TEL AVIV (Sep. 11)
Israel faced trying challenges in the past year but managed well, “compared to larger and older states in similar circumstances,” President Chaim Herzog declared in his Rosh Hashanah message to the nation, broadcast on Israel Radio Saturday night.
Speaking against the background of the continuing Palestinian uprising in the West Bank and Gaza Strip, Herzog urged Israelis not to lose confidence in themselves or in the democratic values and processes that have guided the nation in its first 40 years of independence.
He cautioned against defeatism and against internal power struggles that victimize the citizenry. And he called for civility in the national debate surrounding the election campaign.
Much of the speech was somber. “The past year has not been an easy one for the state of Israel,” Herzog said. “We faced difficult tests. The events in Judea and Samaria and Gaza — another stage in our continuous national struggle — raised basic questions in our public life.
“The values dictating the conduct of our soldiers were severely tried, as was the strength of our legal system and the self-control and calm of our public,” the president said.
“We have passed these tests well. Despite provocations and pressures and despite distressing exceptions, our administrative and judicial systems have stood up well, guarded the values of justice and basic human rights, remained open to public criticism and not been tempted to adopt extreme positions.
“It is in restraint and calm that our strength and persistence are expressed,” he asserted.
‘UNJUSTIFIED GUILT COMPLEX’
“The elections soon to take place are indeed the highest expression of democracy,” Herzog said. “This should be the finest hour of Israeli democracy – perhaps an hour of historic decision on matters of national importance.
“As the national debate opens, violent and undisciplined actions must be condemned, along with personal vilification and emphasis on individuals rather than on policies,” Herzog stressed.
He expressed “very grave fears that there has been a deterioration in our belief in the justice of our cause.” He warned that “selfcastigation and an unjustified guilt complex among some portions of the Israeli community weaken the strength of this belief among the people.”
Continuing on the same theme, Herzog said it is “of primary importance that we respect ourselves, our national symbols, our flag, our anthem, our uniform, which generations upon generations of our people over the centuries would have given their right hand to live to see.”
The president observed that “our little state” has achieved world recognition in such fields as medicine, education, technological development, agriculture and scientific research.
“These advances and, above all, the amazing ingathering of exiles and the molding of the nation have gone on, despite the unending struggle, the threats to our very existence, the economic and social difficulties with which we must contend.
“Without disregarding our deficiencies in the past and the serious problems facing us,” he said, “we still have every right to be proud of the achievements of our people and of all that we have built in our land.”
Herzog concluded: “It is our profoundest hope that in the year 5749, we will advance substantially toward our three main national goals: security and peace on our borders, order and prosperity in our lives, and the continuing return to Zion of our far-flung people.”