update deskIsrael at War

Herzog hails Ashkelon’s sacrifice, calls for unity

But he warned that "as time passes, we seem to be gradually returning to the realms of polarization and partisanship."

Israeli President Isaac Herzog and his wife, Michal, vote in the Jerusalem municipal election, Feb. 27, 2024. Photo by Yonatan Sindel/Flash90.
Israeli President Isaac Herzog and his wife, Michal, vote in the Jerusalem municipal election, Feb. 27, 2024. Photo by Yonatan Sindel/Flash90.

President Isaac Herzog opened Israel Hayom‘s “Tomorrow’s Conference” on Tuesday with a speech honoring those who died in the current war while defending Ashkelon, the host city.

He also addressed the challenges facing Israeli society as it looks to rebuild and move forward.

Herzog began by remembering Shahaf Nisani and her cousin Eden Gez, two of more than 30 Ashkelon residents killed by Hamas terrorists on Oct. 7. “May their memories, and those of all the fallen and murdered, be blessed,” he said.

The president said that while the war is not over, with 133 captives still held by Hamas and many displaced residents unable to return home, rehabilitation efforts are already underway through the dedicated work of the Tekuma Administration staff. However, he stressed, “We all understand this will be a long and complex process.”

(The agency was created on Oct. 19 to rebuild the communities devastated by the Oct. 7 invasion.)

The conference focuses on challenges that emerged following the events of Oct. 7 and the “Swords of Iron” War, such as restoring a sense of security to residents of attacked communities, rehabilitating abandoned areas, strengthening the healthcare system, and providing solutions for children and youth left without organized educational frameworks.

During the conference, attendees will discuss some of the most pressing issues, Herzog added, “but the bottom line is clear: We can only succeed in meeting these challenges together. United we will prevail, and united we will rebuild.

“We cannot invest our resources in construction, rehabilitation and renewal as long as our efforts and energies are focused on internal strife,” Herzog said.

He pointed to the war’s start, when “Israelis from different sectors put aside October 6 disputes and mobilized—together!—for countless vital missions.” But, he warned, “as time passes, we seem to be gradually returning to the realms of polarization and partisanship.

“Let us not forget, there is a huge difference between unity and uniformity, between dispute and debate,” Herzog said. “Debates are a vital component of democracy. … To move from dispute to debate, we must instill listening, respect and dialogue in our public discourse.”

The president declared he is “fully dedicated to promoting these values” through initiatives like “Changing Words—The President’s Initiative for Israeli Discourse.

“We all understand that ‘tomorrow’ must look different from ‘yesterday,’ and to achieve that, we must fundamentally change our discourse. It is within our power,” Herzog said.

Originally published by Israel Hayom.

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