Rivlin to Melbourne schoolchildren: 'Bullying is violence, don't stand by and watch'

President Rivlin meets thousands of students from Jewish schools in Melbourne.

Arutz Sheva Staff ,

President Rivlin with schoolchildren in Melbourne
President Rivlin with schoolchildren in Melbourne
Koby Gideon (GPO)

Israeli President Reuven Rivlin continued his official visit to Australia Monday, travelling to Melbourne where he began his day with a powerful and moving meeting with thousands of students from all the Jewish schools in the city.

Thousands of schoolchildren welcomed the President, waving Israeli flags and singing “Heveinu Shalom Aleichem / We Bring You Peace,” and the President shook hands and sang along with them.

“It is so wonderful to be here with you, to see so many young Jews who are proud of their heritage, proud of their Jewish identity, and proud of the Jewish and democratic State of Israel,” Rivlin said to the students at the beginning of their meeting.

In his remarks to the students, Rivlin spoke about the issue of bullying and social exclusion in schools and told them about the campaign that was launched in Israel last week, titled “Don’t Stand By.”

During the President’s visit to Australia, the story of 9-year old Quaden Bayles, who suffers from bullying at school, went public. Bayles, who reportedly has a congenital disease that results in dwarfism, suffers from ongoing abuse because of how he looks. In a film uploaded by Quaden’s mother, he is crying and says that he would prefer to die rather than continue to go through the abuse he experiences. The clip has raised extensive debate in Australia and other places and many people around the world have pledged to help the child and his mother.

On his visit to the school, the President introduced the students to the “Don’t Stand By” initiative against social exclusion and bullying among children and young people. Before he spoke, the video made for the campaign was screened. Following the screening, Rivlin said: “Bullying is violence. It is a terrible experience. No kid should face social exclusion and hurtful comments. Unfortunately, social media just seems to provide more opportunities for that. When we saw in Israel how terrible bullying in schools is, I knew that as a President I must not stand by. Our message is simple - don’t stand by if others are having a hard time. Don’t stand by!”

Afterwards, the President spoke with the students and answered their questions, including about relations between Israel and Jewish communities around the world and fears about anti-Semitism.

“While we work to build cooperation between Israel’s four tribes, it is equally important to strengthen our bonds with Israel’s fifth tribe - the global Jewish community. And especially with you, who are the future of the Jewish People. We are one nation. One family. We do not have shared interests. We have a shared destiny.” He also noted, “We in Israel are deeply concerned by the rise in anti-Semitic attacks around the world, especially against Jewish students.”

“We must have zero tolerance for racism and anti-Semitism. We cannot accept that Jewish students, anywhere, are afraid to wear a kippah (skullcap) or express their support for Israel.”

Rivlin also spoke to the students about the meeting he convened with world leaders in Jerusalem: “Last month, I hosted almost fifty world leaders in Jerusalem, including Governor-General Hurley. They each expressed their commitment to fighting anti-Jewish hate. I believe they understand that anti-Semitism is not just a Jewish problem - anti-Semitism, racism, hatred and fascism, are a problem for all societies that value tolerance and democracy. I believe that there is also a growing understanding around the world that attempts to demonize and boycott Israel cross the line from legitimate debate, which we of course support, to a new form of anti-Semitism, which we must all oppose.”

At the end of this remarks, the President said, “When I see you, I am filled with optimism. Optimism about the future of the Australia-Israel relationship, and about the future of the deep bond between the Jewish People and the Jewish State. Thank you again for all that you do. I look forward to seeing you soon in Jerusalem, our eternal capital.”