World leaders sent letters of congratulations to President Shimon Peres this week, honoring Israel on its 65th birthday.
- Flags, trumpets and strange choreography: Happy Independence Day!
- Peres extends holiday wishes to nation as Israel turns 65
- Nearly a million Israelis celebrate Independence Day outdoors, despite blustery weather
- A new breed of post-post-Zionism
Letters came from U.S. President Barack Obama, Russian President Vladimir Putin and the new pope, Francis I, as well as the leaders of Switzerland, Germany, Greece, Ireland, Belgium, Armenia, Slovenia, Finland, Croatia, Sri Lanka, Bosnia, India and Nepal, among others.
"On behalf of the American people, I congratulate the people of Israel on the 65th anniversaryof Israel's independence on April 16," Obama wrote. "I was deeply honored to have the opportunity to visit Israel just a few weeks ago and to witness first-hand the deep and everlasting bond between our countries. Sixty-five years ago, the United States was the first nation to recognize Israel as an independent state, just eleven minutes after the State ofIsrael was proclaimed. Since then, our political, economic, security, and cultural ties have only grown stronger.
"As Israelis celebrate Independence Day, the American people join me in applauding the remarkable Israeli achievements over the past six and a half decades. The United States stood together with the State of Israel at its founding, and we will stand together with you always."
Putin described himself as "satisfied with the friendly character of Russian-Israelirelations," adding, "I am convinced that we will further develop constructive cooperation" invarious fields and "interact effectively in our effort to promote peace, stability andsecurity in the Middle East." He closed by wishing "peace and prosperity to the Israeli people."
Pope Francis addressed himself more directly to Peres, writing, "At the beginning of my Pontificate, I gladly invoke upon you and all the people of Israel the blessings of the Most High and assure you of my prayers for your high responsibilities at the service of the nation."
Peres himself wished the nation a happy holiday, in an adress from the President's Residence in Jerusalem.
"I belong to a generation that crossed the threshold between the abyss of the Holocaust and the pinnacle of resurrection," Peres said. "I was there the evening the state was recognized, and was there when we were attacked upon daybreak."
Peres went on to briefly recount the struggle to defend the fledgling state.
''We had only one chance,'' he said; "To overcome or to fall, to excel or to falter. We prevailed due to the heroism of our fighters. Theirs was a just war, and they upheld the purity of arms. Over the course of fewer than seven decades, attempts were made to annihilate us, and seven times, we prevailed and won."
"Israel's victory is one of humanity, not of land. But the dangers have yet to recede," he said, and described the external dangers Israel faced as "an Iranian leadership... gripped by frenzy; Hezbollah, which has turned religious spirit into an arsenal of missiles; and Hamas, which has transformed a strip of land, teeming with civilians, into a powder keg." Yet, Peres continued, "Israel has never ceased advocating peace."