Many of the keynote speeches prepared for the gala opening of President Shimon Peres' 'Facing Tomorrow' Conference underwent some last minute changes to account for the Palestinian rocket attack against a crowded Israeli shopping mall in Ashkelon earlier Wednesday evening. In all, 15 people were seriously or moderately wounded after the Grad rocket crashed into a women's health clinic on the second floor of the commercial center, burying terrified shoppers under piles of debris. Prime Minister Ehud Olmert called the Ashkelon attack "completely unacceptable. "The Israeli government is committed to stopping (these attacks) and we will take the necessary steps," he vowed. US President George W. Bush wished Israel a happy birthday upon taking the podium. "America is Israel's oldest and best friend in the world," the president said, "I love coming to your beautiful country. We are thrilled to be here with one of America's closest friends. "As we celebrate the anniversary it is useful to look back at the story of your founding. It's a story about faith guiding the Jewish people through centuries of bitter exile. It is a story of how those hiding inside ghetto walls behind barbed wire, never lost sight of Jerusalem." He also praised the Jewish leaders for founding a democracy in a region where democracy is rare. "With every passing year the bonds of friendship between America and Israel have grown stronger. America stands for peace and so does Israel," he continued. "As we stand in peace we must understand the realities of the world in which we live. We must be steadfast we must be strong in the face of those who murder the innocent to achieve their objectives. Liberty is the great alternative to tyranny and terror." Bush went on to say: "I plan to speak about a day, in which I believe that every child in the Middle East can live in peace and live in freedom. With trust in the rock of Israel we know that day will come and when it does America will be at your side. God bless Israel and God bless America. 'Someone to lean on' Olmert remarked that he had expressed his concern for the residents of southern Israel only a few hours before the attack occurred. "The president arrived (here) on a mission of peace," he said. "At the end of the day we can rely only on ourselves for our security, but we will always know we have someone to lean on." Olmert spoke about the friendly relationship between the two countries, and commended Bush on his leadership skills. "You are an extraordinary person, an extraordinary leader, and an extraordinary friend," he said. President Shimon Peres spoke before the prime minister, and wished those injured in the rocket attack well. "They are trying to destroy Lebanon and Gaza. I don’t know what will become of those two, but I know they won’t succeed in overpowering Israel," he said. "As deep as our pain and sorrow is, we will remain resolute to react at times and in ways necessary, and continue the peace process."