Full text of President Obama’s remarks to the Israeli people at the Jerusalem Convention Center on March 21, 2013.
Thank you. (Applause.) Thank you so much. Well, it is a great honor to be with you here in Jerusalem, and I’m so grateful for the welcome that I’ve received from the people of Israel. Thank you. (Applause.) I bring with me the support of the American people -- (applause) -- and the friendship that binds us together. (Applause.)
Over the last two days, I’ve reaffirmed the bonds between our countries with Prime Minister Netanyahu and President Peres. I’ve borne witness to the ancient history of the Jewish people at the Shrine of the Book, and I’ve seen Israel’s shining future in your scientists and your entrepreneurs. This is a nation of museums and patents, timeless holy sites and ground-breaking innovation. Only in Israel could you see the Dead Sea Scrolls and the place where the technology on board the Mars Rover originated at the same time. (Applause.)
But what I’ve most looked forward to is the ability to speak directly to you, the Israeli people -- especially so many young people who are here today -- (applause) -- to talk about the history that brought us here today, and the future that you will make in the years to come.
Now, I know that in Israel’s vibrant democracy, every word, every gesture is carefully scrutinized. (Laughter.) But I want to clear something up just so you know -- any drama between me and my friend, Bibi, over the years was just a plot to create material for Eretz Nehederet. (Applause.) That’s the only thing that was going on. We just wanted to make sure the writers had good material. (Laughter.)
I also know that I come to Israel on the eve of a sacred holiday -- the celebration of Passover. And that is where I would like to begin today.
Just a few days from now, Jews here in Israel and around the world will sit with family and friends at the Seder table, and celebrate with songs, wine and symbolic foods. After enjoying Seders with family and friends in Chicago and on the campaign trail, I’m proud that I’ve now brought this tradition into the White House. (Applause.) I did so because I wanted my daughters to experience the Haggadah, and the story at the center of Passover that makes this time of year so powerful.
It’s a story of centuries of slavery, and years of wandering in the desert; a story of perseverance amidst persecution, and faith in God and the Torah. It’s a story about finding freedom in your own land. And for the Jewish people, this story is central to who you’ve become. But it’s also a story that holds within it the universal human experience, with all of its suffering, but also all of its salvation.
It’s a part of the three great religions -- Judaism, Christianity, and Islam -- that trace their origins to Abraham, and see Jerusalem as sacred. And it’s a story that’s inspired communities across the globe, including me and my fellow Americans.
In the United States -- a nation made up of people who crossed oceans to start anew -- we’re naturally drawn to the idea of finding freedom in our land. To African Americans, the story of the Exodus was perhaps the central story, the most powerful image about emerging from the grip of bondage to reach for liberty and human dignity -- a tale that was carried from slavery through the Civil Rights Movement into today.