Baraks New Years message: Tolerance is critical

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From the city of Jerusalem, the eternal capital of the state of Israel, and the spiritual home of the Jewish people, I send you my warmest greetings for a happy, healthy and prosperous New Year. Shanah Tovah!

We, the citizens of Israel, share the deep concern of our fellow Jews throughout the world, for the demographic future of the Jewish people. The open, pluralistic societies of today have given Jews greater opportunities to integrate. Nevertheless, they have also posed the greatest challenge to the preservation of Jewish identity — the danger of assimilation.

Here in Israel we follow the global resurgence of anti-Semitism, bigotry and racism with great anxiety. It is our sacred duty to be vigilant, to combat fanaticism and to spread the historic message of our Jewish tradition, a message of tolerance and openness.

The insightful Zionist thinker Ahad Ha'am envisioned the Jewish state as the spiritual center and a source of pride for all Jews. Within the next few decades of the 21st century, and thanks to the tireless efforts of devoted Jewish communities, we will reach a great Zionism milestone: The state of Israel will become the largest Jewish community in the world.

Israel today is a strong country. It is from this position of confidence that we reinvigorate the peace process with our Arab partners. Peace is an essential element of our security and, as difficult as the negotiating process may be, I am committed to making every possible effort to attain it. However, I assure you that the security of Israel and its citizens is my first and foremost concern, and I will allow nothing to compromise it. This is my guiding principle, and that of my government.

Israel's central duty is to provide a safe haven for the Jewish people, and this mission is deeply ingrained in our minds. We welcome all Jews wishing to build their homes here and participate in the development and strengthening of Israeli society. I believe that Israel's centrality in Jewish community life around the globe is essential for Jewish continuity and the preservation of Jewish identity in the diaspora. At the same time, the Jewish communities in the developed countries are called upon to increase efforts to assist Israel to face these challenges.

The opening of the gates of the former Soviet Union to massive aliyah, the rescue of Jews from Ethiopia and other countries where they are in danger, and the wide-ranging efforts to absorb the many hundreds of thousands of immigrants, have presented the state of Israel, the Jewish people and the various campaigns around the world with one of the greatest challenges since the state was established.

May we, during the coming year, see the fulfillment of our prayers for peace and prosperity, and may we look ahead to an even brighter future for Israel and the Jewish people.