Jerusalem, Israel - May 28, 2019 - As he has done each year, President Reuven Rivlin hosted an Iftar meal, on Monday evening, May  27/ 22 Iyar 5779, at Beit HaNasi in Jerusalem, Israel. The Israeli President's Residence back garden was comfortably cool as the sun was setting. 

The Iftar breaks the daily fast during the month of Ramadan, and was attended by leaders and public figures from the Arab community in Israel – Qadis, Imams, Ambassadors from Egypt, Jordan, Uzbekistan, and Khalistan, and mayors and heads of local councils, social activists, and doctors – including Sheikh Mohammed Kayan, chair of the Association of Imams; Qadi Dr Iyad Zahalka, head of the Sharia Courts in Israel and the Qadis of the Sharia Appeals Court; and Mudar Yunes, head of the Arara local council and head of the Forum of Arab Councils. 

President Rivlin’s remarks in full:

“Distinguished guests, my important and dear guests, Salam Alaikum. I am honored to host you today in your home, Beit Ha Nasi, the house of the President of the State of Israel. Every year we gather here together in Ramadan, Islam’s holiest month. It is a very festive moment and we at Beit HaNasi look forward to it every year because it is our way of marking the month of Ramadan.

I must admit that this year, because of my wife Nechama's hospitalization I needed no reminder of Ramadan. The medical staff that takes care of Nechama, and of all of us, like all the other patients at Beilinson Hospital, is made up of Jews and Arabs in all positions – doctors, nurses, medical assistants, occupational therapists, and others.

And we, like all the patients and their families, cherish and appreciate their ability to function while fasting, to do the most difficult and complex tasks that require tremendous physical and mental effort with the greatest professionalism and devotion, day after day, throughout the month of Ramadan. I want to bless these people, some of whom are here with us today, and to thank you from the bottom of my heart. Most of us, Jews and Arabs, meet only in places like hospitals, when we are at our  most exposed and vulnerable

But many of the guests who sit here today are people who devote their daily lives to create a reality in which Jews and Arabs are not only patients next to one another other, but who work, learn, and function together, side by side, as a matter of daily routine: in the education system, in local authorities, in the civil service, in academia, and on the sports field.

I know that sometimes you feel lonely in the struggle, but please remember that there are many, many people who are praying for your success and more and more are joining you each year. Ultimately, we will succeed because we were destined to live together. My dear guests, only in such an hour of grace, when hearts are open, can the truth be shared so openly.

In our country, where everything happens so very quickly, you can almost forget that we had elections less than three months ago. This election campaign will be remembered, unfortunately, for two negative records concerning the relationship between Jews and Arabs in the State of Israel, our shared home. The first was the harsh attacks on the political legitimacy of the Arab parties and Arab elected officials. The second, which worries me even more, was the low percentage of Arab voters in Israel. Throughout the entire election campaign, I declared at every opportunity in a loud and clear voice that the fury against Israel's Arab citizens is a danger to Israeli society and to the values of the State of Israel as a Jewish and democratic state – democratic and Jewish in one breath.

I think you all know that I believe this with all my heart, but I must say that the choice of so many of the Arab public not to vote is a privilege that we who support Israeli democracy simply cannot afford. We have a long and difficult path to travel, but quitting the game is not the answer. Mainly, because this is not a game- it is our life, all of our lives. And we need to work hard to make it a good life, a worthy life, a life in which our voices are heard and represented by the decision-makers. This is our mission – the mission of everyone sitting here and of all the communities that you lead and influence: we must fight for the understanding that we are not doomed, but rather destined to live together.

There is another difficult and painful challenge that damages the lifeline of Arab society in Israel. Violence. Since the beginning of the year, at least 22 citizens have been murdered.  Some, like the oud player Tewfiq Zohar, walked innocently with his granddaughter on a main road and they found themselves embroiled in a violent and terrible crime scene. I know that this is a burning issue. We want to live together, but, first and foremost, we want to live.

The State of Israel must, without a doubt, do more to eradicate this civil terror. And I turn also to you the leaders, the guides, the makers of public opinion. We must all work together, hand in hand. Only together, with mutual trust and cooperation will we succeed in fighting the rampant epidemic of horrific violence and live lives of personal security and respect.

Dear guests, this is the home of all of us, and we all – each and every one of us, in every group and community – have an equal part, an equal place, and equal responsibility. You are welcome here. Your home is my home."