More than 300 politicians, foreign diplomats, members of the judiciary and journalists joined distinguished leaders of the Melbourne Jewish and Zionist communities to celebrate the 68th anniversary of Israel’s Independence Day.
Held on Wednesday 8 June 2016, the annual Israel Independence Day Cocktail Reception was hosted by Zionism Victoria and the Jewish Community Council of Victoria’s (JCCV). The event was co-hosted by the State Government of Victoria through its Office of Multicultural Affairs and Citizenship.
Zionism Victoria’s Vice President Jeff Morrison, who stepped in for President Sharene Hambur, sent a powerful and realistic message to those gathered when discussing the current Middle East political landscape and the way forward “The best route for peace may be through mutually beneficial relationships and grass root engagement rather than through externally imposed conditions and timetables”. Mr Morrison went on to invite the guests to consider a visit to Israel “There is no better way to improve your understanding of the challenges and to see the success story that is Israel than by visiting the country”.
Opening his address to the guests, the Premier of Victoria, the Hon. Daniel Andrews, confirmed the respect and recognition of the entire Parliament for Israel and the Victorian Jewish community “There are ministerial and parliamentary colleagues here from all sides of the aisle and that speaks volumes for the strong support…for the State of Israel, its security and its future. It is a very clear statement that all of us acknowledges and respects the contribution that Victoria’s Jewish community has made and continues to make across our vibrant state.”
In proposing the Toast to the State of Israel, The Premier declared that “on the 68th anniversary… we still long for the day when Israel is regarded just like any other country on our earth. A country whose sovereignty is never under question and whose existence is never in jeopardy. A country who is recognised and respected, valued and certain that it can exist within defendable clearly defined and strong borders”. He continued “I think each of us wish for that day, profoundly. And tonight is an opportunity for us with clarity and precision to explain and to be proud of our support for Israel and all that Israel stands for in its region and in our world”.
The Leader of the Opposition, the Hon. Matthew Guy singled out the democratic values of Israeli society to the attendees. “Where [else in the Middle East] would you find…a court structure that didn’t judge people upon their religion or their background but based on their merit? That’s what you find in Israel. Where else [in the Middle East] would you find a country that does have tolerance and a strong gay community… a night culture, education for both genders from young age to old. Israel has built itself to be a modern contemporary country and it has faced many challenges to get there.”
The Ambassador of Israel to Australia, His Excellency Shmuel Ben-Shmuel, reflected on the miracle that is the State of Israel and what lies at the heart of making it the great nation it is today, “The fact that after two millennia of being exiled to a life of persecution and tragedy, we regrouped as a people, returned to our ancient land and formed a vibrant, modern, democratic Jewish nation, is truly without precedent in human history.”
His Excellency continued, “instead of gold or oil or gas, Israel has mined the wealth of its 8 million citizens; nurturing and developing their talent, energy and intelligence to achieve widespread prosperity.”
The Cocktail Reception affords the opportunity for Jewish community leaders to meet a distinguished list of Victorian dignitaries, as well as both state and federal politicians. It also reaffirms and strengthens the strong positive relationship with Victoria’s key political action makers, business and community leaders. As The President of the Jewish Community Council of Victoria, Jennifer Huppert stated “we welcome the comments that The Premier made about the contribution made by the Jewish Community to Victoria, the community appreciate the support [it] has from the leadership in Victoria”. Ms Huppert went on to state “we appreciate that we live in a strong multicultural society where members of the diverse Jewish community can express themselves…in the multiple ways they choose to”.