Hello to you all. I apologize that we are a little late, but we were driving here and I suddenly saw a hill, a typical hill, but a large one with a wall, a stone wall at the end, and I told the driver to stop. He told me he couldn’t, that you were waiting. I said, “They will wait, they’ll understand. This is worth it.” And I climbed Tel Lachish.
I must tell you that although I have navigated this area and walked here before, it was usually at night. So even though I am familiar with the literature about this area, even about the hill itself, it is only through photographs and reading – I still had never seen Tel Lachish during the day.
The hill was practically abandoned; there was a group of tour guides and it is an amazing site. Tel Lachish is mentioned in a tablet found in Nineveh [Iraq], which describes Sennacherib [King of Assyria], who conquered this place and depicts Jews, or Judeans as they were called then, and Assyrian soldiers breaking through the walls of Jewish Lachish, which fell after Tel Azakah, something we read about in the Lachish letters.
This is an amazing event that is part of our history, part of the history of the Bible, part of world history – situated several kilometers from here, abandoned.
Since we are talking about the area and also about helping the Gush Katif evacuees – things are going to change. Believe me. Things are going to change – and quickly. The moment it changes, other things here will change, because we want to create an anchor here, an anchor for development, an anchor for life, an anchor for growth, an anchor for renewal – and I am very excited, more than anything else, to see you, David [Hatuel] here. I remember our last meeting, and it is interesting to see the renewal and the rehabilitation of the ruins.
That is exactly why we came here, the Minister of Science and Chairman of the Ministerial Committee in this regard, Danny Hershkovitz, and I, along with the Director General of the Prime Minister’s Office and Government Secretary – to help with the renewal and rehabilitation. For quite some time now, Danny has asked me to visit. We talk about the hill, but today we look at it with a broad view.
I do not understand why the community of Amatziya has not yet been established. I do not understand what the big problem is. Certainly there is bureaucracy – it makes you sad, but it agitates me. I cannot understand how things that are necessary are stopped because of bureaucracy. Efi [Stenzler, Chairman of KKL-JNF] and I just dealt with one issue related to bureaucracy [the reform of the Israel Land Administration]. There is no bureaucratic impediment for something that is necessary, essential and just.
This rehabilitation has been launched, and I would like to say about this matter, and in general – I am directing these remarks to Yoram and all my brothers and sisters from Gush Katif, from the Northern Gaza Strip and from Northern Samaria – there will be solutions. Some have already been implemented and some are yet to be implemented, and they will be fair solutions between friends. However, they will be fast, because I want to conclude this issue. I am willing to go further, but I want this to end. We do not want to drag this out forever. We want an end to it, an end to suffering certainly, but also an end to bureaucracy.
I think that what we have today, and what Danny said is true, is a unique opportunity, genuine good will and an ability to bring this to an end, but the end is the end. I do not want to use a term from a different field, but the phrase: an end is the end of all claims, yes? An end to claims. Not a conflict, G-d forbid. What happened here is the private wound of the people of Israel inside itself, and that wound must heal and be treated and we must do all that must be done so that it heals. However, I want to heal the wound, not dismiss the horrible experience you suffered. I want to ensure a realization and an ending. For this to happen, I need the good will and cooperation of all the people sitting around this table, and of several government ministries – but leave that to me.
Thank you for your hospitality.