Bennett: We are all 1 family

Education Minister addresses annual Israel Prize awards ceremony, says right does not have a monopoly on patriotism, left on human rights.

Arutz Sheva Staff ,

Education Minister Naftali Bennett
Education Minister Naftali Bennett

Education Minister Nafatali Bennett addressed the Israel Prize awards ceremony Thursday evening. The event was attended by President Reuven Rivlin and Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu, Knesset Speaker Yuli Edelstein, Supreme Court Chief Justice Esther Hayut, and Jerusalem Mayor Nir Barkat. In his speech, Minister Bennett sought to heal rifts in Israeli society.

The Education Minister's full speech follows:

When I was a child I returned home from the 'Carmel' school in Haifa one day and asked my dad, may he rest in peace, "Dad, tell me: are we Ashkenazi or Sepharadi?"

Dad looked at me, puzzled, was silent for a minute and answered: "We're Jewish."

Dad, who was born in overseas, distant from Judaism and Israel, simply understood what we often forget.

We are all one family.

A diverse, vibrant family, an argumentative family; yet one family.

Look at the recipients of the Israel Prize on stage:

How different they are – in their country of origin, their opinion, their accents – however all the honored recipients are partners in their aspiration to build a wonderful State of Israel.

We are celebrating 70 years, and we have 70 faces.

Here, for instance, is David Levi, who made Aliyah from Rabat, Marocco, as a young lad, and as a social leader he broke the glass ceiling for a large public.

Next to him is Natan Sharanski, who led – along with his wife the heroic Avital – a campaign to free Soviet Jewry and then acted to absorb the immigrants in Israel.

There is a brave journalist, "our reporter on Israel's wars" – Ron Ben-Yishai, and next to him a determined leader of settling the Golan Heights, Yehuda Harel.

Author David Grossman is one of the most talented and leading authors in Israel, and next to him is Professor Alex Lebowski, one of the most important mathematics researchers and a resident of Efrat.

Look what a difference there is between the winners, and how beautiful that difference is.

We are a nation of ideas and we are a nation of debates.

And the debates are what create the ideas.

On the stage are Yehudit and Yehuda Bronicki, and Gil Shwed, pioneers of the Israeli industry and high tech, and next to them the respective academics gathered here, who blazed paths with their research.

Everyone will tell you one of the foundations of the StartUp Nation is the healthy friction between people from various backgrounds, with different opinions.

On a daily basis, in thousands of start-ups in the high tech towers, entreapruners, scientists and engineers argue about problems which look unsolveable. This is also true in the Yeshivot of Bnei Brak and the research labs in universities across Israel.

We argue in loud voices, and in the middle of the argument we find the breakthrough moment.

This is the ethos of Israeli innovation, born from the Jewish tradition of in depth learning.

The StartUp Nation is dependant on us continuing to debate.

However unity within us is a condition for us to continue to exist.

Unity does not mean being the same.

Unity does not mean erasing the differences between us. The opposite is true. Unity means celebrating the differences and growing thanks to them.

We do not want a new Hebrew identity, unified and tasteless.

We need to thank the gathering of the exiles which created a bright and colorful Israeli mosaic.

As you know, this year we led a trend to ensure the Israel Prize recipients reflect more layers of Israeli society and more segments of the Israeli public, and we still have room for improvement.

The diversity among the prize recipients is part of an overall move to ensure all parts of Israeli public are heard in the education system.

Two and a half years ago we established the Bitton Committee for the teaching of the Jewish heritage of North Africa and the East to give voice to different parts of the mosaic, to beautiful stones which had remained unheard for dozens of years.

Indeed, the Committee's recommendations have already been implemented and incorporated in the schools. We are now celebrating also the North African and Eastern heritage: our children, all the children of Israel, are now learning about the pioneers of the development towns in the Negev and Galilee, alongside the pioneers of the Second Aliyah.

Our childrens' education is not by bitterness, but through pride and recognizing the good we have.

We face a great challenge:

How can we live here together, people with such different and contradicting opinions, and still fulfil our destingy with such disputes?

The answer is we are one family.

Imagine you are at the family Seder table,

Every brother and sister has a different political opinion.

Some of the grandchildren are secular, some religious, others ultra-Orthodox.

So you argue.

But you love each other.

Because we are all one family.

My friends,

I am not only the Minister of Education, I am also the political leader of one side in this debate. I believe I am write, I am convicned my path is the right one.

However, if I had a button which I could push and make all Israelis share my exact opinion, I would not push that button.

Of course I want to convince those I am debating, but I don't want to make the argument disappear.

There are a number of ideas clashing within our People.

One group highlights the nationality, there are those who put an emphisis on religion, and a third segment puts universalism and human rights in the center.

We need them all together.

We must listen to each of these forces.

Every side in the debate balances the other, and improves it.

Sadly, our past is full of people facing off against each other.

Even in the darkest moments our People have been through, in the Warsaw Ghetto uprising, at the height of fighting the Nazis, the Jews of the ghetto did not fine in unison, but were divided to two forces which did not cooperate.

The same was true during the destruction of the Second Temple, some 2,000 years ago.

Our enemies, who know our strength, know that when we are united no one can overcome us.

They await the moment our internal strife will tear us apart from within.

We will not allow it to happen.

We will not be given another chance at statehood.

The artificial tribalness is often viewed as fate.

But it is not.

The decision is in our hands.

And it is a task for our young generation.

As Israel's Minister of Education, I turn from here to the wonderful Israeli youth:

Take responsibility!

Let us remove the fear we have of the other.

Let us talk, not shout.

Let us deal with the argument, not the person making it.

Let us really listen.

Let us remember we are one family.

This is a message especially important today:

The Right does not have a monopoly over patriotisim just as the left does not have a monopoly over human rights.

Not only the Right loves the Land of Israel, and not only the Left aspires for peace.

Both, alike, want what is best for the country.

A debate between brothers cannot turn into hatred between brothers.

We are all one family.

Three weeks ago Rabbi Brigadier General Avichai Ronzki passed away. He was the former IDF chief rabbi, a daring commander in the Shaked reconocense unit and a person with a large and warm heart.

I loved him dearly.

Two days before his passing I visited him at his home.

He was lying in bed, and I took his hand and leaned closer.

It was clear to me – and I think also to him – that we would not meet again.

He held my hand, and in a shaky voice asked only one thing of me:

He wanted to start a custom in Israel, where people would greet those near them with 'Shalom', as a routinely gesture.

That they say "Good Morning" also to a stranger in the bus or elevator.

That we smile to those around us at our workplace.

He believed it would create a better environment, which would be contaigeous.

I know it sounds naïve, but let's try.

Respective guests,

On this stage we have an Israel Prize Laurate, an educator I love very much, and I know others in Israel do to:

Miriam Peretz. Mother of the boys.

Miriam lost her two sons, Uriel and Eliraz, in battles in Lebanon and Gaza.

In the face of the disastors which hit her, Miriam chose life. She chose to live, and, through her spirit, to inject life to an intire nation.

If only we could take, each and every one of us, a drop of the love of mankind found in this great woman.

Miriam is the victory of spirit over the physical.

Dear laurets, you have all plowed knew cultural furrows in our fields.

The eyes of the young generation are turned to you today, expanding our cultural, scientific and spiritual limits.

In the future they will come, members of the young generation, and plant their seads of creation in the furrows you have marked for them.

Like any generation, they will sow in tears and their children will reap in joy.

When I look at our country, I can't help but be amazed by this Zionist miracle.

One cannot help but think of the words of the Jewish People's poet, King David, who wrote:

"A song of ascents: When the LORD brought back the captives to Zion, we were like dreamers."

I turn to you, the citizens of Israel – Jewish and Arab, Muslim, Christian, Druze and Cherkess; secular, ultra-Orthodox and religious; settlers, new immigrants and those born here:

The 70th year should be the year we drop the barriers between us;

A year of Ahavat Chinam (unconditional love).

Look at the recipients tonight, and see how much we can lose without Ahavat Chinam,

But more important that you see –

How much we can gain through it.

Happy Indepedence Day Israel!!