(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
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
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
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.