Rivlin meets King Felipe VI of Spain
Rivlin meets King Felipe VI of SpainHaim Zach/GPO

President Reuven and First Lady Nechama Rivlin were guests of honor at a State Dinner at the Royal Palace in Madrid on Monday evening, guests of His Majesty King Felipe VI and Queen Letizia of Spain.

At the beginning of the evening both the King and the President delivered opening addresses.

Rivlin began by saying, “Spain for us is one country, and His Majesty the King is the symbol of that unity. All of the citizens of Spain are dear to us and we hope and pray that all conflicts will be solved by peaceful measures.”

The President went on to thank His Majesty the King for the warm welcome, and said, “Beyond the historical significance of my visit, you welcomed us here warmly, generously, with attention to detail and to the bigger picture. We were given truly royal hospitality, dreamlike hospitality. And for this I wish to say thank you from the bottom of my heart.”

He continued on to say, “The map of memory burned inside me was always Israeli, Jerusalemite, and Spanish at the same time. And I am not unique in this way. Spain represents roots, Spain is both a beloved and painful memory. To visit here, is like a visit home. As His Majesty your father said in his historic speech, ‘Spain is not nostalgia but a home, a place where it should not need to be said that Jews should feel at home'. Spain is a cornerstone of our identity and precisely because of this it is forbidden for Spain to represent only the past, heritage, and nostalgia. The alliance between Israel and Spain must be an alliance of the present, an alliance of the future.”

Rivlin told the King, “I came here from Jerusalem with an honorable delegation of men of religion, government, and science. The Sephardi Chief Rabbi Yitzchak Yosef, whose father met your father in a meeting which paved the way for diplomatic relations between Israel and Spain, Archbishop George Bacouni, Sheikh Muhammad Kiwan, head of the Union of Imams in Israel; Sheikh Mowafaq Tarif, head of the Druze community, and Minister of Social Equality Gila Gamliel. Also with me is Nobel Prize Winner for Chemistry Professor Ada Yonath. Together they all represent the Golden Age of Israel. The past, the future, and its very special present. I still remember your first visit to Israel, Your Majesties, in 2011 as Crown Prince. Some years after which, you signed the national law enabling Jews of Spanish origin to apply for Spanish citizenship. In doing so, you expressed your appreciation for one of the important bridges between Israel and Spain, this is the Jewish community of Spain today.”

The President went on to say, “In the now 31 years of our diplomatic relations, strong and broad bilateral relations have been established, encompassing a wide range of fields, from tourism and trade, through to science and culture, security and policing. Our current visit is an expression of our mutual commitment to the strong ties between our countries. Together with us is an extensive business delegation composed of leading Israeli companies boasting advanced technologies, technologies aimed at improving the world, and they see Spain as an important and friendly market. We also intend to sign new cooperation agreements with your Prime Minister.”

He concluded, “I see the great potential for growth in our cooperation, and it is so important to deepen the connections that will lead to productive partnerships,” and finished by quoting in Ladino, “Our common path has a glorious past, and a future that can be as exciting, fascinating, and glorious. May God grant us life so that we may see wonders.”

The King began his address by wishing the President and his delegation ‘welcome’ in Hebrew. He went on to say, “The tradition that binds us to each other is greater than us in its depth and meaning. This is the legacy of the Jews of Spain, which represents the Golden Age of Jewish culture, a culture that has been preserved for hundreds of years in the language and customs of so many Sephardic Jews throughout the world. Our democratic Spain, founded on a heritage of cultural diversity, is today returning to its historical ties with the Jewish people. In this regard, we will never forget the festive ceremony at the Royal Palace in which we stand today, two years ago, on the occasion of the approval of the law granting Spanish citizenship to Jews of Spanish origin, and the renewed historical meeting that resulted from it. As I said then, ‘how I missed you’, the Jewish-Spanish people, the Jewish people our friends.”

“We know, Mr. President, that you want to strengthen the wonderful nation of Israel, with this pluralistic identity, which you are embodying in an exemplary and admirable way. In this regard, I want to welcome especially the important rabbis who are with you in your delegation today, because their presence provides affirmation of our values and attests to the common aspiration of all people to live together, and to humanity. With this understanding, I proudly stress the position of Spain at the forefront of the fight against anti-Semitism, which includes important public diplomacy initiatives such as the Spain-Israel Center, important political achievements such as ‘Holocaust Remembrance and the Prevention of Crimes against Humanity Day’ marked annually, and similarly, the emphasis of education about Jewish issues, and legislative achievements such as the legal definition of hate crime.”

“Mr. President, we know that great aspirations are accompanied by great challenges. We recognize Israel's legitimate aspirations for peace and security, and hope that your country will live in harmony with its neighbors and develop its ties with the European Union. Israel will find in Spain a partner, an ally, a faithful and committed friend.”

Rivlin is in Spain for a state visit marking 30 years of diplomatic relations between the two countries.

On Sunday, he met with leaders of Spain’s Jewish community, and took part in a special event hosted by the community at Madrid’s Ibn Gabirol School.

Rivlin unveiled a plaque to be affixed to the entrance of the school, commemorating his visit to Spain and marking 100 years since the reestablishment of the Jewish community in the country since the Expulsion of 1492.