Department of Public Information · News Coverage Service ·
11 May 1999
AT UNVEILING OF GIFT FROM ISRAEL, SECRETARY-GENERAL SAYS GOALS
SOUGHT BY ISRAEL -- PEACE, SECURITY, END TO FEAR AND
UPHEAVAL -- ARE SHARED BY UNITED NATIONS
Calls Gift Sign of Israel's Strong Commitment to International Cooperation
Following is the text of remarks made today at Headquarters by Secretary-General Kofi Annan at the unveiling of a gift from Israel on the occasion of the fiftieth anniversary of Israel's membership in the United Nations:
It is a great pleasure to join you today in celebrating half a century of Israeli membership in the United Nations. I would like to offer congratulations and best wishes to the Government and people of Israel on this happy occasion.
Israel has chosen to mark this milestone with a generous gift to the United Nations: a beautiful lintel, sculpted in the fourth century for a synagogue in Galilee. The lintel has made quite a journey: from the far reaches of antiquity to the modern era; from a house of worship to this house of diplomacy; and from the land of prophets and penitents, to this new site amid the art and peoples of many nations.
On the lintel we see a menorah -- the candelabrum that is one of the oldest symbols of the Jewish people: of the faith, the culture, and, for these past 51 years, of the State of Israel.
It has been said that the menorah symbolizes Israel's mission to be a "light unto the nations", as is written in Isaiah. The United Nations has its own mission of light: to shine a light on suffering and injustice; to show that light is more powerful than might; to carry the torch of peace, freedom and human rights; and to be a beacon for all people trapped in the dark tunnels of conflict and poverty.
Our world continues to show a frightening propensity to dwell in those dark places. So this symbol of light, coming from a people who have suffered the deepest depths of human evil, is a fitting addition to United Nations Headquarters.
And just as this lintel has found a new home, so, too, does Israel have a home at the United Nations. I know that at times it may not have seemed like a home, but I think we can agree that today a new climate has taken hold in relations between Israel and the United Nations.
The values cherished by Israel -- freedom, democracy and tolerance -- are United Nations values. The goals sought by Israel -- peace, security and an end to fear and upheaval -- are United Nations goals, which we seek for all peoples. This gift is a sign of Israel's strong commitment to international cooperation.
I have no doubt that Israel and the United Nations will continue to work as partners, in the Middle East and beyond. And I have no doubt that together, we can achieve great things. Thank you again and congratulations.
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