To all the readers of the Times of Israel, in Israel and around the world.

I want to start by wishing you all a very happy Independence Day. As I have said clearly, I believe that Israel’s special milestone is a celebration for the whole world. Because, today, we are not just marking the dream of restoring Jewish independence in our ancestral homeland, and we are not just celebrating all the great achievements of the last 70 years. Today, we celebrate 70 years of freedom and democracy in the Middle East. For seven decades, Israel has held high the torch of freedom and democracy in a difficult region. Surrounded by enemies and against all odds, we have been — and continue to be — guided by these values as the world’s only Jewish and democratic state.

But we know that we could never have done all this without our friends, both Jews and non-Jews, all around the world, who have dedicated their lives to building the State of Israel. We are grateful today especially for all those who stand up for Israel every day.

And of course, we owe an immeasurable debt of gratitude, to those who have lost their lives in the defense of our freedom. As we conclude Yom HaZikaron, we dry our tears, and hold close the memory of those who paid the ultimate price fighting to defend the land of Israel, and the people of Israel. They are with us always, and to all the bereaved families, we send our love and prayers.

President Reuven Rivlin (3rd-R) visits the family of Reuven Schmerling, who was murdered in a terror attack, as it sits shiva, on October 15, 2017. (Mark Neyman/GPO)

During the last year, I have traveled all across Israel, and I have met Israelis from all our communities: Jews and Arabs, religious and secular. I have met teachers and doctors, farmers and entrepreneurs. I have sat with students in schools and universities. I have visited our soldiers and police who keep us safe, day and night. I have met with organizations and volunteers who give of themselves unwaveringly, for the sake of those less fortunate. They all have one thing in common — namely, their hope for Israel to flourish. They may have different views and opinions on any and every matter, but their argument is one “for the sake of Heaven” — for the well-being and prosperity of this country and its people.

IDF brass brief President Reuven Rivlin during a tour of the Gaza border area, January 21, 2018. (Mark Neiman / GPO)

I have also seen how this desire is shared by others around the world, not only in the many groups and delegations I have been fortunate to welcome to the President’s Residence in Jerusalem. In traveling the world, I met with the Jewish communities of North America at the GA in Los Angeles. I visited Germany, Bulgaria, Spain, and more — and I was always greeted by so many dedicated friends of Israel.

President Rivlin meets with Madrid’s Jewish community on November 5, 2017. (Haim Zach/GPO)

In Israel, I have welcomed world leaders from the United States, Africa, Latin America, Europe and Asia. All these leaders and representatives from around the world also have something in common: they are amazed and greatly appreciative of all we have achieved in just 70 years. From water technologies to cybersecurity, from academic research to medical breakthroughs, from agriculture to clean energy — Israel continues to inspire the world, and the people of Israel continue to inspire me.

President Reuven Rivlin visits first grade students on the first day of school in Ma’ale Adumim, September 1, 2017. (Hadas Parush/Flash90)

Seventy years is a long time for a person, but a short time for a people — especially a people who have such a long and rich history. But as we face our challenges, and build upon the opportunities of today, it is my wish that, together with you, Israel will continue to grow and develop for the benefit of all peoples, all over the world.

Chag Sameach!