President Reuven Rivlin on Sunday called on Arab states and Iran to right a historical injustice and return money to Jews harassed and expelled from these countries, having to leave their property behind.
Rivlin spoke at the first ceremony to honor 800,000 Jews from who were expelled, fled, or left their homes willingly from countries ranging from Morocco to Iran.
"Friends, this voice, this story, must be heard within the education system, in the media channels, in the auditoriums, and in the country’s official institutions, and it needs to be heard in the international arena as well. And the historical injustice must be righted, also in the form of payments and refunds," Rivlin said.
Rivlin praised Jewish immigrants from Arab nations and Iran for their contributions to Israel, saying that they did not surrender despite the challenges that faced them.
"Despite the difficulties, they took a central part in the flourishing and prosperity of the State of Israel. And today we are honored to hear their loud, proud voices and the eloquent words of their sons and daughters," said Rivlin.
President Rivlin also spoke of the policies of the nations from which the Jews were expelled.
"Even today, Tehran and Aleppo, Baghdad, Sana'a and Tripoli, are still places Israeli Jews are not allowed to visit, and cultural treasures and property left there have been vandalized and looted more than once by the hateful regimes," said Rivlin.
"This day, which marks the expulsion and exile of Jews from the Arab countries and Iran, is an opportunity to start a historical justice. With a sobered and refreshed viewpoint which does not ignore the problems of the past. But more than that, this day asks us to remember and embrace in our hearts the cultural treasures created in these Jewish communities from the Arab countries and Iran, and get to know the important part they played in creating the joint future woven here today as part of the history of the State of Israel," Rivlin continued.
Rivlin concluded his speech by mentioning the cancellation of a performance of Israeli singer Amir Benayoun at the President's Residence after the singer released a song about an Arab student in Jerusalem who is an "ungrateful scum" and plans to stab listeners with an axe as soon as their backs are turned.
"I want to finish by reiterating and stressing, the President’s Residence does not belong to the President. I was elected to serve all the citizens of Israel. Now and always, I have objected to boycotts and I do not boycott anyone. Of course, an artist doesn't need anyone's permission to express themselves, within the limits of freedom of expression," said Rivlin.
"However, the President's Residence, as the home of all the citizens of Israel, must and should be careful to show care and respect for all citizens of Israel. Furthermore, it must be sensitive to public trends and opinions, and the atmosphere on the street, especially during such tense and sensitive times as these," Rivlin added.
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu also made a statement on Sunday regarding the expulsion of Jews from Arab nations.
"Today we mark for the first time the expulsion and exit of hundreds of thousands of Jews from Arab nations and Iran during the early years of the establishment of the State of Israel. There's a good reason why this day is commemorated a day after the 29th of November – Arab states that did not accept the United Nations resolution on the establishment of a Jewish state forced the Jews living in their territory to leave their homes, leaving their property behind. In some cases, the expulsion was accompanied by riots and violence against Jews. We have worked and will continue to work so that they themselves and their property will not be forgotten," said Netanyahu.