Good morning Belgrade, good morning Serbia! Ten years passed since I left this great country and this amazing city. And here I am, excited and overwhelmed, submitting my Credentials as Ambassador of the State of Israel into the hands of President Tadic.
Coming back to Belgrade is coming back home, to the streets full of life which remind me so much of my beloved Tel Aviv, to Kalemegdan park that overviews the meeting of two rivers, to delicious Serbian food, good hearted trumpet and contrabass musicians in the restaurants of Skadarlija and Ada Ciganlija, to the cafes in the shadows of Dorcol tree crowns. But mainly I feel that I came back to people that I missed so much, sponged with human warmth that touch your hearts, with friendly generosity, genuine laughter and true joy of life. This is Serbia which I missed.
I first came to Serbia in summer 1999, into a destroyed and sad country which looked for a better tomorrow. “The most sad thing is to have it all and then to lose it all”. That sentence I kept hearing again and again while walking in gloomy landscapes. The sadness of summer 1999 touched me deeply. I sensed already then that one day I will come back to Serbia which is walking in determined steps towards a nicer future. I met people that walked with a sparkle of hope in their eyes. That hope bore freedom that Serbia enjoys today.
I want to tell you that each Israeli that comes to Serbia feels immediately the strong magnet that connects us together, two small and brave people of only 7,5 million people, in front of an ocean of challenges and threats. Two peoples thirsty of freedom and independence, whose bleeding history has not always been just to them.
The Jewish people and nation, the State of Israel which resurrected after 2000 years of diaspora and persecutions, will always remember the amazing victim offered by the Serbian nation for hundreds of years for the sake of freedom. Especially, we salute the heroic deeds of so many Serbs in the struggle against the Nazi occupation. There are not many nations in Europe which can be proud as Serbs in the tradition of real tolerance and brotherhood towards the Jewish community that lived amongst them.
As there is friendship between peoples, there is friendship between nations and states. I can put my hand on my heart and tell that between Serbs and Israelis there is a deep and honest friendship. True, we are not neighbors on the map, but we are neighbors in the heart.
My country Israel is a young state, 63 years only, which fulfilled an old dream of a 4000 years old ancient nation, a people which brought to the humanity the Bible, the prophets of morality, the kings Solomon and David, and the wish to be free. But, half of its life it was wandering in the endless, muddy roads of exile, praying “next year in Jerusalem”. Sometimes dreams come true. The Jewish people came back home to rebuild for itself a life of freedom and hope.
“Israel is the biggest small nation”, some say about us. Yes, we are strong, yes, we have power and potentials, and yes still we stretch our hands to our neighbors for peace. We acknowledge the right of our Palestinian neighbors to be sovereign and independent. We call them to pave their way to a better tomorrow only through a dialogue with us and only through a mutual acceptance of the other to exist. Founding a country must be an act of courage and not of public relations. We believe that every disagreement can be bridged without imposing solutions from the outside and for sure without threats of terror and violence. A new state in the Middle East must be born through a dialogue with the neighbor, not through a voting in New York and not in a facebook act in which fingers are raised “I like”.
Good morning Serbia. Diplomats have also the right to be sentimental sometimes. I am happy to be here again in a more optimistic Serbia, with amazing victories in tennis and volleyball, with happy streets and electrifying atmosphere of a new beginning. Shalom!