|With my cousin Ruvi
This past month, I participated in PPI’s one-week annual Israel Symposium, where we met with many leading writers, politicians, members of the Knesset, and the Palestinian Minister of Israeli Affairs — who perfected his knowledge of Israelis while serving a prison sentence of 12 years. We visited Gush Etzion, built on the remnants of settlements of the same name destroyed in 1948. And we visited a non-recognized Bedouin settlement in the Negev, as we do almost every year.
But the highlight of my trip was having lunch with my cousin Ruvi, the President. I show this photo to share my delight. I brought with me my dear friend, Israel Prize winner, Professor Alice Shalvi, founder and former head of the Israel Women’s Network.
In the event you have not followed President Rivlin’s public utterances since he has become president, I am providing you with links. By now, some of you have read David Remnick’s remarkable article which treats Ruvi in depth. Ruvi’s public remarks vis-a-vis the Arab citizens of Israel have been exemplary. I have asked myself, from whence this cometh? Had I seen his “libertarian” side before? In terms of Feminism and Jewish religious pluralism, he probably has a ways to go, but his statements confirm something I learned in basic political science, that often, the office makes the man. As President Rivlin begins his 7-year term, he is a peacemaker. His actions and words towards the Arab citizens of Israel and his attempt to dampen down the racist nature of the public discourse have been admirable.
Our cousin Iko said of him, “He is what he is. He expresses what he believes is right. You can feel he is drawing on his sources.”
And the sources Iko Meshoulam refers to involve the household Ruvi was raised in. His father, Professor Yosef Yoel Rivlin, was the translator of the Koran and A Thousand and One Arabian Nights. Ruvi’s mother, our Aunt Ray, (Rachel Rivlin) was known in Jerusalem for her social and philanthropic works. Furthermore, and important in Ruvi’s development, he grew up in a Revisionist household. Jabotinsky was a fierce advocate for democracy and equal rights for all citizens of the future Zionist state which was to be on both sides of the Jordan River. And President Rivlin is still a one-stater, as David Remick’s article describes.
As far as I am concerned, the most intelligent piece is by David Remnick in the New Yorker. By now most of you may have read it, but if not here it is: http://www.newyorker.com/magazine/2014/11/17/one-state-reality
After that, you should look at what I believe is his most radical act, a visit to Kfar Kasim, site of 1956 massacre in which 47 Arab civilians were killed. In the article there is a reference to Ruvi’s father. Ruvi stopped short of a formal apology, but he went further then any other President. He said: “I come here today as a son of the Jewish people and as the President of the State of Israel to you the victims to share your pain of memory of the crime that was committed here.”