Rivlin meets visitors
Rivlin meets visitorsAmos Ben Gershom, GPO

To mark the Sukkot holiday and as is traditional, President Reuven Rivlin today, opened Beit HaNasi to the general public.

At the beginning of the day the president and Minister for Jerusalem Affairs and Heritage Ze’ev Elkin visited the various activities available, on the theme of “Discovering Treasures at the President’s Sukkah”, in collaboration with the Ministry of Jerusalem Affairs and Heritage. Israelis are invited to visit the sukkah today until 16:00 and some 4,000 people have already done so.

The president welcomed the visitors with greetings of Chag Sameach, and repeated his invitation for all Israelis to visit his sukkah. “The President’s Sukkah belongs to the Israeli people as a whole and everyone is invited! Here, everyone is equal, everyone is welcome. How good it is for brothers and sisters to sit together. This is our homeland, our country. This is where we all live together, and will always live together. Chag Sameach to you all!”

Minister for Jerusalem Affairs and Heritage, MK Ze’ev Elkin: “Everyone is invited to visit the President’s Sukkah this year and to experience a range of the ministry’s incredible projects about Jerusalem and our historical heritage. Together with your family, you can be part of a wonderful meeting between our glorious past and our fascinating future.”

The president and the minister explored the various activities and saw the different installations in the gardens and main hall available to today’s visitors. First, they went to Theodor Herzl’s famous balcony in Basel, where the president told the Herzl character, “Everything we do is following in your footsteps.” "Herzl" told the president that the dream had indeed become a reality, and the president concluded with a smile, saying, “At Basel, you never dreamed you would stand on your balcony and see Beit HaNasi, the home of the presidents of the State of Israel. Chag Sameach to you, our visionary leader.”

Among the historical figures greeting the visitors, the president and the minister met former prime minister Menachem Begin, who told the president, “One might say you grew up at my knee!” The president said that on one of the times that Begin came out of hiding when he was commander of the Etzel, he met him at the hospital his mother, Rachel, ran. At another station in the gardens of Beit HaNasi, where visitors can sieve earth from the archeological digs at the City of David, the president said, “the public absolutely love these discoveries, and it is wonderful that you allow them to experience it with their own hands.”

In the President’s Sukkah, which was built in collaboration with the Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development on the theme of grapes and wine production in Israel, the president and the minister were presented with the grapes named in memory of the late Nechama Rivlin. The president was deeply moved at the sight of the sukkah and these unique grapes and talked about Nechama’s great love for the nature of Eretz Yisrael and for the Sukkot holiday, one of whose commandments is to leave the four walls of our homes and to be outside for seven days. The president and the minister also met former prime ministers Golda Meir and David Ben Gurion, who presented the president with the Declaration of Independence for them to sign.

As part of today’s events, a joint initiative of the Society for the Israel Nature and Parks Authority, the Israel Antiquities Authority, the Council for Conservation of Heritage Sites in Israel and the heritage division of the Ministry of Jerusalem Affairs and Heritage called “Open for Preservation” was launched. The initiative was launched with the aim of bringing people closer to their heritage through active public involvement in conserving the heritage sites which are part of our land and our world.

CEO of the Israel Nature and Parks Authority, Shaul Goldstein: “Our cultural heritage belong to us all and we professional bodies have been entrusted with preserving and conserving them and making them accessible. This new initiative, lead by one of the world’s greatest conservators, Mr Roberto Gardi, aims to develop the process of conservation for those who are interested in it. Where we would once close sites during conservation work, from now we will open them up for the public to comment and respond. By sharing insights, we will try to tell the stories behind the stones, as it is written ‘some stones have human hearts.’ I am happy and proud of the excellent cooperation between the four bodies involved in this initiative and wish us all continued collaboration as we face the challenges ahead. Let the President’s Sukkah be a place of peace and of keeping hold of our stories.”

At a different station, the president and the minister met the Tzubery family, who immigrated from Sana’a, Yemen. The family has letters sent by their grandfather, head of the Jewish community in Sana’a, to Israel and they will be scanned and incorporated in the national archive of letters. After they came to Israel, the family met and were photographed with the first president, Chaim Weizmann. The collection was created out of a desire to preserve the personal stories that make up the story of Israel, and to share them with future generations. The public is invited to upload and scan their historical letters and photographs, turning a family story into part of the wider national narrative.