Aliyah and Integration Minister Ofir Sofer spoke on Sunday at the Arutz Sheva Jerusalem Conference in New York City.
"I believe it is important to promote the value of Aliyah in Israeli society, while strengthening our sense of solidarity," he said.
“About a month ago, I visited the United States on Yom HaShoah (Holocaust Remembrance Day -ed.), just before Yom HaZikaron (Memorial Day -ed.) and Yom HaAtzmaut (Independece Day -ed.). It was a very moving experience. I had the chance to meet with young families, students and community leaders," said Sofer.
"On the one hand, I was very impressed by the vibrant Jewish communities, and by the efforts to preserve Jewish identity. On the other, I saw the great challenges facing young Jews in the US. I sat with a group of Jewish college students. They shared with me both their strong sense of belonging to the Jewish People, and their deep concerns about antisemitism on campus."
“As Minister of Aliyah and Integration,” continued Sofer, “I feel a tremendous responsibility to continue the process of Shivat Tzion (lit. returning to Zion) which is a central part of Zionism and rebuilding our homeland. When we look back at the long exile of our people, the expulsions, suffering and the Holocaust, and then, the rebirth of the State of Israel, we see how this history, pain and legacy of courage, shaped us as individuals and as a nation."
"It is not only the 2,000-year exile which shaped us, but also the 19-year period between 1948 and 1967, when we had won our state, but lost the beating heart of our people - Jerusalem. The sense of loss was great, and the longing was even greater. These 19 years also played an important role in shaping who we are today," stated Sofer.
"Of course, we are still fighting for Jerusalem and other parts of the Land of Israel. I myself was injured fighting for one of these areas in 1996, when, as a young officer, I was wounded in a battle around Joseph’s Tomb in Shechem. After I was hit, I was faced with very difficult decisions. At that moment, I thought of the heritage and values of our people, and of the IDF. I said to myself that I will not stop this heritage."