“The existence of the State of Israel is not a gracious concession of the international community following the Shoah. The existence of Israel predates by centuries any international agreement. Plus, the State of Israel exists in spite of the Holocaust.” In his recent speech to the Knesset, Italian Prime Minister Matteo Renzi reaffirmed the friendship between Italy and Israel and said that the Jewish State will always have an ally in Rome.
“Some today still try to deny the right of the State of Israel to exist. Based on all that has been said until now, it is clear to one and all that not only do you have a right to exist, you also have the duty to exist. The duty to exist, the duty to resist, the duty to pass on to your children but also to my three children: Francesco, Emanuele and Ester. We will always be at your side in this challenge,” Renzi told the Knesset, receiving the warm applause of the audience.
“The speech captured the thoughts and feelings of Italian Jews”, commented the president of the Union of Italian Jewish Communities Renzo Gattegna, who was part of the Italian Prime minister’s delegation that visited Israel. Gattegna expressed his positive opinion about what Renzi said in Jerusalem, emphasizing how the speech included many references to Judaism, Zionism and the people connected to Italian Jewry. For example, Renzi paid his respects to rav Elio Toaff, the emeritus chief rabbi of Rome who died last April. The Italian Prime Minister defined him as a “great Italian and a central figure of the Jewish community in my country.”
“Rabbi Toaff fought against the indignities of the anti-Jewish laws which since 1938 were a source of perennial shame to our country, then he committed himself to the liberation of Italy from Nazi-Fascism and was among the protagonists of the reconstruction of postwar Italy.
A man of dialogue, he was the promoter of the historic visit of Pope John Paul II to the Great Synagogue in Rome, to the very temple where we said our last goodbyes to rav Toaff a few weeks ago. He left us a few days before turning 100 years, which he had lived to the service of his country, and of our own future.”
Renzi also remembered figures such as Enzo Sereni, an Italian Zionist who left the Yishuv to fight Nazism and fascism in Europe, and was killed in Dachau. The Italian Prime Minister also expressed his gratitude to Nedo Fiano – an Italian Jewish survivor, whom the Prime minister described as a “personal friend” – and to the fighters of the Jewish Brigade, volunteers from Mandated Palestine who helped the Allies to free Italy from the fascists and Nazis.
Renzi spoke also about the present situation of Israel and turning his attention to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, the Italian premier said, “The peace that we demand for Jerusalem will only be reached when the project of two states for two people is achieved. This can only happen if the full security of all is guaranteed.”
“We must be extremely clear: your security is our security, too. We share roots and values as we said before. But we also share something much bigger: we share our destinies, and no one can ignore this,” added Renzi.
“The Italian Prime Minister reaffirmed the indissoluble brotherhood between the two countries that, despite their differences, have many things that unite them and, above all, have a common destiny,” commented Gattegna.