Sunday, February 21, 2010

PM Netanyahu's Remarks at Today's Cabinet Meeting at Tel Hai: Our existence anchored in national sentiment

Following are Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's remarks at the start of
the weekly Cabinet meeting today (Sunday), 21.2.10:

"Good morning mayors, council heads and ministers.

Our existence here in our country depends not only on the strength of the
IDF and our economic and technological might. It is anchored, first and
foremost, in our national and emotional legacy, which we instill in our
youth and in the coming generations. It depends on cultural heroes and
national symbols. It depends on our ability to recognize and explain the
justice of our cause, and to underscore our links to the Land, first and
foremost, to ourselves as well as to others. Therefore, I am honored to
open today's Cabinet meeting at Tel Hai, during the week in which we
commemorate the 90th anniversary of the heroic battle in which Joseph
Trumpeldor and his seven comrades fell, here at this site.

Today, we are due to approve a comprehensive plan, the largest ever, to
strengthen the national heritage infrastructures of the State of Israel. We
will do four things:

We will rehabilitate archaeological and Zionist heritage sites. We will
build and enrich archives and museums. We are talking about approximately
150 sites.

We are due to invest almost NIS 400 million, with the assistance of 16
Government ministries. We will create two trails: An historical trail of
archaeological sites from the Biblical, Second Temple and other eras in the
history of the Land of Israel and a trail of the Israeli experience that
joins the main sites which relate the history of a People's return to its

We are at Tel Hai. Many of you are from Tel Aviv. Many young people are in
Tel Aviv. They are familiar with Rothschild Boulevard and enjoy street
presentations, festivals and nights out on the town. They enjoy pubs, cafes
and the many contemporary cultural treasures to be found there, and this is
good. It is good that the city is open to the world and good that the city
is alive and moving forward. But at 16 Rothschild Boulevard, there is a
small auditorium in which the State of Israel was declared. There, David
Ben-Gurion, Israel's first Prime Minister, declared the State of Israel.

The hall is run-down. I am not saying that it is about to fall over but as
far as the many young people and others, who flock to the street, to
Rothschild Boulevard, are concerned, they do not know it. They do not visit
it at all. And therefore, we will rehabilitate Independence Hall. From
there to Tel Hai, north and south, we will enrich the State of Israel and
its heritage so that Israeli families will be able to follow the historical
trail and the Israeli experience trail, and become familiar with and
strengthen their ties with this Land.

I think that this has been long overdue. We started during my first term as
Prime Minister, with the rehabilitation of 50 heritage sites, including this
site. The rehabilitation that you see here came about as the result of that
decision. But we will expand this to 150 sites. These sites include the
Hebrew song archives and old films that relate the history of the early
Zionist communities here, as well as writings, paintings and many other
things that we want to save.

I think that this project is of the highest national value and, for at least
some of the sites that have to do with global cultural assets, of the
highest international value.

People must be familiar with their homeland and its cultural and historical
vistas. This is what we will instill in this and coming generations, to the
glory - if I may say - of the Jewish People.

Today, we will also make a separate decision on a new building for the
National Library. This is the largest and most important reservoir of
Hebrew literature and manuscripts in the world. We know that there too,
pages are turning into dust. A new place and new means are necessary in
order to both preserve and enable access to these treasures. We will use
digitization and other 21st-century means to save our cultural assets.

We will also make this decision. To this end, Yad Hanadiv (the Rothschild
Foundation) has made a very generous donation. I am very grateful to them
and I thank them on our behalf.

I would like to thank all those ministers who are aiding this important
project, i.e. all ministers. I would also like to thank Cabinet Secretary
Tzvi Hauser for advancing these two plans. Let us begin our work.

I would like to add three short comments.

1) The list of sites submitted here is neither closed nor final. It can and
will certainly include other sites. I also intend to include Rachel's Tomb,
to the rehabilitation of which the Jewish Agency has allocated NIS 20
million, and the Tomb of the Patriarchs. Since I was asked, I would like to
make my intentions clear, and this is what will be.

2) The donations that we are talking about here are earmarks. The list
submitted here is the Government's earmarked budget, even though we hope to
receive the assistance of many other elements.

3) We will meet again this week in order to approve the national
transportation plan that will join the Galilee and the other parts of the
State of Israel in an accessible national transportation grid, and which
will - inter alia - bring people to this wonderful place. I think that it
will greatly contribute to bringing the periphery closer to the center and
vice-versa, itself a great economic contribution.

Lastly, I would like to add a personal note. Since my childhood, I have
been drawn to this place, this region, because my father came here in 1920.
I think it took him several days to go from the Tel Aviv-Jaffa area to Rosh
Pina. After a year, they went to Safed and in 1920 they came here. In
1923, my father was injured. He was 13 and he broke his hand. He was taken
to hospital in Safed and there treated by the same doctor who treated Joseph
Trumpeldor here. Since my youth, I have heard these stories.

What is necessary, I think, is to tell this story, this Israeli and Zionist
heroism, and the stories that both enliven history and give a true picture
of what happened here and represent our deep links to this Land, which have
endured for thousands of years and have continued, during the last 150
years, into the modern era. We must instill this story in our children so
that they will instill it in their children. This is the tie that binds.
Today, we will significantly strengthen it."