Finance Minister Bezalel Smotrich spoke on Sunday at the Israel Bonds conference being held in Washington, DC.
At the start of his remarks, Smotrich thanked all those present, on behalf of the Ministry of Finance and the Israeli government, for their meaningful investment in Israel.
He told the attendees about his background, noting that his grandfather Yaakov managed to escape to Israel before the Holocaust, while his parents drowned on an immigration ship, the Mafkora, on their way to Israel and never made it.
“My late Grandmother Bruria survived the horrible events of the Holocaust, living in the ghetto, and the death marches. Her entire family perished during the war. She alone made it to Israel.”
“My late Grandmother Sara, was born over a century ago in Metula, a settlement in the north of Israel, to a family of pioneers. My late Grandfather Shimon, was the 13th generation of my family to call Jerusalem their home,” he continued.
“I am another link in this chain of generations, defined by exile and redemption. Of survival and pioneering. Creating deep roots and finding fulfillment,” said Smotrich, who pointed out how, for 2,000 years, Jews were not allowed to have their own state or to invest in a country of their own. “And yet, Jews around the world held on to the hope that our dream would one day become real.”
“This moment in the history of Israel is a miracle. And for more than 70 years, Israel Bonds investors like you have helped make our Jewish State a reality. But, there is still work to be done, so don’t stop investing!” he urged those present.
“With Israel Bonds, you give us funds to build. By providing a strong return, never missing a payment, and creating a powerful country, we show you how good an investment you made. And your investment does more than help us build. When you buy an Israel Bond, you are also saying to those that follow BDS that they need to go find something else to fill their time with,” continued Smotrich.
“Since Israel Bonds began, it has raised about $50 billion for the State of Israel. And we are using these funds to make Israel better each day.”
He noted his work since taking office in improving Israel.
“In the past few months, as the Finance Minister, I have been doing my part to improve Israel. I aim to battle the cost of living, increase competition, and accelerate much-needed investment in infrastructure throughout Israel. I am taking every step to ensure we remain fiscally sound and economically secure.”
“My focus over the past few months has been on crafting and passing a budget that is focused on strong growth and building up infrastructure to improve productivity,” continued Smotrich, who stressed, “We are building this country for all its people. Jews and Arabs alike benefit from the goodness that exists in the State of Israel.”
He then commented on “the elephant in the room,” that being his recent comments for the Arab village of Huwara to be “wiped out,” which caused an uproar.
“As I have already said and written and repeat now with sincere regret, my comments about Huwara created a completely mistaken impression. I stand before you now as always committed to the security of the state of Israel, to our shared values, and to the highest moral commitment of our armed forces to protect every innocent life, Jew or Arab,” stated Smotrich.
“It was only a few decades ago that Israel was filled with swamps, and malaria was spreading. Today our country is at the forefront of the world stage in technological, economic, and social development,” he continued.
“And if that isn’t enough, all of this was built under constant attack from neighboring countries and terrorism. But thanks to faith and action - and thanks to you - the Jewish State is getting better every day and your investments support us,” said Smotrich.
“My key message for you today is a simple one: thank you. Thank you for being our partner and believing in us. I also thank all of you for the unquestionable connection between Israel and Diaspora Judaism.”
He acknowledged that “Judaism has always known controversies. We can even say it was built on controversies,” but added, “Disagreement is not something that should scare us. On the contrary, it enriches us.”
“There are among us religious and secular people, reform, conservative, unaffiliated, and others. In Israel, we have big differences, but for one moment we must not forget that we are brothers.”
“Despite all of the differences, despite the many colors that make up the Jewish mosaic, we are one,” he stressed. “We have common goals of tikkun olam (lit. repairing the world) and each of us seeks to fulfill that goal from a different angle - together I have no doubt that we will succeed.”
“Last week, and in the last few months in general, we have heard a lot of harsh words – talks of boycotts and violence. Let me say, this has no place between our countries and between our people,” stressed Smotrich.
“The alliance between Israel and the US is one of values, equality, democracy, and inclusion. This alliance is not just with Republicans or Democrats. It is not with only the right or left wing. It is an alliance of values that fight evil by adding light. Sadly, at times we all pay a heavy price for this alliance,” he continued.
“My advisor Eytan is sitting here with you. Four years ago he lost his brother, Ari Fuld, while Ari was simply doing his Holiday shopping, two days before Yom Kippur. Ari was born and raised in New York. In the 8th grade, he even traveled to Washington DC for his annual school trip.”
“His childhood was in New York, but once he arrived in Israel, he fell in love. Ari joined the IDF and stayed in Israel. He married Miriam and they had four lovely children. Ari dedicated his life to telling the true story of the State of Israel and spreading light to all those around him.”
“But then, that fateful day came and Ari was murdered by a vile terrorist. But I am here to tell you tonight, have no doubt that his light - and yours - and ours – is one that no one will be able to extinguish!”
“This light will never go out,” stated Smotrich. “This is the light that sanctifies life, the light that seeks to blossom the wilderness, the light that seeks to build and not destroy, the same light that built the American nation and built the State of Israel. Ari’s light is your light. And in this light we are partners.”
“True, there are difficulties along the way and they are painful. But even with these, I sometimes pinch myself to make sure I'm not in a dream. Then I remember my grandmother and I know - I am indeed in a dream… a dream that is coming true,” he said.
“70 years after my grandmother drowned on the Mafkora, her grandson arrived in Washington, as a minister in the Israeli government. He has come to address Israel Bonds. To speak to Americans who invest their time, money, and energy in the State of Israel.”
“Is this not a miracle on the scale of the exodus from Egypt? What would my grandmothers say? What would their families who never made it to Israel think?”
“How could they even imagine me here? What would they think of a sovereign Jewish country that leads in the fields of high-tech and agriculture? A state that cares about environmental protection, green energy? A powerful Jewish State that has a mighty military to protect it and all of its inhabitants? Tell me, is this not a miracle?”
“A miracle of the rise of Israel in its own land, a miracle of the vision of the prophets that create ever-stronger light, a miracle that generations have dreamed of. A miracle that today we see before our eyes as we continue the construction of each new floor in the building of our nation. A miracle that you and I are privileged to be part of.”
Finally, said Smotrich, “And for this miracle, we should bless each new day that we live this incredible dream! Shehecheyanu, v'kiy'manu, v'higiyanu laz'man hazeh. Thank you very much for this partnership!”