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Mikhail Gorbachev in Israel: Bar Ilan University Speech on Religion, Perestroika, Creative Genius & Forces of Annihilation
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“Scientific successes in the 20th century made for an unprecedented upsurge of the creative force of human genius… Yet, at the same time, they unleashed unheard-of forces of annihilation, of subjugation of many by man, of destruction of the environment. …

“The idea of perestroika was to free society from totalitarianism, arbitrariness, coercion and violence, to give people freedom, while at the same time bringing about a change in international relations.”

MIKHAIL GORBACHEV. Typed Document Signed, Speech Delivered at Bar-Ilan University in Ramat Gan, Israel, June 16, 1992, signed “M Gorbachev” in blue ink at top of first page and dated “16 vi 92.” 6 pp., 8⅝ x 11⅛ in.

Inventory #24764       Price: $2,800

Excerpts

“Bearing in mind the nature of your university, I’d like to share my thoughts on the correlation between science and spirituality, between morals and politics… Scientific successes in the 20th century made for an unprecedented upsurge of the creative force of human genius… Yet, at the same time, they unleashed unheard-of forces of annihilation, of subjugation of many by man, of destruction of the environment. …

The roots of the crisis of modern civilization lie in man himself, in the difficulties of his adaptation to the rate of technological progress, in the lag in the adjustment of age-old moral norms, which are in harmony with Man’s inner nature…

The concept of man as “the measure of all things” that dates back to antiquity has now shown its limitations. The “conquest” of nature has turned against man. And if it is true that mankind’s future now hinges upon the preservation of the balance of Nature, on the preservation of all forms of life- and this is so- the Life is the measure of all things. …

Respect for Man as a distinctive personality and for his dignity: the ability to put oneself in someone else’s place; the striving for agreement, for a reasonable compromise – such are the criteria for a peaceful transition to a more humane world order, to what I call a new civilization.

You may ask: What is the role that religion is called upon to play here? This is a great philosophical issue. Naturally, I can only venture some ideas about it.

Among its other flaws, Marxism, which held us captive for so long, took a simplistic approach, treating religious faith as a self-delusion, as a mirage. The mistake was further aggravated when several generations of Soviet people were brainwashed in the spirit of atheism. The notion of religion as “the opium of the people” was inculcated from early childhood. Efforts were made to have the “communist moral code” take the place of religious ethics. However, as soon as society was freed from the ideological shackles, thought had to be given to the role religion should play in social progress.

The religious renaissance in Russia, in other newly-independent states, and Israel too, is in many respects linked to the fact that religion acts as a factor for national and state consolidation.

I can say from my own experience that it is very difficult to merge politics and morality. I rejected immoral means in politics. The idea of perestroika was to free society from totalitarianism, arbitrariness, coercion and violence, to give people freedom, while at the same time bringing about a change in international relations.

We are going through a turning point in history. Not only my country but the whole world as well has found itself at the crossroads. The road to a new civilization will be a long and arduous one. It would be hardly possible to comprehend it and to chart it without faith, without a religious foundation.

Ladies and gentlemen, the image of an eternally blossoming and fruit-bearing Tree of Life holds a special place in the Biblical picture of the world. Let us bear this image in mind when we work for the future and contemplate it.

Historical Background

The Soviet Union broke off diplomatic relations with Israel after the 1967 Six-Day War.  Premier Gorbachev re-established diplomatic relations with Israel and relaxed the Soviet Union’s attitude towards Jewish immigration. In 1989, 71,000 Soviet Jews were permitted to emigrate, 12,000 of whom went to Israel. Over the next two years, more than 330,000 Soviet Jews made aliyah. Since 1992, another 600,000 Soviet Jews have also immigrated to Israel.

At the invitation of Prime Minister Yitzhak Shamir, Gorbachev visited Israel in mid-June 1992. During his five-day visit, Bar-Ilan University presented him with an honorary doctorate, and Gorbachev gave this address. He also received the Harvey Peace Prize and a $35,000 cash award from the Technion-Israel Institute of Technology “in appreciation of his seminal initiatives which had a profound impact on international relations and improved the quality of life of hundreds of millions of people.” Gorbachev received a warm reception during the trip, which culminated in a symbolic tree planting in Jerusalem Forest.

Mikhail Gorbachev (1931- ) was born in Russia and graduated from Moscow State University in 1955. He joined the Communist Party in 1950 and rose through its ranks to become the youngest member of the Politburo by 1980, and served as General Secretary from 1985 to 1991, the last three years as the country’s head of state. He was the eighth and last leader of the Soviet Union. His policies of glasnost and perestroika contributed to the end of the Cold War with the West, and his reforms led to elections to the Congress of People’s Deputies in 1989, the first free elections since 1917. Although he withstood a coup in August 1991, his political power was over, and he resigned in December, as the Soviet Union fragmented into fifteen separate nations. He received the Nobel Peace Prize in 1990, and honorary doctorates from several universities.

http://www.nytimes.com/1992/06/16/world/israel-welcomes-gorbachev-as-a-hero.html


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