Religious Zionist party at swearing-in of 24th Knesset
Religious Zionist party at swearing-in of 24th KnessetOlivier Fitousi/Flash90

President Reuven Rivlin addressed the swearing-in ceremony for the 24th Knesset Tuesday afternoon.

The president said at the start of his remarks: "Honorable friends, I come to you from Beit HaNasi (the President's Residence) in Jerusalem, which has been my office for nearly seven years, seven years that will come to an end soon. Sitting there, I have thought more than once about different offices I have sat in, including some in this very house. And it happened that this Pesach, my thoughts turned to one of the visions of the prophet Ezekiel. From exile in Babylon, Ezekiel prophesied the future state in Jerusalem. In his utopian vision, he allotted a place for the Nasi, the leader of the people. As opposed to Jewish history, which had its judges and kings, priests and scholars, heroes, poets, prophets and rebels, Ezekiel proposed a Nasi. And I thought to myself – why a Nasi? Is it possible that Ezekiel, in his vision of redemption, in his utopian imaginings of the future, was proposing a new model of leadership? A model that takes a middle path between monarchy and anarchy, two methods that took root during the path of the Jewish people and both failed, in the end? Is there a middle path, between the sole leadership of the monarch and the path of disintegration, each person and his tribe? The Nasi, says Ezekiel his vision, “will allow the people of Israel to possess the land according to their tribes.” (Ezekiel 44:9)."

He added: "Honored members of the 24th Knesset, six years ago, at the other end of my term of office as president, I invited Israeli society to recognize the deep changes that are happening within it, and undergo a genuine paradigm shift. No longer a tribal campfire with a clear majority that shares a value system and relatively homogeneous beliefs, with minority groups living alongside it; but four tribes that learn in separate education systems and largely live in separate communities and which are becoming closer in size. A secular tribe, a religious tribe, an ultra-Orthodox tribe and an Arab tribe. All of them, without exception, are people of this place. If we are not able to find a new model of contemporary Israeliness that has a place for each one of these tribes of Israel, I warned then; if we are not able to find a new model of partnership that allows us to live together here in mutual respect and genuine shared commitment to each other, our national resilience will be in real jeopardy."

"The coronavirus pandemic that we have faced over the last year, and that has claimed such a heavy price in lives and has come at a price to us as a society and as individuals that is still too early to estimate, a health crisis as well as a social and economic crisis, is a wake-up call, a prelude to the kind of challenges we will have to face. We could not beat the infectious virus as individuals, each person in their own home, each person in their own community. We saw how deeply dependent we are on each other, how much we need each other, to what extent our fate is shared – members of the different tribes, destined to live on this land, to share its successes and accomplishments, and to stand together in times of crisis.

"My dear members of the 24th Knesset. I know this podium, this stage. I know it from up close. For 20 years, I had the privilege of serving the Israeli people as a Member of the Knesset, including seven years as Speaker. Seven Knessets in total. Today, I am before a parliament that has dissolved itself four times in less than two years. A parliament that has relinquished, time after time, the right to express its confidence in the government. The disagreements that divide our society are genuine differences. Many of them are matters of principle. But there are times when we are obliged to resolve even wrenching, tough, painful disagreements. The seats on which you are sitting, honorable members, are rare and valuable. The power you have, in the voting buttons in front of you, is enormous. The Israeli people looks to you and expects each one of you to show leadership. The kind of leadership this moment demands. Leadership that is faithful to the people and their values, but that also knows how to mark boundaries and show the way. Leadership that is confident in its path, but that sees ideological rivals not as the enemy, heaven forbid, but as potential partners. Leadership that, in the atmosphere of tribalism, knows how to steer away from separatism and alienation, which may be appropriate for the campaign trail, but are destructive when it comes to building a country and leading a people. Leadership of partnership and respect. That is the leadership the Israeli people needs now, and it is not something that is expected only of the Knesset Member entrusted with forming a government or the new president you will elect, but of each one of you as representatives and leaders of the people.

"My dear ones, I believe in this people. I believe in it because that is the lesson history, ancient and modern, has taught me. I believe in it because this people has proved its might during this plague. I believe. Believe yourselves, too. Believe in the words of Ezekiel: I am going to take the stick of Joseph which is in Ephraim’s hand, and of the Israelite tribes associated with him, and join it to Judah’s stick. I will make them into a single stick of wood, and they will become one in my hand. … I will make a covenant of peace with them; it will be an everlasting covenant.’ (Ezekiel 37:22, 26). Bless you.” the president concluded.