On behalf of the entire American Embassy in Israel, I want to welcome everyone and thank you for joining us tonight.
Before I begin my brief remarks, let me first make a statement. It is a statement of solidarity; it is a statement of support; and it is a statement of commitment.
When I spoke last month at the annual September 11 memorial in Jerusalem, I said where else but Israel could we Americans mourn our fellow citizens struck down by terror and be surrounded by friends who know—who truly know—the depths of our pain.
As Israel mourns the murder of so many of its citizens and prays for the recovery of dozens more, please know that countless Americans also stand in steadfast solidarity with you. Our solidarity is all that much deeper given that there are American citizens among the victims.
When an open and democratic society is faced with unspeakable violence, and the brutal targeting of the most vulnerable, condemnations from distant capitals can sometimes ring hollow. But in this case, America’s condemnation—our total rejection of terror—whether in the form of rocks, knives, guns or rockets—our condemnation is rooted in solidarity.
As President Obama said Friday, the United States supports Israel’s “right to maintain basic law and order, and protect its citizens from knife attacks and violence on the streets.” The most important priority right now, the president said, is for all sides “to focus on making sure that innocent people aren’t being killed.”
Third, because we know people on all sides are hurting in the current reality, let me reiterate America’s commitment to assisting Israelis and Palestinians in finding durable solutions to the current crisis, restoring security and renewing efforts toward peace. This is why Secretary Kerry will be meeting Prime Minister Netanyahu this week and why the Secretary will be traveling to the region. We will continue to urge all sides to take affirmative steps to restore calm, including by refraining from giving voice to accusations and inflammatory rhetoric that can incite people to violence or lead people to take the law into their own hands.
In light of the current situation, and as I look around the room, I also want to acknowledge the representatives of Hadassah who are here tonight. As Israelis, everyone here tonight knows that Hadassah’s heroism and dedication is legendary, and the same can be said for so many other first responders. We salute them all. Yet Hadassah is unique in that it represents a civil society alliance forged over a century; it is a beacon of hope and humanity recognized around the world, where Arab and Jewish doctors and nurses care for Jewish and Arab patients without questioning or prejudice or discrimination; and with its deep American roots and branches, it represents how truly unbreakable the bonds are between our two great nations.
So, why have we gathered you here this evening? After four years of planning and six months of construction we are finally ready to show off this wonderful new facility.
Many of you here this evening, our close partners and friends here in Jerusalem, have helped us immeasurably over the 47 years the Center has existed here in Jerusalem. The current tensions remind us that there is a critical need for continuing our joint efforts. This new space will give us even greater capabilities to do so.
The entire Embassy looks forward to continuing to work together with you to advance our shared interests and our common values:
- to promote understanding and social cohesion among Israel’s diverse population,
- to reach across divides to promote peace in Israel, and in this region,
- to promote societies that are more respectful of all their citizens; and
- to embrace diversity instead of denigrating differences.
And I am proud that our collaboration has involved a remarkable range of topics including:
- religious freedom, civil rights, and conflict resolution,
- entrepreneurship, employment, and inclusion of minority sectors,
- and even the final frontier—outer space;
And we have presented and will continue to sponsor a wide range of activities, including:
- English language programs
- Conferences, lectures and engagements with leading American experts and with diplomats from our Embassy;
- Teacher trainings and coexistence projects;
- and last, but certainly not least, we are proud to provide Israelis with an unending stream of the best in American cultural—music, dance and theatre. Simply put: this place rocks!
Given that our new space is also equipped with the latest technology in sound, light and multimedia to enrich any program. In fact, I was told that we could provide you with a quick demonstration at the push of this button [30 second demo of light show, fog machine, sound effects].
Wow, now I feel like a rock star! Bill, I can see why you and your staff poured so much time and energy into this project. Maybe we could host an Embassy version of “The Voice.”
To Tom Genton and Bill Murad, I want to pay tribute to all the work that was done by you and especially the entire American Center staff. I also thank our Embassy Management, Facilities and Security offices and everyone who put in so many hours to make this day possible. I am truly impressed.
I also want to welcome our visitors from our American Spaces office in Washington and from the Smithsonian Institution, they are here to lend a hand.
I would also like to draw your attention to the art on the back wall, which was produced by students from the Musrara School of Art. Musrara is an organization with a clear, deeply committed vision of social engagement. Both its Director and its Head of Foreign Relations are alumni of U.S. Embassy exchange programs and symbolize the shared experiences and values of Israel and America. Not surprisingly, the works of art exhibited here reflect the diversity and inclusiveness of the school’s educational and social credo, values of tolerance, multiculturalism and acceptance, values which the United States also holds dear, and which we promote through Embassy programs and this American Center.
We are fortunate to be joined tonight by so many of you who also share those values and work so hard—often in partnership with the Embassy—to advance those values in your communities, throughout Israel, and around the world.
As one example of these values, and as part of our series of reopening events, this Thursday the American Center will host a rock concert featuring Israeli musicians Gal Depaz, Sharon Levi and Dor Nagar. The concert will commence with a tribute to Daniel Pearl, an American journalist and musician who was murdered by terrorists while reporting in Pakistan. Ours will be one of the nearly 13,000 concerts taking place in 132 countries around the world participating in Daniel Pearl World Music Days in October. These thousands of concerts in memory of Daniel Pearl—and all journalists killed while on assignment—stand out as beacons of light against the forces of darkness and intolerance.
Finally, I want to again thank everyone in our audience, especially in these difficult times, for continuing to work with us, for being our partners, and for continuing to advance the economic, cultural and social fabric of Jerusalem.
Thank you very much and I look forward to talking with you and hearing what you think about our new space and how we can continue to build on our strong partnership.
We admire your perseverance and draw strength from your resilience. And as this new space testifies, we are also investing in the future. Thank you again and welcome.