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President’s Speech

Speech by Dr. Danny Lamm, President, Zionist Council of Victoria for Yom Ha’atzmaut 61

Eli Yerushalmi – Deputy Chief of Mission, Embassy of Israel
The Hon James Merlino – Minister assisting the Premier on Multicultural Affairs, representing the Premier of Victoria
Michael Danby, Member for Melbourne Ports
Victorian parliamentarians: Martin Pakula MP, Tony Lupton MP, Helen Shardey MP and Jennifer Huppert MLC
Partners, Patrons and Corporate Sponsors,
Community Leaders

I would like to acknowledge the traditional custodians of the land on which we are gathered, and pay my respects to their elders past and present.
It is still Yom Hazikaron in Israel – we recall that without the valiant contribution of the IDF, we would not be able to celebrate Yom Ha’atzmaut. WE recall those who lost their lives in Israel’s wars, and those who have fallen to terrorists.
This year numbered amongst Israel’s fallen, is the greatest benefactor from Australia to Israel and to the Jewish community here, and I regret to announce the passing tonight of Richard Pratt.
Just as in Israel there is a transfer from the sombre commemoration to the exuberance of celebration of Yom Ha’atzmaut – we too now move from our grief to celebration.
Chag Sameach and – welcome to Melbourne’s celebration of Israel’s 61st Yom Ha’atzmaut.
60 years last year.

We were expecting a bumper year and we got it – the celebrations continued both here and in Israel. But there were also many emerging situations that Israel had to deal with for which it required wisdom. Pirkei Avot – Ethics of our Fathers teaches us that ben shishim le’zikna, zikna meaning not old age but rather ze shekana hochma  – one who has acquired wisdom.
With the age of 60, one attains wisdom and I believe Israel has demonstrated that in so many ways this year.
In the north – Israel has regained its deterrence to the threat of Hezbollah.
In the south – Israel dealt a heavy blow to Hamas in Gaza, while maintaining the highest ethical standards in a difficult war in urban environs.
With Durban 2  – Israel joined Canada in leading the way – by boycotting this so called anti racism conference and encouraging the withdrawal of many other nations, amongst whom Australia was one. We are grateful that our Government took this principled decision to boycott what proved to be an utter fiasco. That leads to our arch enemy, Ahmadinejad of Iran, who continues to provoke Israel with his racist anti-Zionist rhetoric and threats of annihilation.
Israel has developed and successfully tested her anti-ballistic missile systems and stands ready for the challenge – from Iran, from the Syrian-Iranian – Hezbollah nexus.

On the foreign affairs scene, Israel and Egypt have forged closer ties. Israel’s new government coalition led by PM Bibi Netanyahu has made it clear that it seeks peace but not at any price/

And finally, so far Israel has coped well in the global economic meltdown, as its banking systems have held up well.

We too have not been idle and the Zionist movement has been active in our promotion of Israel and in her defence.

Israel has been vilified and pilloried by her opponents. Israel faces powerfully negative media, is caught within the vice of the world’s dependence on oil rich countries and an increasingly hostile attitude from many political quarters.

Long gone are the days when Israel was perceived by the world as David against the Goliath of the combined forces of her aggressive Arab neighbours. It is especially in times like this that we need to celebrate what Israel has achieved, what the very notion of an independent Jewish state means for the Jewish people.
Tonight, we also celebrate the deep connections and affection between Israel and Australia between their governments and their people, between the State of Victoria and the State of Israel. We recall that last year, Premier Brumby addressed us at the 60th Yom Ha’atzmaut.
We here in Melbourne enjoy the tremendous privilege of living in a community which is arguably the most stridently Zionist in the diaspora – measurable by the level of Zionist activities which take place here every week, the financial support provided per capita, perhaps the highest in the world, the fact that we have six vibrant Zionist youth movements and four excellent Zionist schools operating and perhaps most significantly, an enviable Aliya rate.

Despite the distance and the long hours of travel between Tullamarine and Ben Gurion airports, our two homes are linked by common values – democracy, education, the rule of law and the primacy of human rights. These, together with technologies largely developed by Israel such as MSN, mobile telephones and now an electric car, have made the distances shorter.

This year’s Yom Ha’atzmaut celebrations in Israel and through the world celebrate the centenary of Tel Aviv. Tel Aviv represents the growth and development of the modern State of Israel. From a tiny township nestling in the sand dunes of the Mediterranean, to a bustling city, with world renowned architecture, Tel Aviv is at the cutting edge of art and culture, technology, trade and scientific endeavour, and I particularly applaud the Australian Jewish News for its coverage of Tel Aviv’s anniversary in its last edition.

I would like to take the opportunity to thank the supporters of this event – especially companies and individuals who so generously contributed as Partners, Patrons and Corporate Sponsors – all of whom are acknowledged in your programs.

To the Zionist Council of Victoria Office Bearers and Executive, and to the production team, who have worked tirelessly on the event, thank you. To Ginette Searle, Elly Shalev and the ZCV staff, to Michael Jankie, Adam Starr, Guy Dvir Ovadia, Deborah Leiser Moore and all the cast – the orchestra, vocalists, vocal ensemble, dance troupes and flag dancers  – thank you for your dedication and commitment to making this event the very best. I would also like to thank the Community Security Group for their wonderful, voluntary contribution.

May our promotion of Israel and our relationships with Israel continue to grow, prosper and strengthen. We must continue to take up the challenges presented to us, to remain staunch and proud in our commitment to Israel, and of course, to whole heartedly celebrate the fact that we are, as we sing in the Hatikva – a free people in our own land.

And now – to our concert. This year, we present to you the best of our wonderful local talent – across all the generations. I hope you will enjoy what promises to be a night of brilliant entertainment, with the largest Yom Ha’atzmaut cast assembled in Melbourne!

Chag Sameach