Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu told thousands of young Jews on Sunday night that when they visit Israel they help guarantee the country’s well-being.
“By coming here, you join the Israeli soldiers in helping secure Israel’s future,” Netanyahu told Birthright Israel’s Mega Event in Rishon Lezion. “I want you to take everything that you see and share it with others: Tell others about the miracle of Israel, this rare and thriving democracy in the Middle East.”
The prime minister said Israel would remain vibrant long after the ayatollahs’ regime in Iran had gone, and referenced a clock counting down to Israel’s destruction in the year 2040, which was set up on Friday in Iran.
“Last week in Teheran, they put a clock counting down to Israel’s destruction. But we will be here long after their theocratic tyranny is just a part of history,” the prime minister said.
He told the young men and women that if they stand with Israel they stand on the side of truth.
“It’s a strong country ready to defend itself from threats and also reach out in peace for those wishing for it. When they attack us, stand proud and say who you are with: the free people of Israel or those severing off heads? If you stand for the free, stand for Israel, for the truth,” he said. “Tell everyone to come see it for themselves. We will be waiting for you. This is your Birthright.”
Netanyahu spoke at the event hours after his cabinet decided to freeze a previously approved plan to establish a pluralistic prayer pavilion at the Western Wall. The reversal was castigated by American Conservative and Reform leaders, representing millions of Jews, some of whom charged that Netanyahu’s government was dividing the Jewish people. Ministers also advanced a bill to cement the ultra-Orthodox monopoly on conversion to Judaism.
The Sunday night event was attended by Birthright benefactors Miriam and Sheldon Adelson and Judy and Michael Steinhardt, as well as Israeli lawmakers, and patrons, partners and participants from around the world.
Birthright Israel International CEO Gidi Mark told the crowd that since 1999 the program had brought 600,000 Jews to Israel for the 10-day trips.
“On this special evening, we celebrate the remarkable milestone of 600,000 participants who have taken part in Taglit-Birthright Israel,” Mark said. “This figure represents more than just a number, but a real change in the way world Jewry perceives Israel and their connection with their Jewish heritage — a change already affecting the future of the Jewish people in an unprecedented way.”