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"...have you ever seen an international flotilla on its way to Gaza to demand the freedom of Gilad Shalit?"-Rabbi Hier at SWC's Canadian Spirit of Hope Event


TORONTO, MAY 31, 2010

I am sure all of you saw the eloquent statement on Jerusalem that only Elie Wiesel could write, which appeared in the Wall Street Journal, Washington Post and the New York Times, just a few days before Yom Haatzma’ut - Israel Independence Day.

I remember reading it and reflecting on the difference between Holocaust Memorial Day and Israel Independence Day on the one hand, and other major anniversaries which also occur in the Spring, such as this year’s 65th anniversary of the end of WWII, which world leaders marked by assembling in Moscow. The anniversary in Moscow commemorates something we should always remember, a horrific event, an event that was, but no longer is. Today, there are no tyrants seeking to conquer Europe or Russia.

But for Jews, my friends, I’m afraid our anniversaries are quite different; anti-Semitism is ever present. Yom Hashoah and Yom Haatzma’ut are never just commemorations, they are always comingled with a sense of trepidation because 65 years after Auschwitz, there is still an Ahmadinejad, who denies the Shoah, who calls for the destruction of Israel, who seeks nuclear weapons and even gets to spew his hatred from the podium of the United Nations. And now we hear from the UN investigators themselves that they have enough low-enriched uranium to make two nuclear bombs. Perhaps the rest of the world can afford to wait him out, but Israel cannot; she is on the front lines and remembers very well the terrible price Jews paid for not taking Hitler at his word. Israel cannot afford to sacrifice another 6 million Jews on the altar of the world’s indifference.

These are difficult times for Israel. There is always a flotilla willing to help the terrorist organization Hamas. But, my friends, have you ever seen an international flotilla on its way to Gaza to demand the freedom of Gilad Shalit, who has not been visited by single relative or friend in four years of captivity? No one cares about him, but help Hamas in Gaza, the whole world is available.

Over the last six months, in the media and on campuses, Israel has been the brunt of a relentless campaign of vilification, distorting history and blaming her for every mishap in the Middle East conflict. Most people are not historians or Middle East experts, and are easily influenced by such repeated lies and distortions. When you arrived here this evening, you received a brochure, compiled by the Wiesenthal Center, of the Top Ten Anti-Israel Lies now in vogue. Nine hundred thousand have been distributed in the United States.

The idea came to me from a Christian friend of Israel who phoned me from Baltimore and told me he was a collector of ancient guides to the Holy City and that he was in possession of copies of the original guides from 1923 to 1954, which he then sent me. The guides were printed and published by the Supreme Moslem Council, the highest Moslem authority in then Palestine, and this how the guide describes the Temple Mount: “The two principal edifices are the Dome of The Rock, on a raised platform in the middle, and the Mosque of Al Aqsa against the south wall. The site is one of the oldest in the world. Its sanctity dates back from the earliest times. Its identity with the site of Solomon’s Temple is beyond dispute.” That is what the guide said every year, until 1954, when the Supreme Moslem Council abruptly removed it without explanation from the guide. Today, Palestinian leaders, including Saeb Erekat, continue to insist that the Temple of Solomon was never built in Jerusalem.

All of us pray every day that a viable two-state solution will be found, and one day, Jews and Arabs will live in peace. But let me be very clear, you know when that day will come? When the Arab world finally decides to bury the hatchet and stop playing games when it understands that, just as the State of Israel is willing to recognize all Arab states as they wish to be recognized, be it a secular state or a Muslim state, so the Arab world will have to stand up and recognize one small democratic State called Israel, as the homeland of the Jewish people. When they are ready to do that, we won’t have to go through the dance of proximity talks. On that very day, the lights will go on for a breakthrough in the Mid-East peace process.

Delivered before 2,600 people at Beth Tzedek Congregation in the presence of Eli Wiesel, Salman Rushdie and Former Canadian Prime Minister, Brian Mulroney, who highlighted the event by participating in a dialogue about current critical issues facing the world.