Prime Minister Peres Independence Day message

Following are greetings from Prime Minister Shimon Peres to the Jewish communities abroad on the occasion of Israel's 48th Independence Day:

My Dear Friends,

In this season of Israel's 48th anniversary of independence — Yom HaAtzmaut — I send to you my heartfelt greetings of chag sameach. I write to you from Jerusalem, our eternal capital, which shall remain our capital city forever, united forever.

What is it that we are celebrating on this day?

What is the intrinsic message of Israel's Day of Independence?

To me, what we celebrate on Yom HaAtzmaut is not just national freedom. We are celebrating a glorious pageant of the victory of the Jewish spirit in history.

Yom HaAtzmaut tells us that as long as we remain true to ourselves, our Jewish heritage, our Jewish values, our Jewish faith, we are indestructible.

It teaches us that we — all of us — have to be active partners and participants in our Jewish physical and spiritual renewal.

It reminds us that to keep a Jew Jewish — to keep our children Jewish — this requires effort, education, involvement, faith and — yes — sometimes sacrifice.

Yom HaAtzmaut reminds us that we have outlasted all our enemies and have come out of every challenge, stronger and more determined. We have withstood the tyrants of history — century after century — against all logic and against all odds.

Forty-eight years ago, battered and torn and bled though we were, we redeemed ourselves, defended ourselves, and restored our sovereignty in our historic homeland after 20 centuries of bitter exile.

This, to me, is the inner voice of Yom HaAtzmaut, just as the silence of grief is the inner voice of Yom HaZikaron, our Day of Memorial for those who fell in the cause of our freedom.

So, yes, Yom HaAtzmaut marks an epic. It is a call to all nations telling them that once again Israel — the Jewish people — are marching to the beat of their own drum.

All the decisions are ours to make. We are setting our own agenda according to our own needs, our own will, our own choice.

And, in so doing, Israel has grown from strength to strength, supported by you — our fellow Jews. In every sphere — aliyah, economic, diplomatic, military, political, education, peace-making — Israel has grown in stature.

And it has been thanks to that strength, and to the vast global and regional changes after the Cold War, that Israel has felt quietly confident to test new and measured initiatives towards peace.

It was Yitzhak Rabin of blessed memory who led Israel toward this new future, as a great soldier of Israel, a great leader of Israel, and a great peace-maker of Israel.

The work of constructing the peace, complex and difficult through it be, continues apace.

Much of the old Middle East is still there, as the Lebanese border illustrates. The Israel Defense Forces have been operating in Lebanon to put a stop to the Katyushas of Hezbollah which have been raining terror on our civilian population centers in northern Galilee. We did not seek this action, but when our citizens are subject to attack and threat, in any corner of our land, we shall do all that is necessary to protect their security. In a moving manifestation of unity, Jews everywhere have stood by our civilians in the north and the IDF that protects them.

But even while that old Middle East persists, there is a new Middle East on the horizon. The transformation is manifested in the peace agreements. It was vividly illustrated at the Sharm el-Sheikh Conference when 13 Arab heads of state and governments joined U.S. President Bill Clinton and many other prominent world leaders to condemn terrorism against Israel and commit themselves to cooperation in the battle against it. The whole event was unprecedented, without parallel. A year ago, even six months ago, such a scene would have been considered a fantasy.

Israel now has relations of one sort or another with eight Arab states and is in liaison with more. In many instances, yesterday's enemies are today's partners.

None of this could have happened were it not for our historic Jewish sense of kinship and partnership by which we have absorbed the great aliyah and thus rendered much strength to Israel.

Yom HaAtzmaut is a celebration of this unbreakable bond, one that enables us to share responsibilities with each other and give strength to each other as we work together to enhance our Jewish ties, our Jewish lives, Jewish education and Jewish communities wherever they be.

It is in this spirit that I send to you Israel's greetings in this season of our 48th anniversary of freedom.