Representatives of the various institutions,
Distinguished colleagues, friends, ladies, and gentlemen,
I would like to welcome you, also on behalf of my wife Sabina and the entire Embassy, to celebrate the anniversary of the Italian Republic. It is an evening full of meaning, emotions, memories, but also, I believe, full of hope for the future of our countries, our families, and our children.
Over the past year, we have had to deal with an unforeseen pandemic of global dimensions, that has caused turmoil in our lives, battered our economies, undermined our certainties, and which has yet to be fully defeated.
Today, first and foremost, we commemorate its many victims. Nevertheless, we must also express our gratitude to the doctors and nurses for their heroic work, and to the scientific community, which in record time has developed therapies and vaccines, that are gradually taking us out of the crisis.
With regard to Italy – as the President of the Republic, Sergio Mattarella, has constantly reminded us – unity and discipline of the people were the forces that have enabled us to keep faith, pick ourselves up, and view the future with optimism.
As Italians, we have proudly defended the principles of unity and solidarity in Europe and these same principles have inspired our relations with Israel during this difficult year.
We take great pride in the fact that we battled against COVID together, especially through collaboration in the fields of science and medicine, such as that between the Careggi Hospital in Florence and the Toscana Life Science Foundation and the Israel Institute for Biological Research, as well as that between the Sheba Medical Centre and the Verduno Hospital in Piedmont.
As has been the case for everyone, for the entire Embassy, these have been months of incessant work and intense emotions. At last, we can begin once more to plan new initiatives, undertake new projects and bring them to fruition, seizing the enormous potential this country offers, with its young and future-oriented society.
It is a reality that we have come to know well and that all delegations from Italy, at every level, have been able to understand just looking at and appreciating its dynamism, depth and complexity.
These many delegations focused on different themes – ranging from politics, to business, culture and science – but they all stressed Italy’s unwavering commitment to the State of Israel and expressed their will to enhance the bilateral relationship in a spirit of mutual interest in peace, security and prosperity, both for present and future generations.
Such a relationship is part of Italy’s strategic action in the Mediterranean basin. In this context, Israel is, and must remain, a privileged partner in every sector. Conversely, for Israel, Italy is, and must remain, a partner of reference on which it can rely, also in its dealings with Europe.
We are partners in the politico-military sector, aimed at ensuring security and stability in this region, particularly in Lebanon and Sinai, but also in the West Bank where we help training Palestinian police forces and provide development assistance. Our firm commitment to the maintenance of peace resonated even more, in the very recent days when the crisis following missile barrages from Hamas terrorists, caused numerous victims and brought us to the brink of a wider conflict.
We cooperate closely in the energy sector, and I refer in particular to the Eastern Mediterranean Gas Forum and the ambitious Eastmed project, two multilateral initiatives that highlight how much the contribution of Italy is appreciated for its excellent industrial capabilities, but also for its role in fostering inclusive regional dialogue.
We are increasingly interconnected in the spheres of trade, science, industry and technology, where we managed to take advantage of the complementarities of our respective economies, by fostering hi-tech partnerships, launching a program aimed at attracting Italian start-ups to Israel, and by realizing many initiatives to promote “Made in Italy” products.
Lastly, we are partners in the fields of culture and tourism where, in the wake of the great success of image ensured by the Giro d’Italia in Israel in 2018, we organized events promoting Italy’s vast cultural, artistic and natural heritage. Among others, I am pleased to recall the recently inaugurated exhibition “Amedeo Modigliani among friends”, created in collaboration between the Tel Aviv Museum of Art and the National Gallery of Modern Art in Rome; the concert of the first tenor of the Scala of Milan, Maestro Francesco Meli, held last Saturday at the Tel Aviv Opera house; and the many initiatives focusing on the Italian language, one of the most loved and studied languages in the world, organized to commemorate the 700th anniversary of the death of Dante Alighieri.
The development of this multidimensional relationship has been possible thanks to the shared core values of the Italian Republic and the State of Israel that, also thanks to the great contribution of the Italian Jewish communities, have day by day allowed the strengthening of the relations and the friendship between our peoples.
Among these shared values, also in the light of my former position as Head of the Delegation for the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance, I desire to remember the fight against antisemitism and all forms of discrimination. An absolute and unwavering commitment, that I – and indeed all Italy – reaffirm and that was sealed by the President of the Italian Republic’s attendance at the Fifth World Holocaust Forum held at the Yad Vashem in January 2020 to mark the 75th anniversary of the liberation of Aushwitz-Birchenau extermination camp.
Returning to the present, it is with great pleasure that I would like to extend our congratulations to the new President-elect, Isaac Herzog, to whom we assure our closeness, just as we have been alongside President Reuven Rivlin, who I would like to thank for the sincere friendship he has always shown towards Italy. His warm-hearted style and his cultural and intellectual depth, made him, together with his unforgettable wife Nechama, a representative of all Israelis, and a precious interlocutor for our country.
Before bidding farewell, let us spare a thought for the recent cable car tragedy at Mottarone, in which, among others, five Israelis died, Itzik and Barbara Cohen, Amit, Tal and Tom Biran. Our thoughts and prayers go out to them and to little Eitan, who survived the tragedy. May their memory be a blessing.
These have been four unforgettable years, for me and for my family, which will forever remain in our hearts and in our memory. We thank you, profoundly moved, for the friendship, trust and great affection you showed us from the moment we arrived. These have been years of exciting work and great personal enrichment. “Grazie mille”, “Toda Raba”, a thousand times thank you. We leave Israel with heartfelt nostalgia. We never felt as “guests” in this wonderful country – that has touched our souls – but indeed a part of it, and a part of you all.
Allow me also to extend deep gratitude – also on behalf of my wife Sabina, and my daughter Gaia – to the Christian community of the Holy Land. A true builder of peace that, with its daily commitment to educating the young and supporting the weak – Christians, Jews or Muslims – convey every day a powerful message of solidarity and integration that is a shining example to us all.
Finally, a heartfelt thank you to the women and men of the Embassy, the Cultural Institutes, the Italian Trade Institute, the Chamber of Commerce, the Honorary Consulates and of all Italian institutions operating in Israel. I was always proud of them and without their daily advice, ideas, and commitment, none of the initiatives we undertook in these four years would have been possible.
Best wishes to you all on the anniversary of the Italian Republic! Long live Italy, long live the Italians! Viva l’Italia, viva gli italiani!