ISRAEL POLITICAL BRIEF
ISRAEL POLITICAL BRIEF: ISRAEL NEWS
Prime Minister Netanyahu’s address to Hadassah
I am deeply honored to receive this award. You may not know this but I went to elementary school which was called Henrietta Szold Elementary School. So I am following Hadassah’s footsteps. I am touched by this, and I could see that you made every effort to keep me out of American politics.
But there was one picture there, or several of those photographs, that touched on a special day. This is the one year… One year ago that our kidnapped soldier Gilad Shalit returned home sound and safe.
This is a principle that Hadassah embodies. It’s a deep value in our people, that we are all responsible for each other. Kol Yisrael arevim ze lazeh. You know that, you understand that. So you can understand the Hebrew that I’ll say:
[translation] All of Israel is responsible for one another. Today we mark one year to the return of Gilad Shalit home, and we can say to Gilad how good it is that you came home. [end translation]
It’s good to have you back home.
[translation] On this day, our enemies celebrate death and terrorism. We will continue to fight them and we will continue to celebrate life. [end translation]
I want to say to all of you, past presidents of Hadassah, good friends, to the women of Hadassah: I came here tonight remembering something that my father, who passed away last year, told me.
He said if you want to understand the power of women, look at Hadassah.
I came here to say thank you.
First, to thank you for 100 years of partnership in building the Jewish state. Because for the last century, Hadassah has always been there in times of need.
When there was an opportunity to rescue Jewish children from the Holocaust— Hadassah was there.
When immigrant children, in the first decades of our State and afterwards, needed homes, they needed support— Hadassah was there.
When Israel needed teachers and nurses— Hadassah was there.
When Israel needed medical care— Hadassah was there.
So I thank you for being there. Not just being there, for doing all these tremendous things over so many years, and they’ve made such a difference.
The second thing I want to thank you is for making Hadassah Hospital one of the leading medical organizations in the world.
Last year, Hadassah treated over one million patients. Absolutely amazing.
The research conducted at Hadassah is improving the lives of tens of millions of people around the world.
Your innovative research in stem cells, curing heart disease, Parkinson’s, MS – this is changing the lives of millions, hundreds of millions. It’s really contributing to mankind and to womankind (you always have to include both today). I’ll get to that point later.
You are also breaking new ground in the fight against diabetes.
So I want to thank you for the changes that you’ve made in the lives of so many by giving this fantastic medical treatment.
Third, I also came to express personal thanks.
As I said to you, I lost both my father and my father-in-law last year.
As their health deteriorated, they were treated in Hadassah Hospital. I saw not merely the healthcare they were receiving. I saw the attentive hearts, unbelievable dedication. I was so impressed by the doctors, by the nurses, by the staff, so I want to express these thanks on behalf of myself and my wife Sara and our children.
And on a somewhat lighter note, this past summer, I hurt my leg playing soccer in a joint Jewish-Arab team.
Don’t ask… I was well into my 62nd year. I was 62, but I thought I was still 26.
I’ve learned that I’m better suited in playing in other fields.
The UN General Assembly may not exactly be our home court, but at least you don’t tear your Achilles ligament there.
In any case, thanks to the terrific treatment I received again in Hadassah, the only permanent damage was to my pride.
Ladies and Gentlemen,
Well, mostly ladies,
I am honored to be with you tonight. I am honored to receive this prestigious award.
Henrietta Szold once told a sculptor: “Make my eyes look to the future.”
She was a woman of remarkable vision.
But even she could not imagine the dramatic change that would occur in the condition of the Jewish people and the Jewish state.
When Henrietta Szold died in 1945, the Jewish people were a downcast, powerless people, victimized by every evil under the sun.
Today, we are a proud sovereign people with the power to defend ourselves.
In 1945, the emerging Jewish state was basically an agricultural economy, just getting by.
Today, Israel is a global high tech power that produces Nobel Prize winners, a lot of Nobel Prize winners.
Israel has come a long way. But as Henrietta Szold so well understood, we must always keep our eyes looking towards the future.
I see a future where Israel is secure, our economy prospers and where we provide for those most in need.
I am proud that in the two terms and nearly seven years I have served and had the privilege of serving as Israel’s Prime Minister, I have been able to keep Israel safe.
I am proud that we were able to create hundreds of thousands of new jobs in Israel, in recent years during one the worst crises in the global economy. It’s actually the worst crisis in 80 years.
And I am proud that we have been able to reduce the social gaps in Israel for the first time in the last two years. The inequality index started reversing. We have a long way to go, but it’s a good trend.
We achieved that by raising the minimum wage; by providing free education from the age of 3; by increased salaries to teachers, doctors, police officers, firefighters, social workers.
We’re encouraging parents of small children to work by giving them tax benefits and introducing a negative income tax.
We’re providing a year of free university studies in Jerusalem, the Negev and the Galilee, to those who served in the IDF. This is the Israeli GI Bill of Rights. We’re going to expand it.
And here’s something that I know is dear to your hearts, because we’re doing it with you. I am proud that in the last four years we have invested in improving Israel’s healthcare system.
Mind you, it’s ranked sixth in the world. And you have something to do with it, but we try to help.
We gave a well-deserved pay increase to the doctors; we are adding 1,000 hospital beds. This is after a decade where no hospital beds were added. This is important and I know you built a building to accept some of those. Tremendous. I remember we talked about it. You came to me and said: we’re going to build a tower, what do you say? And I said: Build it.
And you have, because no-one can underestimate the power of Hadassah women. You can achieve remarkable things.
Along the same vision, for the first time in nearly forty years, we created a new medical school – this one in Tzfat, in the Galilee. I’m sure it will have tremendous cooperation with you. It’s important: we need more doctors. You think the Jewish state has enough Jewish doctors? Jewish and non-Jewish? The answer is no. We need more.
Elsewhere in Israel’s periphery, we opened a dozen emergency care centers and increased the number of MRI machines.
We invested hundreds of millions of shekels to give free dental care to children under 12. That’s a mark of an advanced society.
We are subsidizing hearing aids – 45 million shekels.
We even cancelled the annual fee for Tipat Chalav, the famous baby clinics which, you may not know, were started by Hadassah. We want to keep them going and we think we have to continue to invest in that.
What I’m saying to you, dear friends, is that for a century, Hadassah has been Israel’s partner, and the partner of the Zionist movement in preparing the ground and then in building the Jewish state.
And Hadassah will continue to be Israel’s partner in the coming century.
One thing I can promise you about that future is that as long as I am Prime Minister, I will never tolerate discrimination against women.
Perhaps more than anything else, it is Israel’s treatment of women that separates it from the medieval forces who threaten us in our region.
Those forces want to keep women in darkness; they want to deprive women of education; they want to deny women their most elementary rights.
But in Israel, we are proud that women enjoy every right because they are human beings, so they deserve every human right. They have served, they are part of us.
Women have served at the heads of every branch of government –
You know one – Golda Meir served as Prime Minister of Israel; Dorit Beinish served as the Chief Justice of Israel; my colleague Dalia Itzik served as the Speaker of the Knesset and we’ve also had women heading the opposition… That’s not a branch of government. This is important.
Not only have women been equal partners in building Israel. Women have been partners in defending Israel.
Last week I toured the security fence that we’re building along the Sinai border and I met there some soldiers.
I want to show you a picture.
See these soldiers? They belong to a unit that stopped a terrorist infiltration a few days ago. They’re absolutely wonderful.
Those in Israel who think a woman’s place is only in the home, they don’t get it. In Israel, women defend our homes.
As I said last year at a ceremony in which we had air force cadets finishing their pilot school training, and there were five female pilots there that earned their wings. I said there that in Israel, women not only sit in the fighter pilot’s seat, they’ll sit anywhere they want.
Never underestimate the power and resourcefulness of dedicated women. I remember that. You remember that. You embody that.
What Hadassah has done is to give life to this deep power, these reserves of will and dedication and love, and we return that love to you today.
I want to thank you for a century of friendship and partnership.
Thank you for a century of research and medicine.
Thank you for a century of care and compassion.
Thank you for a century of standing up proudly for the one and only Jewish state.
Thank you Hadassah.