President's speech at the Banquet hosted by the President of Israel in Jerusalem (October 14, 2015)

October 14, 2015

Your Excellency Mr. Reuven Rivlin, President of the State of Israel,
Mrs. Rivlin,
Distinguished Ladies and Gentlemen,

It is indeed a privilege for me to make the first ever State Visit by an Indian President to Israel. The Nobel Laureate, Shai Agnon once said "if we breathe the scent of goodly grass, the fragrances of spices, the aroma of good fruits, we pronounce a blessing over the pleasure". I wish to begin by thanking you, Mr. President for the warmth of the welcome that I have received, the graciousness of your hospitality and the friendship of your people.

Mr. President, we, in India, know you as a man of courage and conviction. You lead a country that has faced many trials and tribulations throughout its history but whose people have always risen to the challenges that have confronted them. Israel’s leaders have guided their countrymen on a path of hard work, innovation and rapid progress. Their efforts have made them what they are today – a proud, confident and self reliant people.


My visit is taking place at a time when our bilateral relations can be described as excellent. In fact, the linkages between India and Israel date back many centuries. According to records, the people of India first welcomed members of the lost tribes of Israel around 175 BC – more than 2000 years ago. They were followed by different groups who were similarly integrated into the Indian society. It was not long before their religious traditions also became a part of India's composite culture. Hebrew has been taught as a subject in our educational system much before the State of Israel was established. Our society was enriched by the contributions of the Indian Jews, who became famous poets, actors, teachers, industrialists and even generals in the Indian army.

In the 20thcentury, our two nations came into being through the trauma of conflict, division and human suffering. We weathered many challenges but our leaders kept their faith in democracy. They believed in the transformative power of education and science in building a strong nation. Today, our strong and vibrant democracies are committed to the vision of our Founding Fathers. Both our countries have invested in building knowledge economies. India’s economy is presently on a fast trajectory of growth. In Israel, the innovation and enterprising spirit of your people have transformed Israel into a hi-tech powerhouse that has many remarkable achievements to its credit.

I see a very promising future for our bilateral relations. In the twenty years since we normalized our relations, we have learned to do business with each other and have developed a substantial bilateral agenda. The time is opportune for us to further strengthen our economic cooperation and intensify our collaborations in science and technology. We believe that robust academic exchanges will help us build a rewarding partnership in areas of advanced technology.

Mr. President,

The challenges of the 21stcentury have been rapidly unfolding before us. Our future generations will have to deal with a variety of these including the globalization of extremism, the severe impact of climate change and the scarcity of water. Governments will be hard pressed to meet the rising aspirations of their people. Democracies will have to respond to the needs of increasing diversities and pluralities in their social fabric. The international community must work together now, with wisdom, to create tolerance and understanding for addressing the complex issues confronting mankind. In this scenario, Mr President, the sanskritshloka,"Vasudhaiva kutumbakam”comes to mind. It is found in theMaha Upanishadand is meant to convey that the whole world is one family, interconnected and interdependent. I would add that although this is an ancient Vedic philosophy, it is more relevant in today’s globalised world than ever before.

With these words, Excellency, I take this opportunity to most cordially reiterate my invitation to you to visit India. I thank you, once again, and look forward to the pleasure of receiving you in New Delhi.

Ladies and Gentlemen,

I invite you to join me in raising a toast :
  • To the health and well-being of President Rivlin and Mrs. Rivlin
  • To the enduring friendship between India and Israel
  • To peace in this region and the continued progress and prosperity of the people of Israel.


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