American Embassy Tel Aviv - Press Section
Remarks by Deputy Chief of Mission Gene Cretz
Memorial Service in Memory of Hagay Shefi
Israeli Bar of Tel Aviv
#10 Daniel Frisch St., Tel Aviv
September 11, 2005 at 7:30 p.m.
Mr. Ilan Bombach, Chairman, Israeli Bar of Tel Aviv; General Dov and Mrs. Esther Shefi, Hagay's parents; Mrs. Sigal Shefi , Hagay's widow, and their children, Roy and Naomi; Mr. Shlomo Dovrat, Founder of Carmel Ventures; Professor Itzhak Zamir, retired Supreme Court Justice; Distinguished guests.
It is an honor to represent the United States this evening to pay homage to the victims of 9/11. I also bring from Ambassador Kurtzer his personal best wishes and renewed condolences to the Shefi family on the loss of your beloved Hagay.
September 11, 2001, was burned into our memories by collective shock, anger, and grief. The attack on the World Trade Center was an attack not just on America, but on the entire community of civilized nations. No city in the world boasts a more diverse population than New York, and the Twin Towers themselves were a crossroads of races, religions, and nationalities. Citizens of at least 90 countries died in the towers that day, including Hagay Shefi, Alona Avraham, Shai Levinhar, and Daniel Levin of Israel. We all suffered after 9/11, none more so, I'm sure, than the Shefi family.
I didn't have the pleasure of knowing Hagay personally, but I know he was scheduled to give the keynote address that day at a conference in the grandest setting of all in New York, the Windows on the World event center on the 106th floor of the North Tower. Only a man of considerable achievement would have received such an honor. At the age of 34, he was already a successful entrepreneur and the co-founder of a software technology company. He had a lovely wife and two beautiful children, and cherished his role as husband and father. He was living the American dream.
When we lost him and more than 3,000 others that tragic morning, the world became a poorer place. In the United States, we also lost something besides precious lives: we lost our sense of security - our "innocence." On September 11, 2001, we learned - whether we recognized it or not - more about what it feels to be an Israeli. As I participate in this beautiful memorial service, I see the special resilience of the Israeli people, their refusal to lose faith when confronted by terror and their determination to celebrate life. You are an inspiration and an example to us as we forge ahead in the war on terror. To prosecute this war, we must remember our outrage and our grief. But to win it, we must remember the joy our loved ones brought us, and the love we feel for those we still have with us - those we must protect.
Hagay's life is remembered here, and celebrated whenever a family member recalls his laugh or a friend walks through a public square dedicated in his name. But it is also honored when those he loved live their own lives with joy and hope and faith. Only by celebrating life - all our lives -- can we have the strength to combat the terrorists who strive to take it. And the war on terror is not one any of us can afford to lose.
You know better than I that there is no room for neutrality when it comes to terrorism. As New York Mayor Rudolph Giuliani said before the United Nations just weeks after the tragedy: "You're either with civilization or with the terrorists. On one side is democracy, the rule of law, and respect for human life; on the other is tyranny, arbitrary executions, and mass murder. We're right and they're wrong. It's as simple as that."
The United States and Israel are special partners in the war on terror, and share a special solidarity forged by common tragedy. Just as Israelis died on 9/11, Americans have died in terror attacks in Israel. We have suffered together, we persevere together, and we will succeed together.
The words of U.S. President Franklin Roosevelt ring as true today as they did 50 years ago, when he said "We have learned that we cannot live alone, at peace; that our own well being is dependent on the well being of other nations, far away." In his April 2004 letter to Prime Minister Sharon, President Bush reflected these thoughts in regard to Israel when he reiterated "[t]he United States'...steadfast commitment to Israel's security, including secure, defensible borders, and [the] preserv[ation] and strengthen[ing of] Israel's capability to deter and defend itself, by itself, against any threat or possible combination of threats."
This commitment, and the mutual understanding and respect our peoples share, means we are not just allies. We are friends. And in times of need, we are there for each other. In just the last few days, Israeli planes filled with supplies have crossed the Atlantic to deliver much needed aid to the victims of hurricane Katrina. We are grateful, and we are touched. If anything good has come out of 9/11, it is a recognition among the world's countries that we had better cooperate together or be destroyed separately.
In closing, I want to return to the life of the man we honor here today, Hagay Shefi. He was a man who loved and cherished life, and the opportunities it gave him to make a real, positive difference in the lives of others, whether the clients who benefited from his business sense or the family members who were touched by his love and affection. May we all be so blessed, and so bless the lives of others.