Israeli President Rivlin to Diaspora Jewry: ‘No challenge too great if we stick together’

Israeli president reaches out to Diaspora Jews at Makor Rishon’s first annual Am Olam Conference, live streamed online Sunday.

By Lauren Marcus, World Israel News

Israeli President Ruben Rivlin addressed Diaspora Jewry in his opening remarks at the First International Makor Rishon Am Olam Conference, live streamed online Sunday morning.

Rivlin called for unity between Israelis and Diaspora Jews, saying, “In these days, when Jews abroad are dealing with the painful effects of the coronavirus on their communities, we must remember that before our divisions, we are brothers. Brothers who care about each other.”

He recalled a speech he made several years ago in Los Angeles, where he referred to Diaspora Jews as the “fifth tribe” of Israeli society. Despite the geographical distance, he said, Diaspora Jewry plays a significant part in determining the character and design of Israeli society.

“I’m aware this is a complicated position,” said Rivlin. He said that in the Zionist era, it was common for Zionists to immigrate to Israel, “but in recent years, this dynamic has changed.” He mentioned that today, many young Israelis live abroad for a few years to work, while young Diaspora Jews come to Israel for extended periods of time.

Rivlin said he was pleased that the mutual understanding between Diaspora Jews and Israelis is deepening.

As the coronavirus pandemic winds down, Rivlin emphasized that the current period is an opportunity for both sides to take stock of the relationship between Israelis and Diaspora Jews.

“We cannot be indifferent to one another’s fate,” said Rivlin. “We cannot allow the battle between religion and state, or the debate over the Western Wall prayer space, lead to the severing of ties or animosity amongst the Jewish people.”

“Of course, we don’t have to agree on everything, but we need to learn to have dialogue, to hear each other even if we don’t like their opinion.”

Rivlin ended his speech on a positive note. “If we are able to maintain the alliance between us, there’s no challenge we cannot overcome,” he said.