Israeli Justice Minister Ayelet Shaked on Tuesday evening participated in a New York event honoring the Hesder Yeshiva of Sderot.
"It is fitting that we are holding this dinner right after Israeli Independence Day," Shaked began. "The residents of Sderot share much in common with the original Israelis."
"When the first waves of Jewish immigrants arrived in the region, they did not discover beautiful vineyards or towering skyscrapers, but a largely barren land.
"Furthermore, our enemies took every measure to hinder the progress of this great Jewish project. Only through resolve and faith did those new immigrants prevail to build the Israel that we know today.
"Similarly, Sderot represents the Jewish determination to not just survive but to succeed. Like the pioneers, the city has been confronted by enemies wishing to destroy it.
"For too many years, Gazan rockets have forced the city’s inhabitants to always be aware of the nearest shelter even as they engage in the simplest of tasks.
"The rockets damage homes, factories and, worst of all, afflict physical and emotional harm on the brave men, women and children who call Sderot home.
"Despite all this, the inhabitants of the city remain resilient, despite terrorist threats, despite rockets and sirens, despite memories of early morning sprints down stairs outside of bedrooms and into shelters, the people remain strong.
"Like the original Israelis, they refuse to give in to the forces that oppose them. They remain on their hill defiantly overlooking Gaza. They are the perfect example of Zionists.
"We are confronting international pressure to forfeit our dream of 'being a free people in our land.'
"If we ever feel despair, let this town serve as a role model. Just as the residents of Sderot continue to build their city, so too must we continue to build our state. Just as no rocket will ever destroy Sderot, no UN resolution will ever destroy Israel.
"In addition to acting as a symbol for our country, Sderot’s resolve in the face of terrorism challenges the methods of those who attack it. It announces to the terrorist groups in Gaza that their violent means will achieve nothing. No amount of rockets will ever fix Gaza’s political unrest and failing economy.
"As members of Hamas search for achievements, they must look over the fence and see Sderot still there; a proud Jewish city unmoved by the terrorists’ attempts to frighten it.
"Symbols such as Sderot are as important as a powerful military for making our enemies understand that their efforts to chase Jews from our land are in vain.
"After considering the character of the city, it is unsurprising to find such a wonderful institution at its heart. Every time I have been lucky enough to visit the yeshiva, I am struck by the integral role it plays in the community.
"Our Sages teach, 'He whose actions exceed his wisdom is like a tree with few branches but many roots. The winds of the world may blow at it, but they will not it from its place.' In this spirit, Rabbi Fendel has created a yeshiva that is much more than just a study hall.
"The building itself serves as a refuge for the city’s inhabitants and for the many volunteers who come to support Sderot. The yeshiva hosts ongoing programs that help everyone regardless of their level of religious observance or age. The children of Sderot find big brothers to lean on and the elderly find a place to gather to enrich students through shared meals and learning.
"The students also play a vital role in the life of the city.. They come from around Israel to make their home in Sderot and the Yeshiva encourages them to stay, even helping them to study in college while there. This provides the city with new residents and improves its socio-economic status. I am also happy to hear that Rabbi Fendel is opening up a program for young women as well which will only bring more talented students to the city.
"Undoubtedly, Sderot is richer and more full of love for the hard work of the Yeshiva. The roots planted by the Sderot Hesder Institutions provide necessary support for the entire city and should inspire not only other religious establishments, but every Zionist who desires to see Sderot prosper.
"Whether my party is in the coalition or, however unlikely, the opposition, we will always be an unwavering voice for those who represent the best of Israel. We have done and will continue to do all we can to deliver the resources necessary to help the city.
"Everyone in this room should be proud to be involved in such a project... Let us not take for granted the shining example set by the city, its populace and the yeshiva.
"Let Sderot’s resilience remain for us a beacon, a 'city on a hill' proclaiming that no act, and no threat will ever dissuade Jews from building our eternal home."