Prime Minister Ehud Olmert, addressing a conference on the future of the Jewish people, said he identified himself as "Jewish first, then Israeli."
The prime minister spoke at a conference on the future of the Jewish people, organized by the Jewish People Planning Institute (JPPPI) at the Mount Zion hotel in Jerusalem.
"When I'm asked, I say, yes first of all I'm Jewish, then I'm Israeli," Olmert said in an introspective speech. He added that had he been asked the same question when he was younger, he would have answered that he was Israeli first.
"If I was asked today, which I am sometimes, how do I most accurately define myself, as a person? What is that defines me most accurately? I probably will say, certainly will say, first of all I'm Jewish. Had I been asked this question when I was much younger, say at the age of 14, 15, I would have said right away, I am an Israeli. Something in me changed," Olmert said.
"It's not something that just happened. It happened through a very long and sometimes painful process of soul searching of who I am and where I come from," Olmert said.
Olmert shared with the audience the story of his parents who emigrated from Russia and the Ukraine to China, before moving to Israel. "And I thought of what made them move in the first place - something that belonged to the history of the Jewish people, fears of the Jewish people, circumstances which are so unique to us and are not identical to the history of other people. And this is just one single individual story," Olmert stated.
"All our lives, we are waiting for something to happen... but that something is always connected with this place," the prime minister said. "As Jews, the one single thing that is the driving force of everything that we were praying for and crying for all our lives was to regain something that is sometimes very hard to define, but which belongs here. And therefore when we define ourselves as Jews, there is no way that we can escape the significance of Israel in this definition we can give of ourselves," Olmert said.