicultural democracy, in which all faiths are respected and all worshipers enjoy freedom of religion. Seventy-four years of courage and creativity in turning seemingly-impossible challenges into a catalyst for cutting-edge innovation.
Seventy-four years of keeping our hands outstretched in peace while standing strong against those who oppose us. And here, on this festive afternoon, Michal and I are delighted to open our home both to those who helped solidify our independence and to those with whom we could have only dreamed of sitting together on our 74th birthday.
Dear friends, since assuming office I have had the opportunity to travel to several countries, including many of our Middle Eastern neighbors. Throughout our region, I was met with sincerity and warmth, hospitality and curiosity, open-mindedness and dialogue. I encountered a willingness to find common ground and a profound effort to work together, despite our differences.
In short: I have seen a historic change.
The Abraham Accords, signed back in 2020, are but the most recent, exciting example of peace, following the groundbreaking, historic peace agreements with Egypt in 1979 and with Jordan in 1994. Peace made possible by a decision to focus on future prosperity and wellbeing rather than past conflicts and hate; by an understanding that lasting peace not only requires meetings between politicians, but is dependent on true friendship between peoples.
Step by step we are all learning to navigate this Renewable Middle East, building on win-win cooperation, stability and modernization, and slowly realizing the extraordinary potential of our region. If we succeed, the impact can be far broader than our Middle Eastern community. The world at large can benefit from the Middle East transforming into a global hub of sustainable solutions at the forefront of renewable energy, climate technology, innovative agriculture,
and environmental preservation. The entire world can benefit from a Middle Eastern strategic alliance of moderate forces, that can act to deter and defeat radical actors, and can enhance the security of our region.
As we well know, when peace takes root, extremism and terror insist on preserving the old path of incitement, violence and hate.
Just this week, Israel faced another murderous terror attack, following weeks of terror. But in the face of threats, assaults and hatred our message is rather clear:
When they attack us, we grow stronger. When they try to divide us, we grow more united. Israel we will do whatever is necessary to protect our cities and our citizens.
Dear friends, I am excited that after 74 years, this vision of a developed Middle East is materializing. And, I call upon each of the countries represented here today: Join the momentum created by the Abraham Accords; inform your citizens of the potential and the treasures of Israel; urge them to explore Israel’s medical institutions and scientific industry; encourage companies and corporations to explore opportunities and take advantage of the innovation, resources, and entrepreneurial spirit resonating throughout the Middle East. Join us in creating shared initiatives and ventures, and in rediscovering and redesigning the region.
Ladies and gentlemen, I take this opportunity to personally thank Minister of Foreign Affairs Yair Lapid, Ministry Director-General Alon Ushpiz, Chief of State Protocol Gil Haskel, and their teams, and each and every member of the Ministry’s dedicated staff and outstanding diplomats.
Thank you all for your cooperation, for your professionalism, and for your hard work together with me, with my director-general, and with the team at the Office of the President and its diplomatic department.
Happy Independence Day to all!
Minister of Foreign Affairs Yair Lapid also attended at the reception for the diplomatic and consular corps hosted by President Herzog. Following are excerpts of his remarks:
“States are established by optimists. Pessimists sit and wait for the worst to happen, and it usually does. Optimists try to make their dreams come true. I know most of you by now, and I know the stories of your countries: Garibaldi and modern Italy, Mahatma Gandhi and India, Jomo Kenyatta and Kenya. All very different stories, all with one thing in common - our nations were created because there was a magical coming-together of circumstances and ideas that made people believe in the impossible. David Ben-Gurion, Israel’s founding father, once said: “A Jew who does not believe in miracles…is not a realist.” The State of Israel is a miracle. But miracles do not happen by themselves. They need to be helped. They need an army to defend them, an economy to support them, and good friends to stand beside them.
“This past year, a new government was established in Israel, which also set out a new policy direction. We opened new embassies and consulates in the United Arab Emirates, Bahrain, and Morocco. We appointed more than forty new Ambassadors around the world. We created new and exciting partnerships, like the Negev Summit where six Foreign Ministers, in an extraordinary and intimate atmosphere, formed new cooperation that is changing the Middle East. Like our renewed relations with Europe, restored on the basis of dialogue and honesty. Like our return to Africa and acceptance as an Observer to the African Union after too many years.
“We also strengthened our most important alliance, with the United States. Opponents of our alliance tried to test it in a vote in Congress on funding for the Iron Dome. It ended with a majority of 420 in favor to only 9 opposed. I doubt there is another country in the world that earns such sweeping, bipartisan support in American politics. It was an impressive display of friendship, and an expression of an alliance based on shared values.
“More tests await us, and we need to cooperate with you all to make the world a safer place. First and foremost, there is the Iranian threat: a fundamentalist terror state trying to achieve a nuclear capability. The world cannot afford a nuclear Iran, it would cause a new arms race endangering everyone on the planet.
“One learns over the years that friends are not only those who support you in difficult moments, but those who know how to share in your happiness as well. I thank you, my friends, for coming to share in our happiness today. Happy Independence Day!”
Photos credit Silvia G. Golan
More Pics at Facebook Diplomacy Israel / Israel Diplo / Silvia G. Golan