President Reuven Rivlin met today (Tuesday) at his residence with a delegation comprised of French regional, parliamentary, and Jewish community leaders organized by CRIF, the umbrella body of the Jewish community in France. Also accompanying the group was a youth soccer team made of Jewish, Muslim, and Christian children.
President Rivlin said, "We are all greatly concerned by the rise in anti-Semitism around the world, and in France especially. The attacks are a painful reminder of the price our people has paid for their faith throughout history. We have the obligation to ensure the well-being and continuity of the Jewish communities of the Diaspora. As President of Israel, and as a Jerusalemite whose family has been here for 200 years, I would be happy to see all Jews around the world come and choose Israel as their home. But Jews have the right to live in safety and prosperity wherever they choose, and we have a duty to stand up for this right."
The President went on to express his appreciation for the work of the French authorities against anti-Semitism, and for the strength of the Jewish community in particular, "I want to thank the French authorities for their work to protect the Jewish community and to combat anti-Semitism and all hatred. And I want to show my appreciation to the French Jewish community, for their bravery in the face of terrorism which has attacked the whole of France, and other places across Europe." He concluded, "We cannot let terror shape our lives, and united we will overcome this threat."
The President's words were met with a standing ovation by the visiting delegation who thanked him for his warm welcome and strong stand against racism and hatred. Mme. Matine Vassal, President of the Bouches Du Rhone region in southern France which includes the city of Marseilles, spoke on behalf of the group and said, "This is my first visit abroad as President of Bouches Du Rhone, and it is an honor to be here. I am not here alone, but am accompanied by leaders of the city of Marseilles, a member of parliament, and leaders of the Jewish community. We are fortunate to be making this visit together with young people, members of a youth soccer team, from the different faith communities. These young players will now be ambassadors of friendship between peoples."
She stressed, "Mr. President, the French people, can say, I can say, that we did not greatly share in what was happening in Israel, but today, after the terror we have experienced we see things differently and share with you in the fight against terror. Today we are more aware and want to learn from you how you carry on despite the terror."
She added, "You are a very developed country, especially in hi-tech, and the delegation which includes medical professionals, can learn so much from Israel. We already have cooperation agreements, but I want to emphasize the economic relationship between my region and this country."