"One of history's greatest empires, the biggest one, was the Soviet Union. At the height of its dominion, brave men and women – many of them Jewish – challenged this enormous power with the force of their conviction, faith and raw courage. And foremost among them was my friend and your patron, Natan Sharansky. Natan was put in jail, in a cellar, before being put on trial and sentenced to a long prison term. The judges asked him what he had to say on his behalf and he answered: “I have nothing to say to you, but to my wife Avital and to my people, I say – Next Year in Jerusalem!”
That’s a pretty important statement, and it expresses the basic idea.
You and your parents are all young. But your grandparents and great-grandparents remember a world without a State of Israel. It was a very different place and, for generations, Jews hoped for a change. They prayed and yearned for only one thing – “Next Year in Jerusalem!”
62 years ago, the most remarkable transformation in the history of any nation took place. A "dead" people resurrected itself and returned to Zion. They rebuilt their national life, their state and their army, and reassumed control of their collective destiny. This is the story of the Jewish people, and it's unlike the story of any other nation in history. Many other peoples have disappeared. In fact, most of the nations we know from antiquity no longer exist. Many were exiled or dispossessed, and many were killed. No people has ever come back from the dead. But this is our people and, through a remarkable transformation in our history, we have recreated the Jewish state – with its own government, territory, army and amazing economy. There's still more to do, but we're doing better than many of the places you’ve come from.
You may be too young to know this, but 20 years ago, people used to say that it’s impossible to do business in Israel. And we would reply that Israel can actually be an attractive place – a home for Jewish business, Jewish entrepreneurs and brainpower. We could even envision Jews making money in Israel. You’re not laughing, but this used to be a joke. It isn't anymore. Today, we have a country, a government, an army and a thriving economy, and we’re quickly becoming a global power in technology.
This is all crucial, but it’s not enough. The most important thing is our spirit, and the most critical part of spirit is identity. And there's a great revolution taking place right now within the Jewish world. It's a revolution of spirit and identity – and you’re all a part of it. I salute you for being here and expanding awareness – your personal awareness and that of young Jews everywhere. What a privilege it is to be a member of the Jewish people! What a privilege it is to come to the Jewish State! What a privilege it is to shape the future of the Jewish people! These are all great privileges.
How do we strengthen identity? By appreciating who we are. Studying our past to understand our present and chart our future. Suppose you didn’t know your family. Suppose you didn’t know the story of your parents – where they came from, what they did. If you grew up isolated from your personal history, you’d be a very different person, very confined and narrow. And you’d be missing a tremendously important part of your identity – who you are and what you can be.
We share a collective identity and a great history, not like that of any other nation. It goes back almost four thousand years. Imagine that you didn't know about it. Imagine that you had such a privilege, but weren't aware of it. What we’re doing right now, all of us together, is making people conscious of our rich past. And once you know the past, you can understand how the Jewish people has arrived here. We can shape our future. But you can only know where you’re going, if you know where you've come from.
We all came from here. And we all come back to here. And I want you to consider this fact: Your identity is not simply a function of your individual character. Your uniqueness, part of your unique identity, is also a function of your membership in the Jewish people.
And I also want you to consider how you feel. You’ve already been here for a while and had an opportunity to see the country and participate in various programs. But you've had another opportunity – whether you've come from the United States, Canada, France, Russia, Mexico or Australia
These are all great countries, but this is your country. This is your country! And when you walk here, I'm sure you don’t even wonder who else around you is Jewish. Right? It’s a perfectly natural question, but not one that you ask here – because this is your country. There are other countries that are also free and democratic, but this is your country! This is your Jerusalem! This is your home!
So I just have one request.– Explore your deeper self and ask yourself – I know that this is a tough question for someone who is only 18 or 22 – where you feel most at home. The time you've spent here has been valuable, but I think you'll find even greater value in deciding to stay here permanently. We invite you to join us in building the future of the Jewish people in our land. Welcome home to the Land of Israel, the State of Israel and Jerusalem."