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Bennett thanks US Jewry: ‘You have our backs’

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Bennett thanks US Jewry: ‘You have our backs’

NEW YORK – Prime Minister Naftali Bennett touted the importance of the ties between Israel and American Jewry at an event organized by the Jewish Federations of North America on Monday.

“You have our backs and that just means a lot,” Bennett said. “We’re working hard in a very tough area to build an optimistic, energetic, can-do country. Knowing each and every one of you is always working to strengthen us. It means so much.”

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Bennett said that when he speaks to leaders of other countries, they often “just don’t get it” that Israel is constantly fighting off enemies.

“When I was growing up, I lived in Teaneck, New Jersey, for a couple of years. When you live there, you don’t have to worry that someone will shoot rockets at you. [But in Israel], there’s Hamas, Islamic Jihad – for heaven’s sake we still have ISIS in the Sinai: that was supposed to be done with – all quite literally on our border. That’s why we need to remain strong, and that’s what we’re doing.”

Israel and the Jewish people “are one,” Bennett continued.

 Israel’s prime minister Naftali Bennett addresses the 76th Session of the United Nations General Assembly, at the UN headquarters in New York, US, September 27, 2021 (credit: JOHN MINCHILLO /POOL VIA REUTERS) Israel’s prime minister Naftali Bennett addresses the 76th Session of the United Nations General Assembly, at the UN headquarters in New York, US, September 27, 2021 (credit: JOHN MINCHILLO /POOL VIA REUTERS)

“When a Jew in Pennsylvania gets hurt, I hurt. When a Jew in France gets hurt, we feel the pain, because we’re one,” he stated.

Bennett said that Israelis should learn from the American Jewish community to be more accepting and tolerant of one another.

“In Israel, we have secular, religious Zionist, haredi [ultra-Orthodox]… but if you’re just three cm. off from the norm, you can’t go to my shul [synagogue],” he said. But here in America, “you’re just a Jew and you’re welcome, whether you’re haredi, Reform, Orthodox, Modern Orthodox, you are welcome. That’s something that we need to import, the fact that we embrace everyone. It doesn’t mean we’re going to agree on everything, but we will talk to each other – listen to each other.”

Bennett returned to his constant message that his government brings a “new spirit of goodwill, of working together.”

“I hadn’t planned in a million years to be in a government with the folks I’m with and hadn’t thought it would work,” Bennett admitted.

“To begin with, Israelis aren’t an easy group,” he said, eliciting laughter from the audience.

Other quips included that the laws of physics work differently in Israel, in that there is room for people to enter an elevator before the people inside leave, and that in Israel it is considered rude to let interlocutors complete their sentences.

Asaf Zamir, who is set to become Israel’s consul-general in New York in two years, gave short remarks before Bennett.

Zamir said he had been given the advice that when he didn’t know how to open a speech, “I should say the late [former prime minister] Ariel Sharon’s line, I come here from Jerusalem, the eternal capital of the Jewish people.” 

“I told him I come from Tel Aviv,” the city’s former deputy mayor quipped.

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Bennett thanks US Jewry: ‘You have our backs’