Knesset Speaker at Beit El dinner: 'Extend Israeli sovereignty'

MK Yuli Edelstein at Beit El institutions dinner: 'When I visit Bet El, mayor points out where Jacob slept and dreamed of ladder to heaven.'

Arutz Sheva Staff ,

Beit El dinner
Beit El dinner
Arutz Sheva

Full speech of Knesset Speaker Yuli Edelstein at the Beit El institutions dinner:

Dear Friends, Happy Hannukah!!

It is a pleasure to join you this evening as we light the first candle together with Jews throughout the United States and around the world.

We gather this holiday to engage in pirsumei nisa, to recount the miracles that G d has done for the Jewish People.

We tell of a small band of people—dedicated to the truth, the Land of Israel, and the People of Israel—who defeated much larger forces arrayed against them. We tell of a small jug of oil that fueled the great Menorah for eight full days exceeding all expectations.

And through these stories, we gain inspiration and strength for our own times.

This is, therefore, an appropriate season in which to express gratitude for the blessings we have received, as members of the Jewish People and as friends of the State of Israel.

This year, Israel celebrated its seventieth anniversary. Seven decades of Jewish sovereignty in the Land of Israel for the first time since the Hasmoneans themselves.

And this year, with the passage of the Nation-State Law, we began to define what it means for Israel to be the one and only Jewish and democratic state.

Now, some have expressed discomfort with the idea of a "Jewish State". Let's remind them of some history. Let's go back 71 years ago last week, to the Saturday in Lake Success—just a few miles from here—when the UN voted to approve Resolution 181.

Read that decision and you'll find the phrase "Jewish State" some 30 times. So, Israel was the "Jewish State" even before it was born!

I am proud of my party, the Likud party, which heads a coalition that does so much for the Land of Israel.

From this stage, I would like to extend my support for our Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who with G-d's help will serve as our next PM as well. Netanyahu is the undisputed candidate of the Likud party to head Israel in the upcoming elections. We all stand by him in our acknowledgment of his vast achievements.

The Knesset has already passed important laws to strengthen our safeguards against terrorism, uphold our national dignity, and defend us from our enemies—whether they threaten us with missiles or with boycotts. Thousands of new housing units have been built throughout the country—including in Bet El and nearby communities.

But there is still much more to do. Above all, we need to extend Israeli sovereignty to Judea and Samaria. To Maale Adumim, a natural step that should have happened long ago. To Gush Etzion, where Jews lived before independence and where I myself lived for nearly 20 years.

To Bet El, with its history of Jacob's vision, and the centers of Torah study you know so well. And to the rest of Judea and Samaria—the Jewish and Israeli heartland.

We owe this step to our brothers and sisters who live and work in these communities. It is our duty to support their pioneering spirit and love of the Land of Israel—and we cannot continue treating them like second-class citizens.

You, dear friends, play an important role in these efforts. You can raise this issue when you talk to decision-makers, when you speak with friends. Don't think for a moment you are alone in this campaign. I support you fully, and I know many of my colleagues do, as well. Because this step is just and proper—for the future of our country, our land, and our people.

When I began learning yahadut in Soviet Russia, I read stories of our forefathers.

At the time, I could only dream of walking in their footsteps. But now as an Israeli, I take these ancient paths myself on a regular basis. When I visit Bet El, the mayor points out where Jacob slept and dreamed of a ladder ascending to heaven. In Chevron, I can visit Abraham's family plot. And in Jerusalem, the modern capital, you begin to sense how the city felt to David and Solomon.

Because no matter how much you read, there is nothing like feeling the ancient, holy ground beneath your own two feet. There is no better way to connect to the Tanakh than to literally follow in the footsteps of our heritage.

Today, the spirit of Zionism is a vibrant force for good in the world. Not only because Israel is, naturally, the major center of Torah study—in Jerusalem, Bet El, and countless other locations.

But also because Israel is increasingly sought-after for solutions to some of the world's greatest problems. In fact, just two weeks ago, nearly 50 members of parliament from across Europe came to the Knesset to learn from us about sustainability, innovation, and parliamentary best practices. We have much to share, a fact that should make us all extremely proud.

All these achievements are possible because of the support of friends such as you. You understand that the future of our people—whether as rabbis, scientists, entrepreneurs, or Members of Knesset—rests on the ancient foundations of the Torah. Your dedication to Eretz Yisrael, Am Yisrael, and Torat Yisrael inspires the young people who benefit from your generosity. I am confident that the foundation you provide will serve them well.

That they will adopt these values as their own, as they become upstanding members of society, the next generation of Israeli and Jewish leaders.

Your contribution is especially important in light of the challenges we face. As you all know well, Israel exists in a complex region, which only gets more complicated with time. There are enemies who surround us and seek to harm us—most recently, several weeks ago, by firing more than 500 missiles from the Gaza Strip.

But even these challenges leave no room for despair. And I tell you this evening, on my personal authority: I did not overcome the KGB just to succumb to terrorists like Hamas.

I cannot light the candles tonight without recalling my own Hanukkah story. Just 34 years ago—nothing in historic terms—on the first day of Hanukkah, I stood trial in Moscow for being a Zionist.

I was convicted that day and sent off to prison for three years. Let's just say my return was not assured. But that night, I took some matches and lit them as candles for the second night. I knew then that if I—like the Maccabees—refused to give in, the Jewish People and I would prevail whatever the odds. Once again, the few would defeat the many, the righteous would defeat the forces of evil. And triumph we did.

Who would believe that four years later, I would be a free man, lighting Hanukkah candles with my family in Gush Etzion? Who would believe that fourteen years later, I would be Minister of Aliyah, lighting candles with new immigrants? And now I join you as Speaker of the Knesset.

In my own lifetime, I have watched the Iron Curtain crumble. We defeated a global superpower, confident it would hold us hostage and strangle the Jewish future.

Let me share another story. Just over 40 years ago, seventeen families settled in an army base. Today, those families have been joined by dozens more, and Bet El, the community they founded, is flourishing, like dozens more communities around it. We have seen it with our own eyes. Who would have believed, all those years ago, that half a million Jews would live in Judea and Samaria? כן ירבו.

My friends, our Hanukkah celebration tonight provides the ultimate answer to all who threaten us. We light our candle as ner ish u'veito, members of a united family. Because when we stand together, we will prevail. You can hurt a Jew, even kill several Jews (חס ושלום), but the Jewish people are eternal.

In the coming days, we will add additional lights to the one we lit tonight.

As we do, let us channel the spirit of the Maccabees: A love of the truth, a love of Torah, and a love of Israel. The knowledge and confidence that we will overcome our foes, despite the challenges and despite the odds—just look at Israel's history so far.

Let us, together, spread this light, so it shines more brightly—even in times and places of great darkness.

And let us pray that this steadily growing light heralds the ultimate redemption for our people, our country, and our land.