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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Document symbol: SG/SM/6987|HQ/596
Document Type: Press Release, Remarks, Secretary-General press release
Document Sources: Department of Public Information (DPI), Secretary-General
Country: Israel
Subject: Credentials, Middle East situation
Publication Date: 11/05/1999