Friday, February 26, 2010

Netanyahu calls Heritage Program ‘an exercise in survival’

(jerusalemdispatch).“Now we’re in Jerusalem and we have to teach the Children of Zion about Zion and about the Land of Israel,” Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu told the Board of Governors of the Jewish Agency early this week at the Inbal Hotel in Jerusalem, as he promoted the recently unveiled Heritage Program.

Cabinet Secretary Zvi Hauser’s “Heritage Program” calls for government investment in restoring hundreds of historic sites, museums and archives, and in building two trails between archaeological sites and landmark stations from the era of the Yishuv, the pre-state Jewish community. New technologies will be used to bring the younger generation closer to the past.

A senior government official said the government has not embarked on an effort of this kind to impart Israeli and Jewish heritage since the early days of the state.

According to Netanyahu, the investment carries a hefty price tag. “I’ve always found that people take you seriously only if you spend money. Well, we’re spending money on this,” he told the Board of Governors during the three-day conference.

“I think this is not merely an exercise in education. I think it’s an exercise in survival, because I think this is a key part of the history and the mystery of the Jews. It’s because we wanted to come back. It’s because we broke the laws of history. It’s because we said while we were strewn to the four corners of the world, absolutely powerless, absolutely defenseless – we said – ‘We will come back – next year in Jerusalem.’”

Continuing his focus on the capital city as the center of world Jewry, the Prime Minister said, “It’s because young Ethiopians who walked from Ethiopia – many of them losing their brothers and sisters – they said ‘Next Year in Jerusalem.’ It’s because the last people in the Warsaw Ghetto standing up against impossible odds said ‘Next Year in Jerusalem.’ And some of them died saying it, and some of them escaped and are here. It’s because this happened not only in the Warsaw Ghetto, it happened in the Ghetto of Toledo hundreds of years before that.

“This is a great power. But now we’re in Jerusalem and we have to teach the Children of Zion about Zion and about the Land of Israel – the Children of Israel about the Land of Israel and about the People of Israel, about our connection and our unique commitment to our past and to our future in this land and to each other.”

According to website Israel News, Netanyahu’s effort to revitalize Jewish consciousness in Israel and abroad stems from deep-seated concerns. Last week his speech at the Herzliya Conference was devoted to the danger of national collapse.

“Our existence depends not only on a weapons system, our military strength, the strength of our economy, our innovation, our exports,” he said. “It depends, first and foremost, on the knowledge and national sentiment we as parents bestow on our children, and we as a state bestow on our education system. It depends on our culture; it depends on our cultural heroes; it depends on our ability to explain the justness of our path and demonstrate our affinity for our land – first to ourselves and then to others. We must remind ourselves that if our feeling of serving a higher purpose dissipates, if our sources of spiritual strength grow weak, then…our future will also be unclear.”