(Communicated by the President’s Office)
President Shimon Peres, today (Sunday, 4 August 2013), at his Jerusalem Residence, hosted a welcoming reception for FC Barcelona who are visiting Israel and the Palestinian Authority on a special peace tour. The reception was also attended by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, Education Minister Shai Piron and Culture and Sports Minister Limor Livnat.
President Peres said:
"It’s a great pleasure for me to host F.C. Barcelona at the President’s Residence in the Holy City of Jerusalem. Thank you Mr. Sandro Rosell for accepting our invitation to come and bring this wonderful group of players. On behalf of all of our people - Welcome to Israel! Your visit to the Holy Land is a dream come true for Israeli and Palestinian children.
It is a contribution to peace, as you have rightly called it, a 'Peace Tour.' You came just on time. Our Prime Minister and his government began a 'tour of peace' between us and the Palestinians, which is an important and timely decision.
I want to thank Barca for making the dreams of the children come true. Israeli and Palestinian children dream of two goals – scoring the winning goal at Camp Nou and the great goal of peace.
I would like to send our best wishes to your beloved coach Tito Vilanova. In Jerusalem we shall pray for his full and speedy recovery.
Barca is 'more than just a club.' Over the years you achieved the highest level of football. But more than that, Barca became a message of solidarity, of friendship, of caring for the weak. You became messengers of peace. You are loved by millions. And you offer your love to them, thank you.
Sport and football in particular breaks down barriers, fights racism and creates a horizon of hope for all children in the entire world. On the football field what matters is ability, teamwork and dedication. It is not the color of your feet but the speed and wisdom of their moves. In football there are no victims and always hope for the next match.
At our football academies Israeli and Palestinian children play together. Passing the ball from player to player overcomes any conflict. The children continue to train together even in times of tension.
I would like to add that we pray for the success of the current peace talks between us and the Palestinians, their success is crucial for our future. Your visit here is an added contribution to that prayer of peace through the language of football.
Messi, Xavi, Iniesta, you and the whole team can teach us and the Palestinians to play Tiki-Taka so we can score the goal we all hope for – the goal of peace.
President Peres and PM Netanyahu at the reception for FC Barcelona, who arrived in Israel on their 2013 'Peace Tour' (Copyright: GPO/Moshe Milner)
Prime Minister Netanyahu spoke immediately after President Peres, and said: "Here is my great hope: My hope is to see good football games, to have peace and security and to have one percent of your fan base, they have 300 billion, 1 percent visit this great site and this great country. That would help our economy and it would help peace as well."
The President of FC Barcelona said in his remarks that “We have come to this land to strengthen our bonds of friendship and help you, both Israelis and Palestinians, to find meeting points to help you along the road to peace. We are doing this with all the humility in the world, but in the knowledge that Barça is one of things that both communities have in common, for as they have told us, we are the most popular foreign team in both Israel and Palestine. This makes us feel very proud, but at the same time legitimizes our cause and encourages us to help you towards this goal.
This is a historic moment for us, and could not have come at a better time, coinciding as it does with the reopening of peace negotiations between Israelis and Palestinians in Washington. We know that the road to peace through dialogue is a long one and that it will be full of obstacles, but it is a worthwhile objective. Your future is also the world’s future, and that is why we all want this road to lead you to success."
Also as part of the reception President Peres, Prime Minister Netanyahu, Minister for Culture and Sport and the Minister of Education signed a pledge called "The other is me" about tolerance and acceptance of difference, which was presented by Minister of Education Piron.