I am pleased to celebrate with you today the laying of the cornerstone for

Exactly 55 years ago – on September 1, 1950 – a group of olim from Yemen settled here. I was serving for a period of time in the northern part of the country for a period of time and I remember that community. After 9 years of struggling against the terrain and the climate, they were forced to leave. Today, we return to establish Nurit, we return to settle this piece of the land. We do this because any other way is unconceivable. Three years after the end of the War of Independence, in his book Vision and Deed, David Ben-Gurion wrote, and I quote: “Independence will not be possible, security will not be possible and Aliyah will not be possible as long as the land stands desolate. Only through wide-range and quick settlement enterprises will we be able to establish and strengthen independence, security and Aliyah – the three-stranded thread from which the State of Israel is woven.” These words are as true today as they were then. On the eve of Disengagement – which was a very difficult plan and a very difficult thing – and during the difficult days of the evacuation – we repeatedly heard claims that leaving Gaza meant an end to the settlement enterprise, and some added that it meant the end of Zionism, etc. These were claims meant to imbue despair and loss of hope. These were false claims, and we will prove it – not through words, slogans or intimidation – but through action. Action and facts will prove that our leaving Gaza will ensure the future of Zionism. We are leaving the Gaza Strip when it is clear to everyone that it will not be a part of the State of Israel in the future, so that we can ensure those areas which have a greater strategic importance for us. The significance of the Disengagement Plan is not only the evacuation of the Gaza Strip – it is also an increased effort to develop the Negev, the Galilee and Greater Jerusalem. The Government of Israel, which I head, considers developing the Negev, the Galilee and Greater Jerusalem a primary national mission – and views settlement as the number-one tool for doing so. We are currently in the process of establishing five more communities. Since I intend to promote settlement for many more years (and I am not going anywhere – I wanted you to know that), I can promise you, we will not quit. The momentum of construction and strengthening the communities in the Galilee and the Negev is just beginning. Nurit is just the beginning. There will be many more Nurits (Hebrew word for buttercup) blossoming in the Negev. We stand at the threshold of a new year – I wish you all a year of development and settlement, a year of realizing our dreams, a year of tranquility and security for the residents of the Gilboa and the entire nation of Israel. May you be blessed and good luck. BPI-info