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Jimmy Carter Administration: Remarks at White House Reception for 30th Anniversary of the State of Israel

(May 30, 1978)

THE PRESIDENT. It's a great pleasure for me and for Rosalynn to hold this reception for my friends, Prime Minister and Mrs. Begin, and for the distinguished Americans who have joined us today in honor of the 30th anniversary of the State of Israel.

We've just come to the close of the Passover holidays, an annual reminder of the exodus and dispersal of the Jewish people. Since the destruction of the Second Temple led to the Diaspora nearly 2,000 years ago, Jews have said a prayer ending with "Next year in Jerusalem."

Through all these years we shared hope of a homeland. The shared hope of a homeland held together in spirit a people who were scattered all over the world. During those 2,000 years, Jews often suffered religious discrimination, inquisitions, pogroms, and death. Jews were too frequently treated as strangers, even after living for generations as inhabitants of countries.

After I visited Israel in 1973, I read Arthur Morris' book "While Six Million Died," the tragic account of the ultimate in man's inhumanity to man, the Holocaust. Six million people were killed, most of European Jewry. They died not only because of Nazi brutality but also because the entire world turned its back on them during their years of suffering. No country was willing to give the Jews of Europe a home where they could escape from their torment.

Out of the ashes of the Holocaust was born the State of Israel, a promise of refuge and security and of return, at last, to the Biblical land from which the Jews were driven so many hundreds of years ago.

It will always be a proud chapter in the history of our own country that the United States was the first nation to recognize the legal existence of Israel in 1948—30 long, fruitful, sometimes seemingly short years in history.

George Santayana wrote that, and I quote, "Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it." The past brutality against the Jewish people throughout the world and the ultimate tragedy of the Holocaust are events that Jews will always remember, but they are also lessons which this country and all the civilized world should never forget.

Through the indomitable will and character of its own people and with the unshakable commitment of the United States to its security, the existence of the State of Israel will ensure for all times that the Jewish people will not be condemned to repeat the Holocaust.

The policies of the United States Government have been influenced by these indelible memories of the past. We continue to provide substantial economic and military assistance to Israel. We have obtained, this past year, tough antiboycott legislation to protect from discrimination American Jews and American companies doing business with Israel. We champion the human rights of Jews in the Soviet Union and in other nations and encourage their right of emigration.

We do these things because they are right and because they are necessary and because they are true to the traditions of our country.

Many nations have memorials to the Holocaust victims. There is no such formal memorial in the United States. To ensure that we in the United States never forget, I will appoint immediately a Presidential commission to report to me within 6 months on an appropriate memorial in this country to the 6 million who were killed in the Holocaust.

We may from time to time have our transient differences with the leaders of Israel— [laughter] —as we do with leaders of other countries who are our close friends and allies. But we will never waver from our deep friendship and partnership with Israel and our total, absolute commitment to Israel's security.

The establishment of the nation of Israel is a fulfillment of Biblical prophecy and the very essence of its fulfillment. In the Jewish tradition, 30 stands for the age of strength, and Israel, thank God, is strong.

There is a Jewish saying, "From strength to strength." And I trust that Israel will indeed evolve from a strength rooted in determination and vigilance to a strength that is reinforced and maintained by a just and lasting peace with its neighbors.

That prospect is coming closer to reality today than at any time since the creation of a State of Israel. We remain deeply committed to help in any possible way to bring the day closer when Israel will live in security and in peace. For 30 years we have stood at the side of the proud and independent nation of Israel. I can say without reservation, as the President of the United States of America, that we will continue to do so, not just for another 30 years but forever.

Thank you very much.

THE PRIME MINISTER. Mr. President, our dear friends, may I humbly tell you that today we heard from the President of the United States one of the greatest moral statements ever.

We have always believed in the moral greatness of America. We appeal to it in difficult times. We never lost hope that it will win, because we have always remembered the famous moral precept of your predecessor, Mr. President, Abraham Lincoln, "Right makes might."

On behalf of right, we fought for our country and for our liberty. In the thirties, our people looked for a haven and didn't find it. In the forties, they cried out for help and didn't get it. And then we reached the conclusion that if we don't fight and conquer our liberty, nobody will give it to us. So, in the tradition of the American people, we rose to fight. There were the great sacrifices, the suffering, but today is a day of rejoicing. Vesamachta bechagecha!

Although in the life of her people for many generations, sadness and joy are intermingled, yesterday we remembered the fallen heroes of the ghettos, the helpless left alone to fight not even for their lives, not even for their liberty, but for human dignity and for the dignity of their people, because those lone fighters indeed fought for all humanity.

But today is a day of rejoicing. Thirty years ago, a little flag, blue and white, was hoisted before the eyes of all the nations to see, namely, Judea rose again, Israel will live.

And when we remember what happened until that day—their people, what persecution and humiliation they went through and, ultimately, mass physical destruction, then we can appreciate what an effort was necessary and was made in order to achieve that day of our national renaissance.

Let us rejoice. The blessing of freedom is incomparable to any other. Only he who lost it can appreciate it. And we had lost it; we regained it with the efforts and the self-sacrifice of our best men.

So today, let us remember our heroes who made our victory possible and our independence assured.

Today also, my dear friends, is from another point of view, a day of rejoicing. The President and I just finished a discussion and a private talk, and earlier we had a talk with the Secretary of State.

May I tell you, bringing you good tidings with all my heart, thank God-baruch hashem—these discussions and talks are characterized with friendship, with understanding. There is that feeling that America and Israel are inseparable, friends and allies.

Mr. President, we too, as you, hope that there will come a day when our brethren in the Soviet Union will be free to go to the historic homeland of our people. The Jewish people will never give up a fight for liberty and for justice. Never.

Now, Mr. President, ladies and gentlemen, as we rejoice in the achievement of Israel's independence, a holiday not only for the Jewish people but for all free nations, for all women and men of good will, let us rededicate ourselves to the great concepts of our prophets—of human freedom and dignity and justice and the great vision of peace.

Mr. President, we shall go on working for peace with all our heart and all our soul, because we yearn for it and want it. And let us hope that the road for peace will be reopened with your help, Mr. President, as we said to each other just a while ago.

And now, Mr. President, having heard your most moving words, which we shall never forget, I would like to conclude my remarks with the following short, simple statement: For freedom, for justice, for human progress, and for human dignity, let there be everlasting friendship between the great United States of America and the renewed State of Israel.

Sources: Public Papers of the President