SEVENTY years of independence for Israel – a state that embodies “the best of Jewish tradition, free speech and debate, innovation, ingenuity and above all else, resilience”, according to NSW Premier Gladys Berejiklian – was celebrated at a Yom Ha’atzmaut reception on Monday night with over 700 attendees including political figures and interfaith leaders.
Berejiklian referred to Israel as “the natural spiritual homeland of the Jewish people” at the Four Seasons function, co-hosted by the NSW Jewish Board of Deputies, the Executive Council of Australian Jewry and the Zionist Council of NSW (ZCNSW).
The Premier went on to note the strong ties that bind NSW and Australia with Israel, adding, “As the granddaughter of survivors of genocide and as someone whose mother was proudly born in Jerusalem, I feel the deep significance of this 70th anniversary.”
Berejiklian finished her speech poignantly: “On this important occasion, we come together to pray for peace.”
Proud of Israel’s “metamorphosis” from a country dependent on agriculture to a global powerhouse in innovation, Israel’s ambassador to Australia Mark Sofer covered a breadth of issues that have affected the state since its establishment.
“Despite all the trials and tribulations, terrorism, double standards, we can take a step back and look at the last 70 years with a sense of pride,” he said.
Amid the chaos of the Middle East, said ZCNSW president Richard Balkin, Israel stands as a beacon of democracy and constructive achievement.
“[Israel] responds by continuing to ensure its strength as a nation and to make its unparalleled contributions to the world,” said Balkin.
Looking towards the next 70 years, Prime Minister of Israel Benjamin Netanyahu shared a message via video, commenting, “I have no doubt that 70 years from now Israel will be even stronger, even more prosperous than it is now.”
Meanwhile, around 3000 members of the community turned out last Thursday night for the annual Yom Ha’atzmaut Carnival, organised by the ZCNSW. Children enjoyed free rides and face painting, while punters perused market stalls, enjoyed the delicious food on offer and were entertained by the soulful sounds of Israeli band Ensemble Or.
Noting the significance of the milestone anniversary, Balkin thanked all those who came out to celebrate. He also paid tribute to ZCNSW staffers Andrea Frankel and Teneille Murray for organising the function, Moriah College for hosting, and the Community Security Group for ensuring the safety of all who attended.