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Speech by J Searle at 2011 Yom Ha'atzmaut Cocktail Reception

Speech by J Searle at 2011 Yom Ha'atzmaut Cocktail Reception

01 June 2011

Welcome and Shalom.  I won’t repeat the names already read by Sam but on behalf of the JCCV I also welcome everyone. It’s heart-warming to see so many of our friends here from such a diverse range of backgrounds, all here to celebrate the 63rd anniversary of the establishment of the State of Israel – the Jewish homeland.

Before I go further, I would like to acknowledge the traditional owners of this land and pay tribute to their elders, past and present.

I thank the Premier for his wonderful words a few moments ago and look forward to hearing from the leader of the opposition shortly.

I also want to thank the Premier for his words recognising the very important contribution made by CSG and for the generosity that has been displayed. It is a wonderful recognition of the work of the CSG and shows an understanding of the way the work of CSG benefits us all. I think in all fairness it is important to note that CSG has received bi partisan support and generosity and for that I express my sincere thanks on behalf of the community to both the Premier and the leader of the opposition.

It’s interesting, but focusing on GSG has made me/ Coming here tonight,  reflect upon a question I was asked not that long ago. I was having a conversation with someone, and we were talking about racism, multiculturalism and discussing the rise in anti Semitism in some parts of the world and I was asked, what is it like for a Jewish person to live in Victoria? Now, I thought about that question.

What is it like for a Jewish person to live in Victoria?

As for living in Victoria, well I’m sure both the Premier, the Leader of the Opposition and everyone here will agree with me when I say living in Victoria or Australia for that matter is pretty good. We are after all in “the lucky Country”.

Of course, there are times when I am aware of being Jewish. I don’t remember when I first became aware of the fact that I was Jewish, but I do recall there were certain racial taunts at primary school and there were times I had to stand up for who I was or rather what I was; Jewish.

Another interesting realisation for me was that I was a son of a Shoah survivor, a holocaust survivor. That was also during my primary years and of course, during my secondary years its significance became clearer to me.

My kids have also had moments of discovery. I can recall the first time my they asked me with some bewilderment why there were no security guards at a non-Jewish school we were visiting. You see they had never seen a school without security guards. Unfortunately, as many in this room will realise, because of the threats against the Jewish community all our schools have guards.

All of our synagogues also have guards.

Imagine if every time you dropped your kids off at school, went to Church, Temple or your House of Worship you saw guards out the front. Often those guards or protectors come from the dedicated band of volunteers comprising the CSG and as I said earlier, in that way they are making us all very proud, and safe.

Yet the fact that we can have these guards and talk openly about these matters makes us all the more appreciative of living in Victoria, a place where waves of new immigrants and refugees have come, landing here from all different countries and backgrounds looking for a safe, secure and free future. They came here because they value the core principles of our society; freedom, democracy, the right to free speech, respect of the rule of law.

As a kid, I was brought up in the knowledge that if I ever got lost, I should look for a policeman to help me. I teach my kids the same thing.  Yet there are people who have come from places where the police are feared. Thankfully, they are here now and will soon learn that the police and those in authority here are not to be feared.

Could you ever imagine our government turning the police or the army against us? The thought is unimaginable. Yet such events are occurring in the world today. That is why we have to do everything we can to protect the core values that are so dear to us.

So here in Victoria, we as Jews and all of us, have much to be thankful for and much to remind us that we are not so different.

The refugees who have come here are not unlike the waves of Jewish immigrants and refugees from all over the world who went to Israel to find safety and a new life. They chose Israel where they also knew they could live in a democracy, where the values that are so important to us are also important. That is why in Israel, if you travel to a school you will see Jews, Muslims, Christian and many others as both students and teachers. You will also find Muslim, Christian and Jewish people in the hospitals, as doctors, staff and patients.

Victoria and Israel really have much in common. We embrace new technology, love the outdoor life, sport, the arts and culture and treasure our democratic way of life.

So, with that thought, I wish Israel Mazel Tov on this wonderful occasion. I only hope, as I am sure you all do that Israel will find peace in the coming year. Thank you for coming this evening, for supporting Israel and for being friends to the Victorian Jewish community. I look forward to continuing our work together to make Victoria an even better place to live.

Finally, I want to thank the staff of both organisations who worked so hard organising this evening’s event.

Thank You

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