Celebrating Waitangi Day in Israel
On February the 6th, ‘Waitangi Day’ was celebrated in Israel for the first time. Waitangi Day is New Zealand’s Yom Ha’atzmaut. The event at the Begin Center in Jerusalem brought together Israeli Kiwis and Israeli fans of New Zealand to connect and to celebrate this distant South Pacific country. The event was hosted by the New Zealand Israel Innovation Hub and Kea New Zealand. As the executive director of the ‘Innovation Hub’, this was my speech:
Shalom and Kia Ora! Thank you all for coming and for braving this wintery night in Jerusalem.
Today is Waitangi Day, a celebration, a commemoration and a commiseration all rolled into one. It is on this day the Treaty of Waitangi was signed between the British colonists and Māori tribes. ‘Te tiriti’ as it’s known in te reo Māori, is New Zealand’s founding document, forged on the promise of a partnership between Māori and the British Crown.
Given the day’s special connection to New Zealand’s cultural legacy, I’d like to start with Karakia. A ‘karakia’ is an opening Māori incantation or prayer, used to invoke spiritual guidance and protection. It is usually said in the Māori language, but today I will say it in English for the benefit of our Israeli guests – just this once.
Let the strength and life force of our ancestors
Be with each and every one of us
Freeing our path from obstruction
So that our words, spiritual power, love, and language are upheld;
Permanently fixed, established and understood!
These powerful words reflect the current spirit and values of the nation; acknowledgement and respect for the Island’s rich cultural heritage, remembrance of those who come before us and their legacy, and an aspiration to advance with purpose, integrity, kindness and brotherhood.
In New Zealand today, other Māori ideas are helping to provide a guideline, vision and moral compass by which the country can build a shared future. These include:
- Manaakitanga which means to extend ‘aroha’ or love and compassion to others.
- Kaitiakitanga which means stewardship, to respect and care for the environment and being mindful of the impact of our behaviour and to give back to the land.
- Kotahitanga which means togetherness or unity. This is about sharing the earth, extending our ‘āwhina’ or support, to everyone.
- Whakatutikitanga which means to strive for excellence and high-quality outcomes.
- Whanaungatanga which means to take time out to get to know each other, to connect, to encourage each other, to plan and work together.
If you would like to understand New Zealand today, I would advise you to understand its unique indigenous perspectives. When Israelis ask us (the New Zealand Israel Innovation Hub) about doing business in New Zealand, I tell them that these values hold the keys to communicating on a common wavelength and to establishing trusting commercial relationships.
Given today is New Zealand’s national day, I’d also like to reflect upon another concept that makes New Zealand a great nation: ‘Kiwi Ingenuity’ and the ‘No.8 Wire.’ These terms refer to the ability of Kiwis, borne out of isolation, to improvise and adapt in order to solve problems, often using more readily available resources. Today, we salute the unique spirit and determination of the people of New Zealand, a spirit that has enabled the people to overcome great challenges, from earthquakes to climate-change related catastrophes. Indeed, throughout their history, Kiwis have shown a remarkable ability to adapt and thrive in the face of adversity. From the early pioneers who carved out a life in the rugged landscape of Aotearoa, to the scientists and entrepreneurs of today who are pushing the boundaries of what is possible, Kiwis have always had a can-do attitude.
This spirit of ingenuity can be seen in the countless Kiwi innovations that have changed the world. From Sir Ernest Rutherford’s breakthroughs in nuclear physics, to the ground-breaking work of Sir Peter Blake in environmental conservation, New Zealanders have consistently made an impact on the global stage and punched above their weight. However, what truly sets Kiwis apart is their determination to use their ingenuity for the greater good. Whether it’s developing sustainable energy sources, creating cutting-edge medical technologies, or simply finding new and creative ways to make the world a better place, Kiwis are driven by a sense of place, purpose and a desire to create positive change.
So today, as we celebrate Waitangi Day and the Kiwi spirit of socially-minded ingenuity, I encourage all of us here to embrace this same spirit. Sure, Israelis are also known for pushing the boundaries of what’s possible, but let’s also use our creativity and determination to make a positive impact in the world.
Thank you and enjoy the rest of your night.