RESPONSE BY BOB HAWKE AT THE DEDICATION CEREMONY OF THE ROBERT JAMES LEE HAWKE FOREST, KEREM MAHARAL, ISRAEL
(Sponsored by Australian Jewry and established by the Jewish National Fund, 27th December, 1976)
There occur in one’s life a few occasions which are absolutely memorable. This is one of those moments.
Before I share with you the thoughts, feelings and emotions of this moment may I first say “thank you” to a number of people and organisations.
First, to the Jewish community in Australia, most particularly in my own city of Melbourne, for the inspiration and financial initiative which has made today possible.
Second, to you many Australians who have come here to associate yourselves with this ceremony — this is a matter of particular pleasure and pride to me.
Third, to the Histadrut, not merely for its representation here today through its distinguished Secretary-General, Yeruham Meshel, but for its financial identification with this project.
Fourth, to the Jewish National Fund which, consistent with its constructive charter which has operated from the beginning of this century to purchase and enrich the Land, has organised this project and our participation in it.
And, finally, not so much a “thank you” but to say how pleased Hazel, my wife, and I are that my father and mother are with us today. As you know, my father is a Minister of one of the Christian denominations (there are as many of those denominations as there are parties in the Knesset!). While I have ceased to have any formalised relation with his religious position I want to say this: the principles and beliefs concerning the brotherhood of man which I absorbed within their household have fashioned my philosophy and in particular have provided the basis of my attitude towards the State of Israel.
My friends, this is not the time to expound at length upon all those things within me which make up that attitude of mine to this wonderful country. I would simply like to put together a few thoughts which may, perhaps, capture for you why I am here in Israel today.
We are gathered together in the one country in the Middle East conflict where the processes of democracy operate. In these very days you are witnessing those processes in action. You have seen a democratically elected Government resign. You will see a representative Parliament today begin the debate between caretaker Government and Opposition upon the date next May at which all the people of this country in secret ballot will vote to determine who shall constitute the ongoing Government.
This is a luxury totally denied to the 120 million people in the military dictatorships and feudal despotisms surrounding this country whose self-appointed leaders have sought to encompass the destruction of Israel since its creation in 1948.
In those countries since that time there have been more than twenty military coups, but Israel, with all the low-gearing that democracy necessarily entails, has steadfastly remained committed to the ballot and not the bullet for the regulation of its internal affairs.
To survive as a viable homeland for the Jewish people it has, of course, had to devote a crippling proportion of its resources to defence. With the total involvement of its people, Israel has now on four occasions so brilliantly deployed those resources that it now stands on the threshold of 1977 more secure, militarily, than at any time since its creation.
But above all these things it is the abundant constructive, creative dynamic of the Israeli people which is paramount. Through all the trials and agonies of the pre-State period and then the perpetual fight to maintain the State, once created, the necessary mystique of Masada was always secondary to the vision of a new Jerusalem. This is the characteristic of continuum in your people -the past inspiring the present to build for the future.
By your labors you turned the swamps and stony ground into fertile land. You and your forbears have built for future generations and you have been prepared, generously, to share the knowledge and expertise you have acquired along this way with the peoples of countries around the world.
You have done these things, I believe, because your faith and your history tell you that, despite the temporary aberrations of misguided men which in the past have so cruelly struck your people, this can be a plentiful and peaceful Earth.
It is because I share these convictions that I stand, proudly, with you today.
There is much more that could be said but I conclude with this observation. Nothing better expresses your faith in the future than the planting of trees. They are rooted in the Land and they speak for you to future generations of that faith you hold. I repeat — I share that faith with you, I will always work with you to see that faith accomplished, and I thank you all for allowing me and my family to be, so tangibly, a part of your great endeavour.