Israeli President Isaac Herzog and First Lady Michal Herzog on Monday visited the city of Ramle, accompanied by Ramle Mayor Michael Vidal.
The President and the First Lady began their visit by meeting local teenagers from both the Jewish and Arab communities and conducting an open conversation with them about coexistence in a mixed city, their activities there, and their aspirations for the future.
The students are all participants in Alumot, a three-year program run in collaboration between Jewish and Arab schools belonging to the ORT network. Its purpose is to build ties between Jewish and Arab pupils on the basis of shared learning and activities in the community.
One twelfth-grade student told President Herzog and the First Lady: “Participating in this program is a crazy, empowering, and exciting experience. We’ve been working together for three years. At first everything was amorphous but our partnership spread across the city and the community. The first encounters were awkward but what connected us was culture — music, songs, and food. We came to an understanding that we are Ramlaites, not Jews or Arabs. The most significant part was during Operation Guardian of the Walls. We didn’t give up and we stuck to our agenda even if it was on Zoom.”
A student from the Arab community said: “I want to tell you briefly about the process and experience we have been through. The process started with encounters between the two cultures; we met at both schools once every few months. Now that it’s over, I have the courage to speak in a language that isn’t my mother tongue without being afraid of making mistakes. I met new students from a different culture. I was exposed to a different culture, and although I’m a shy girl, it’s easier for me to cope nowadays.”
President Herzog answered the students, saying: “It’s very important to give a sense that both men and women are running the world together. We were very happy to hear both of you speak and describe your experiences. Everyone has his own internal identity, his own faith in which he is proud — his own family story and worldview. This is obvious to us. Safeguard your identity, but moreover, we live in a world of human beings, and every human being was created in the image of God, and we are all ultimately children of Abraham. Our religious diversity is wonderful! You here in this city are the most beautiful example of shared life.”
The President added: “I want to show that in the Land of Israel, the Holy Land, there is a diversity in life, and this is an advantage for us. Not a problem. We used to think that it was the problem, but it is not a problem at all. We can introduce each other to ideas, work together, and create a world power here. This country creates great opportunities for coexistence, and it has a wonderful story that is reflected to the whole world, because this is where the three great religions came from, and this is an enormous advantage.”
First Lady Michal Herzog added: “This city is going from strength to strength. It gladdens my heart to see you here together. As soon as we get to know each other, we cannot create more stereotypes. We are all human beings.”
Later, the President and the First Lady took part in a joint event with members of the Ramle City Council and the city’s religious leadership. Finally, they visited the St. Nicodemus and St. Joseph of Arimathea Church in Ramle.
Ramle Mayor Michael Vidal said: “Mr. President, welcome to Ramle, a world city! As you have already seen, Ramle is a unique city. It is a lighthouse of coexistence, and of diverse cultures and communities. It is no coincidence that the city, under my leadership, has won two presidential Israeli Hope awards. We are investing much in excellence, innovation, education, social initiatives, and local culture. In addition, the city is being transformed and becoming the metropolis of the Shfela region, with projects such as the move of the enlistment bureau to Ramle, the construction of Israel’s blood bank in Ramle, the 'Quick into the City' project, the establishment of the Brown Line and four metro stations, and the construction of a huge employment center (Terminal 6), which will transform our reality in this area, and more.”