June 21, 2021

Source: 15 of his speeches and interviews, 2016-2021

Herzog’s personal and professional experience as leader of the Labor Party and head of the Jewish Agency demonstrate a repeated commitment to Israel as the nation state of the Jewish people and the need to bind frayed ties between Diaspora Jews and Israeli Jews. Exactly one year before being elected to be Israel’s president, on June 2, 2020, he stated with clarity and passion that Jews in both Israel and the Diaspora need to be much better educated about one another. In an interview with David Harris of the American Jewish Committee, Herzog noted,that “there is a lack of knowledge, total lack of knowledge on behalf of Israelis as to what it is to be Jewish abroad, and there is an enormous lack of knowledge by world Jewry, especially American Jewry, about what Israel is all about. It’s two different societies of huge numbers all kind of developing differently.” A year later at his inaugural speech he noted that in Israel too, frayed societal bonds needed to be rewoven together, “fight anti-Semitism, and strengthen and maintain the pillars of Israeli Democracy.”  

June 21, 2021


Speech upon Being Elected President of the State of Israel – June 2, 2021

https://en.globes.co.il/en/article-isaac-herzog-elected-israels-11th-president-1001373055 

“That is why I intend to be the president of all Israelis, to lend an attentive ear to every position and respect every person. To join the connecting lines and build bridges of consensus, in order to bring in even the most distant amongst us, as well as our brothers and sisters in the Diaspora. To empower and nurture our creativity, innovative spirit and originality; to fulfil our goals of unity and mutual responsibility. To foster a common identity of belonging that we so desperately need in our journey to become an ideal society, making room for free spirits, creators and dreamers. To fill Israel with hope.”

“Our challenges are many and should not be taken lightly. We must heal the wounds that have opened up in our society, and defend Israel’s international status and good name in the family of nations. We must fight anti-Semitism and the hatred of Israel, and maintain the pillars of our democracy, so that we rise to the magnitude of the moment. Out of the dark and into the light. This is our essence, our pioneering spirit, and the commitment of every Israeli.”

Meetings with Jewish Communities in Arab Nations- September 2020

https://www.jewishagency.org/the-jewish-agency-collaborates-with-bahraini-jewish-community/

https://www.jewishagency.org/the-jewish-agency-and-keren-hayesod-to-begin-operating-in-the-uae/ 

“I welcome this important agreement. We will support the Bahraini Jewish community in the same way we support Jewish communities all over the world.”

“I congratulate the leaders of Israel, Bahrain and the United States on the important agreement that will enable us to work together with the Bahraini Jewish community…The Jewish Agency can now support another Jewish community in the Middle East, just as we support all Jewish communities around the world.” 

“A new chapter in the fascinating history of the Jewish people is being written as we begin working with the Jewish community in the Emirates. We are delighted to start sharing our programming with this diverse Jewish community, living in the heart of the Middle East. The recent historic peace agreement enables us to take this step and I hope one day soon, we will be able to do so in additional countries in the region.”

American Jewish Committee Advocacy Anywhere 2020- Isaac Herzog Interview with David Harris of AJC, June 2, 2020  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CQl7AWxzaeU 

10:37 “In the last generation, we have become a central pillar as part of our raison d’être of dealing with the need of the Jewish people to deal with themselves and Israel at heart, meaning connecting Jews to each other, connecting Jews by immersive experiences, by partnerships, twinning schools, by sending thousands of schlichim- emissaries- from summer camps to educational projects, and shinshinim all over the world.”

13:50 “The first priority was dealing with the rift. There is an apparent rift or a growing disparity between Jews in Israel and Jews in North America.”

14:38 “I think there is a lot of love of Israel, Ahavat Yisrael, and there’s a lot of connections and an enormous amount of intertwining connections, but we also know that there are strong undercurrents of diversity in change…There is lack of knowledge, total lack of knowledge on behalf of Israelis as to what it is to be Jewish abroad, and there is an enormous lack of knowledge by world Jewry, especially American Jewry, about what Israel is all about. It’s two different societies of huge numbers all kind of developing differently.”

15:49 “So what I’ve done since I’ve gone into office, I have done whatever I can to lower that rift, or tension, or differences by both initiating huge programs to educate Israelis, including all schools in Israel on what it is to be Jewish abroad, including going to the most extreme rabbis of all groups in Israel and speaking to them directly, and I found a lot of admission of lack of knowledge and willingness to know more, and the same I did by crisscrossing the entire world, especially communities in North America, and telling them, “guys, you don’t know enough; you don’t know much about Israel.”

16:40 “I tell everybody, we must think beyond the political divide, and because we have a huge strategic goal of maintaining our nation.”

17:24 “I say Aliyah is a very important metaphysical part of our being, but we advocate that every Jew has the full right to live and enjoy his or her practicing ability as Jews in whichever form and manner, wherever they want, and this is a key issue. We respect diaspora and its need to thrive and succeed.”

27:46 “We are the nation state of the Jewish people. We are a fountain of strength, and resilience, and in culture, and knowledge of the Jewish people. Yes, we have many issues, many problems, many challenges, many things to debate, but you would feel at home. It’s the state of the Jews, and any Jew is welcome here to be part and parcel of this saga, at least feeling that he has or she has a safe haven to be there at any given moment.”

29:05 There has been an elaborate development in the last decade with birthright, Taglit coming on board and exposing young Israelis to young Americans, which led to an enormous sense of connectivity and friendship that lasts”

32:56 “There are three tiers in dealing with antisemitism. First is there’s a friendship on the defensive side. We have a security assistance fund, whereby we help communities all over the world and institutions, hundreds of them, with their equipment and facilities to protect themselves… The second tier is adjudication, law enforcement, going to court, prosecution, and investigation. That is something that many organizations do. And thirdly is the education, and we speak to governments and legislators on educating and defending the Jewish communities around the world.”

Welcoming Ethiopian Jews Who Made Aliyah- May 2020

https://www.jewishagency.org/119-ethiopian-immigrants-land-in-israel/  

“We will remember the thousands who dreamed of Jerusalem and perished along the way and are working tirelessly to facilitate Aliyah for members of the community who are still waiting to fulfill the dream of moving to Israel.”

“Welcoming these new Olim on the day we commemorate the Memorial Day for Ethiopian Jews who perished on their way to Israel and honor the memory of the many Ethiopians who died on the difficult journey, provides a bittersweet closure. Those who miraculously completed that journey are haunted by the hardships they experienced in the sweltering desert along the way. I congratulate these new immigrants and every single one who came before them and endured untold suffering in order to realize their dream of Aliyah. The Jewish Agency will continue to ensure that every one of them finds their way home to Israel.”

Article in The Jerusalem Post, “Sharing Responsibility and joy on Israel’s Independence Day.” April 2020

https://www.jpost.com/opinion/sharing-responsibility-and-joy-on-israels-independence-day-626122 

“As chairman of the Jewish Agency, I’m acutely aware of these times of tragedy, as I oversee an organization that has a 90-year history of aiding Jews in times of crisis. As a result, the agency’s operations fully embody the concept that all Jews are responsible for one another…”

“Jews in the United States are also taking their responsibility to help humanity to heart. Thousands of Jews in the New York area who’ve recently recovered from the coronavirus are donating their blood plasma so scientists can cure others.

These single acts of kindness give me hope that, as the Jewish nation we will all emerge stronger and more unified after this crisis subsides. 

As a people, then, we are not only responsible for each other’s safety, but for our respective prosperity as well. Am Yisrael is not a people that only laments its troubles and tribulations. We are a constantly flourishing people with a rich history, and we have much to be proud of.”

Memorial Service at Halle Synagogue- November 2019

https://www.jewishagency.org/pompeo-maas-and-herzog-visit-halle-synagogue-for-memorial/ 

“There is no question as to the rampant rise of antisemitism across Europe. It’s truly a miracle that the Jews of Halle didn’t suffer a massacre on Yom Kippur. Global leaders must unite in a relentless fight against antisemitism – by protecting Jewish institutions, and most importantly, by means of education and firm legislation against hate crimes.”

Article in The Jerusalem Post– “A year post-Pittsburgh, we must combat antisemitism, unify and secure Jewish people.” October 2019

https://www.jpost.com/opinion/a-year-post-pittsburgh-we-must-combat-antisemitism-unify-and-secure-jewish-people-605879 

“Yet as we commemorate one year since the Pittsburgh attack, it is crucial to acknowledge that this scourge did not begin with Pittsburgh. Nor did it begin in August 2017 with the neo-Nazi rally in Charlottesville, Virginia. The hateful displays and physical attacks alike are unmistakable signs of a long-brewing worldwide epidemic of antisemitism…”

“The often-fragmented global Jewish community needs, now, to refocus its energy on unity – the value that matters most in fraught and tranquil times alike. After all, anti-Semites do not discriminate when it comes to their victims, as those looking to harm us could care less whether we wear a kippah or to which synagogue we belong, if at all. In the face of this shared threat, the Jewish people must stand united in purpose and action…”

“Protecting Jewish life from hatred and bigotry is a central component of the Jewish Agency’s DNA. We are combatting this surge of antisemitism by working closely with leaders across the globe to coordinate combatting hate crimes against Jews, investing in education for tolerance and understanding, and increasing security for Jewish communities in need…”

“To Jews around the world, I call on you to unite together in these difficult times. The Jewish people are stronger together. Countless times throughout our history, we have survived against all odds. Neither will today’s challenges defeat us. We must take crucial, preventive measures to protect world Jewry and its institutions.

“The Jewish agency is hardly alone in this pursuit, as we are working with various Jewish organizations as our partners in combatting antisemitism. Ultimately, counteracting this scourge of hate goes far beyond bolstered security. It starts within our own hearts and minds, and through an uncompromised commitment to Jewish unity.”

March of the Living Ceremony- March 2019

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XUn0VWIddBk 

03:48 “Yes, the pain will stay with us forever. And it must stay with all of humanity forever. It must serve as a guiding light in the fight against antisemitism and against all forms of hatred. From this place, I call on world leaders to fight rampant antisemitism erupting around the world, especially a shocking and dramatic rise of hate crimes in Europe, and around the world, Latin America, and in the United States. It cannot be that seventy-four years later, after that wretched war, Jews are once again unsafe in the streets of Europe, and Jews cannot be murdered in Pittsburgh, in San Diego, or anywhere. Let us heed the warning and take to heart the lessons of the Holocaust. World leaders must unite with zero tolerance for hate crime of any kind.”

Jewish Federations of North America’s General Assembly Inaugural Address- October 2018

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XbwZrLQvh1Q 

0:00 “The central challenge facing Israel is how to ensure its long-term existence as a Jewish democratic state. This challenge has three dimensions: The first is to reach peace with our neighbors, based on a two-state solution. The second is to address the internal strife that has riven one people into four tribes. And the third is to define a new and enlightened Zionist identity that will endow us with both the spirit and the ethos of a thriving, open democracy, together with an open, robust, and meaningful Judaism.

0:50 “Our first act should be to find a common language… In order for us to be able to speak to one another and listen to one another, and to debate, discuss, and delight one another, we must return to our national heritage and treasure. We must enable every young Jewish person in the world to learn Hebrew. Hence, I hereby call upon the State of Israel to honor its commitment and pledge to take care of the Jewish people in the diaspora by allocating a substantial share of a budget towards teaching Hebrew all over the world. From here on, it will be every young Jew’s birthright, wherever he or she may live, not only to visit this historical homeland, but to learn the language of the Jewish people. Hebrew can be a common denominator of all Jews from all streams of Judaism and of affiliated and nonaffiliated Jews. Our beautiful language can serve as a tool for unity.”

Interview with Haaretz- August 2018

https://www.haaretz.com/israel-news/full-transcript-of-haaretz-s-interview-with-isaac-herzog-1.6411272 

“Unlike the person who claims that the diaspora will disappear in two generations, unlike that claim, I claim that Babylon, the diaspora, contains great intellectual, and spiritual and Jewish wealth, in its own right. And that Jerusalem also has intellectual, spiritual, and Jewish wealth in its own right. When they are apart and not connected, it’s a disaster for the Jewish people and its future.”

“The first threat is the bridge between two different perspectives, and I’m not talking about the different nuances between them, of the meaning of Jewish life. Roughly speaking, there isn’t much similarity between the communities of Jerusalem and Babylon. The one in Jerusalem lives a mainly irreligious life, but practices Orthodoxy. The one in Babylon is mainly Reform or Conservative in its practice and lives a life which not necessarily connected to a Jewish environment. That means, the community living in Israel is Jewish, as a given. So, they don’t have to necessarily be religious to feel Jewish and that’s a massive gap that is widening. Add to that the massive political tension, that is hovering over the relationship, because of the voices within the American-Jewish community who oppose President Trump and Prime Minister Netanyahu and add to that all the perspectives of an entire generation who experience things differently to when we were young. When we were young, most of the Jews were bound to Israel by feelings of deep solidarity and survival anxiety. Today, there’s a generation that I have to create their deep solidarity.”

“I always say that one of our worst tragedies is that we’re gripped by this terrible internal hatred and we ignore the dangerous trends outside. That’s why after the election I was in favor of exploring the possibility of a national-unity government with Netanyahu. One of the dangerous trends is that I don’t know if my grandchild and your grandchild will feel they belong to the same people and I want them to feel that.”

“The second issue is a Jewish identity that crosses borders and spans continents… All this, and our education work in places like pre-military academies in Israel, creates a fabric for doing two things – in Israel, to act as agents of change within Israeli society so we can bring the Diaspora’s message to Israel as agents of change within Jewish communities to strengthen the connection between Jewish people and Israel.”

“You can’t express your political frustration against the basic concept of the Jewish people’s nation-state. It’s not just a lover’s wounds. It’s much deeper. Jewish life and the historical continuum, not to mention the immense national challenge that Israel was founded to answer. And I want to do everything to ensure its safe existence for generation. But support for Israel has to be way and beyond affection for this or that politician and that’s what I’m trying to tell American Jews. It’s not about personalities. It’s something much larger. The historical panorama is much wider than any leader, even if you don’t accept his views. By the way, we used to think, in the center-left camp, that Netanyahu and the Likud’s views are much more prevalent among Diaspora Jews. That’s why we were always against any notion of allowing Israelis or Jews living outside Israel to vote. We thought they were all right-wingers. The truth is always somewhere in the middle.”

“I think that Jewish continuity is essential in every place and I believe it will remain, and flourish. And I believe that Babylon can be very strong in its interaction with Jerusalem and vice versa. I think that one of the great things that Israel can do, as part of its aspiration to be a light to the nations, is to respect the liberal-democratic set of values projected by the liberal Jewish communities of the US.”

“I abhor the BDS movement and will fight them in every way, but I’m prepared for them to come here so we can argue with them.”

“Look. My worldview is that in a democratic culture, everyone has the right to argue and I’m prepared to confront anyone and show them Israel’s incredible achievements, its true character, and the fact that we are being libeled in many cases.”

“Just work hard for the ideal of a Jewish collective. But in an era of individualism, aspiration, and pursuit of personal happiness, I’m rooting for all of them but asking them not to forget the value of arvut hadadit (mutual responsibility) and to try and connect with the Jewish network as it is, in whatever way they feel comfortable. We have a small people in a giant interconnected world. I want to ensure individual identity within it, so we can guarantee our collective, multi-faceted identity for the next generations. In an age of social networks, our “Israel projects,” and programs for volunteering for young people, I want the Jewish Agency to provide all the up-to-date tools for this and I’ve instructed the Agency to focus on that in the short-term. We’ll work not only through the establishment, but also a lot outside it. In the next stage, I’d like to see these individuals linking into the massive networks of communities and federations that are keeping all the communal elements of our people together and will help it survive across generations and take responsibility for their generation’s future and those after them. That’s the process.”

Article in The Jerusalem Post, “Israel’s Opposition leader: We must defend our values in Syria.” March 2018

https://www.jpost.com/opinion/we-must-defend-our-values-in-syria-544627 

“But as a Jewish state, we must raise our eyes beyond our immediate borders and interests, and recognize the humanitarian and not only strategic dimensions of the Syrian conflict.

We must not stand silent while international humanitarian laws formulated in response to the Holocaust are flouted…”

“Yet as Israelis, our ability to assist is highly constrained. We are vilified by all sides in the Syrian conflict, and we are managing an extremely dangerous strategic situation, facing Iran’s heavily armed proxies on our border…”

“The need for American leadership is not limited to Syria and the broader Middle East. As Israelis, we cannot be indifferent to the wider question of US leadership in the world. Our strategic and economic welfare is underpinned by American commitment to a rules-based global order.

The commitment of the Trump administration to the State of Israel is unquestionable. The warmth and passion shown during visits of both President Donald Trump and Vice President Mike Pence have been moving illustrations of this.

So, I say to my American friends: What Israel needs most from America, is for America to remain committed to its position of global leadership, in the defense of a stable Middle East, the defense of human dignity and human rights, and the defense of a rules-based global political order, in Syria and beyond.”

AIPAC Policy Conference 2018- Interview with Journalist Dana Weiss 

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Glya2yTaU3M&list=PLGrpphaV_cl34by_a0FJKjTqFn5h90lZJ&index=36 

07:10 “There are certain elements that have to be a must, in everything we do. One is Israel’s security as the utmost important element in the preservation of the Jewish state. Number two, it has to be Israel’s just cause- vibrant, democratic, socially oriented, its compassion towards its people, as well as presenting its case among nations. And finally, by the way something which is really, really important, its unique relationship with the Jewish diaspora, wherever it may be.”

AIPAC Policy Conference 2017- Interview with Yaakov Katz from The Jerusalem Post

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UgUKphy4HlY&list=PLGrpphaV_cl0zde5QAvUwSKm9SV80l98P&index=27 

05:10 “At the given moment, we will have to take that decision to see how we separate from the Palestinians and make sure that there will be an unequivocal presence of the Jewish homeland of the nation-state of the Jewish people eternally.”

07:37 “But after 50 years since 1967, we have to ask ourselves, what do we do next? Because between the Jordan River and the Mediterranean, there is not a Jewish majority. Let’s put it this way. There is more of an Arab majority than Jewish, unless we separate the two nations, and for this we have to work towards peace. And this is my vision. I believe we have to be cautious. We have to be responsible for Israel’s security above all, but yet, because there is an opportunity, because there is a convergence of interests between moderate Arab states and Israel at this given moment, because we can just knock at the door and enter into the region and be finally welcomed in the region, we have to talk to the nation nearby us, we have to speak, we have to present a vision of hope to both peoples… We can do it. We need simply to take bold steps. We need to be leaders. That’s what we are elected for. And we need to get the support of the United States and the White House.”

AIPAC Policy Conference 2016- Interview with David Horovitz from The Times of Israel

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OdQ2EW6GESc 

02:32 “I don’t feel like an immediate peace agreement between us and the Palestinians is realistic. It’s behind the corner. I think that we have to strive towards it. I think that we need to preserve the two-state solution and work towards it. But for that purpose, at this stage, when we’re amidst a very painful terror wave, we should work to disengage from the Palestinians, complete the security fence around the settlement blocs and also around Muslim villages around Jerusalem, move towards empowering the Palestinians behind the fence, and of course, convene an international regional security conference that will converge all the interests of the moderate parties concerned in the region against terror, Iran, and ISIL.”

03:42 “We should always be in direct contact with the ideal of moving towards the two-state solution because that will preserve the nature of the Jewish state. However, as we see right now when there is total lack of trust, there’s a lot of animosity between the peoples and the leaders. There’s hardly any relationship. We should do whatever it takes; first of all, to calm the situation by disengaging, by fighting terror with no mercy… But, having said that, we should also try with diplomatic means and other means, to calm down the situation, to disengage, and not lose sight with the final objective of reaching a two-state solution.”

05:16 “We will not accept coercive [ICC] resolutions that will try to impose solutions upon us that will undermine Israel’s well-being and security. Therefore, we should object to any resolution by the international community that doesn’t take into account those elements. And I believe that the international community never takes in a serious manner the security challenges of Israel. We should simply try and strive towards direct negotiations with no preconditions and try to get them, following the calming down of the situation, and trying to disengage and separate as much as possible.”

07:25 “We should make sure that part of what feeds up this coalition that we have around us is both easing up the situation and moving towards positive developments with the Palestinians on the one hand, and security cooperation on the other.”

08:59 On the U.S.-Israel relationship: “Number one, it’s vital because it’s important for Israel’s security and it’s important for Israel’s standing in the region. And clearly, it’s an alliance with the strongest power in the world, and convergence of beliefs in democracy and values that we share…This relationship is something that supersedes internal political games… We should also be grateful for this relationship, and therefore, we should work towards the memorandum, we should work towards the qualitative military edge, we should respect the support that we get, and we should encourage the understanding of the unique interests of the United States in the region together with Israel.” 

AIPAC Policy Conference 2014- Interview with David Horovitz from The Times of Israel

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PfpSH2GZ_kk 

02:15 “My vision for Labor: Labor heads the opposition, and my intent is to bring Labor to lead the country to win in the next elections, to lead a major center, center-left bloc in Israel that will make a change in Israeli democracy, and lead the country to a better direction based on social justice and pursuit of peace.” 

03:22 “[Iran’s nuclear program] is clearly the most dangerous threat to world stability, Middle East stability, and to the State of Israel, and therefore, we must join forces together to make sure that program is blocked.”

05:16 “People do not know the diversity of views in our Parliament. We have parties ranging from Muslim Brotherhood all the way to right-wing, even fascist parties. So, this is something to account for, for our democracy, for the vibrancy of our public discourse, for the fact that we touch everything, and free speech is as wide as possible, and it’s extremely respected.”

07:15 “Israel is a multicultural, multifaceted society. We must attend to it. We must meet that challenge. We must enable all groups of society to reach their dream.”