State Dinner in Honour of His Excellency Shimon Peres, President of the State of Israel
Rideau Hall, Monday, May 7, 2012
It is a pleasure to welcome all of you to Rideau Hall. Tonight is a wonderful occasion to renew the bonds between our two countries.
In the 64-year history of the State of Israel, Canada has always been a friend and trusted partner. Yet, there is still so much potential for both our nations to collaborate, to be leaders, to be brokers for long-lasting peace and prosperity. To leave a legacy for our children that will allow them every opportunity to succeed. And we can do this together.
Both of our countries recognize the importance of innovation. In recent years, our collaboration has grown, with such initiatives as the Canada-Israel Industrial Research and Development Foundation, as well as the Canada-Israel Technology Innovation Summits.
What impressed me, however—and what is not as widely known—is the speed with which Israel became an innovation nation. From the beginning, you tackled the challenges of living in a veritable desert. In a short span of time, you had developed new agricultural techniques, transforming arid land into usable soil. And within a decade of Israel’s independence, you were helping African countries with their own agricultural needs.
Today, Israel is known as the “start-up nation,” a place where entrepreneurs with big ideas can find a supportive environment in which to build a business. This is why Israel is a leader in innovation and why Canada is eager to find new arenas for partnerships, in such areas as water, renewable energy and neuroscience.
But Israeli innovation does not end at science and technology.
For many years, Israel has focused its efforts on providing quality education, allowing young people the chance to grow and to contribute to Israel’s future. Your students also realize the importance of an international education, as hundreds of Israeli students study in Canada each year. And I am pleased to see that our partnerships extend to our learning institutions, with some 30 agreements that share our knowledge in a variety of ways.
I hope that your visit, Mr. President, will lead to further exchanges between our universities and colleges, as well as our students.
I have often spoken of innovation and education as one of the pillars of a smarter, more caring world. But equally important is giving— volunteerism and philanthropy—a concept ingrained in the Jewish community.
I have recently discovered that the word צדקה (tzedakah) in Hebrew is commonly associated with charity. To give to others, to help others help themselves, to donate freely are tenets taught to every Jewish child, in Israel and around the world. Here in Canada, we see this every day in communities across the country, ideals passed on to subsequent generations. Some see this as a religious duty, but we can all see this as a moral duty.
Tzedakah is doing what is right, not just when it is convenient, but all the time.
Sarah Herskowitz, director of international relations for ALEH—an Israeli organization that provides children with medical and rehabilitative care—recently wrote about “innovation in caring.” To me, this shows that Israelis are looking out for one another, supporting one another, making sure that you help those in great need, and always looking for new ways of delivering this aid.
This is a new way to look at giving, one that is ingrained in our DNA, one that is always second nature to us.
This is tzedakah; this is Israel.
For more than 60 years, our two nations have been engaged in the sharing of knowledge that comes from a close and friendly relationship.
Tonight, as we celebrate our ties, let me raise a glass and toast to our shared history and to the promise of even more exchanges based on our commitment to building a smarter and more caring world.