Reuven Rivlin
Reuven RivlinOlivier Fitoussi/Flash90

Outgoing President Reuven Rivlin on Wednesday spoke at the Knesset during the inauguration of incoming President Isaac Herzog.

“Honorable friends, all. Seven years is a long time, particularly the last seven years, into which an entire history can be folded. At the beginning of my term of office, I gave a speech that became known as the ‘tribes speech’. It got its name because of the first part, in which I described the changing demographic and social reality in which we live. But if the speech had been called after its second part, it would have been called the ‘partnership speech’ or the ‘hope speech’ – Israeli hope. In fact, in the second part of the speech I proposed pragmatic foundations for partnership in the Jewish and democratic state.

"My seven years as the tenth president were largely about encountering the majority, which is sometimes silent, of Israeli society. Up and down the country, all the tribes, across the spectrum of opinions. At the end of seven years, I can tell you, elected officials and civil servants, with certainty: there is one Israeli society and the vast majority of it wants and is committed to turn the vision of partnership into reality. Now, more than ever. Israeli statehood is Israeli partnership. And this partnership is our backbone. It is our social, economic and ethical resilience.

"Over seven years, I have worked with all my might to strengthen this partnership. At yeshivot and universities, kibbutzim and moshavim from north to south, in Judea and Samaria and in Arab cities. In schools and in higher education. In employment and in local government. In culture and in sport. To you, public leaders, I say today: the different tribes of Israeli society are here to stay. We must always ensure that in the natural tension between statehood and tribalism it is the state, the republic, that prevails over cultural autonomy and communal tribalism. The question is what each one of us is willing and able to do to ensure it, so that trust is built here, to allow dialog that is constructive and not destructive, on the understanding that we were not doomed to live together, but rather destined to do so. We must give a real, honest chance to this process, committed to the rules of the game. Because this is the chance, the outlook and the future of the girls and boys growing up here.

"My dears, the Jewish people returned to its history and invented itself anew as a people, a state, with economic, security and political might thanks to its ability to translate vision into a manifesto. The founding fathers and mothers of the state and the generations that followed it created breathtaking areas of excellence in health, agriculture and water, in security and higher education, in research and development, in infrastructure that they laid for generations to follow. But we have not finished. But it is important for me to say to the next generation of the State of Israel, our young men and women, today: we have not finished! Do not rest and do not cease. Only change and repair: make our education system fit for the 21st century; rethink the relations between central and local government; rethink our political system; the way we fit into the region; it is only the ability to reinvent ourselves and to do it together that will preserve us. Our ability to turn challenges into opportunities is the comparative advantage of the State of Israel. The State of Israel, Jewish and democratic, democratic and Jewish, is still and will always be a state that is growing and flourishing. Either it innovates and initiates, or it does not exist.

"My dears, the next generation of the State of Israel, continue to innovate. If something isn’t working – change it. Don’t take things for granted because of the simple fact that the State of Israel isn’t to be taken for granted. It is a miracle, and miracles must be jealously guarded. It is a miracle, too, because we have turned every challenge into an opportunity. And I also want to say this to you: the Jewish state is not something to be taken for granted. A democratic state is not something to be taken for granted. And there will be no Israel if it is not democratic and Jewish, Jewish and democratic, in the same breath. The tension that bubbles among us, between the wholeness of the people, the wholeness of the society, the wholeness of the land, is a discourse that needs must exist if only we do not deny it. We will prevail only if we know how to embrace complexity and to reject the simplicity that is always so tempting. We will succeed if only we know how to hold that tension, finding within it the balances and compromises. Only then will we be able to preserve this miracle, our home.

"Honored guests, my fellow Israelis. We are living in an era of change in the Middle East. This is where we live, where the State of Israel is rooted. We must strengthen this process by deepening our familiarity and understanding of the language, the history and the culture around us. This is an important and vital process, an imperative. Israel plays a critical role in the regional system. In political and security affairs, but also in economic and social matters, in finding solutions to deal with the problems of water, food and health, in dealing with the dangers of climate change and the environment. This is the way, and we must continue along it, with all our neighbors, within Israel and beyond our borders. I believe that if we are able to live here together, Jews and Arabs, we will find the way to live together between the Jordan River and the sea, and across the whole region. We must build trust to give our children a better future. Step by step. Not a utopia, not against history. The State of Israel will continue to prove to its neighbors that we can deal with existential security challenges and still be a democracy. That we can hold a sword in one hand and still see the principle of Jewish and democratic as the greatest of all; human dignity and liberty as a sacred value.

"Your Excellence the 11th president, my good friend Isaac. I am placing in your safekeeping this dear people. The Israeli people as a whole. May it be your companion in love, understanding and knowledge. In the ‘tribes speech’ I prayed that I would have the honor to learn and teach, of listening, partnership and hope. I wish all of these for you, too. In the Talmud, the changing of the guard in the temple is described, with the new guard replacing the old. Our sages had a special blessing for this occasion, and there is nothing more appropriate for the changeover of presidents of Israel. It says, ‘the outgoing priestly watch would say to the incoming priestly watch: May He who caused His Name to dwell in this house cause love and fellowship, peace and camaraderie to dwell among you.’ (Brachot 12a).

"My fellow Israelis, you are the neshama hayetera, the additional soul, of the State of Israel. Thank you for the privilege you gave me to serve as the tenth President of the State of Israel. Thank you for the countless moments of enormous excitement, of laughter and tears, of love, of vision and hope. Thank you to my Nechama, who I miss every single day. Thank you to my sons and daughters, to my grandsons and granddaughters. Now I will return to being your father and grandfather, with tremendous pride.

"I was nine years old when the State of Israel was established. I saw the Israeli flag, blue and white, flying on the flagpole then. For me, the State of Israel will never be something I take for granted. Long live the eleventh President of the State of Israel. Long live the State of Israel.”