Your Excellency, the Ambassador of Israel to France, dear Yossi Gal, the Director of the Israel Museum, dear James Snyder, the Presidents of the French Friends of the Israel Museum, dear Patricia Landeau, dear Philippe Cohen, Ladies and Gentlemen, Dear friends,
I am very pleased to be with you this evening for this dinner that honours your commitment, that of the French friends of the Israel Museum. The latter has been carrying the excellence of its universal vocation for over 45 years, thanks in particular to the support of its international network of benefactors from all over the world.
The Israel Museum offers an exceptional heritage and artistic panorama: I think of the Book Sanctuary built by Friedrich Kiesler to house the Dead Sea manuscripts, and very rare biblical manuscripts of the High Middle Ages, its Billy Rose Art Garden with its masterpieces of modern and contemporary sculpture, the programs offered in the Ruth Wing, intended for schoolchildren, who want to promote in young people a better understanding between Jewish and Arab communities.
Surrounded by pine trees and olive trees, the Israel Museum offers a very unique mix of the oldest and most contemporary, like the splendid anamorphosis of Anish Kapoor on its upper terrace, “Turning the World Upside Down”. There is a universal panorama, where one can find both the largest collection of biblical archaeology in the world and a remarkable collection of contemporary art, in which many French artists of the first order can be found.
I can only rejoice in the close cooperation that the Israel Museum has established with the public institutions of my ministry; I am thinking in particular of its cooperation with the Louvre, whose president, Henri Loyrette, has undertaken to lend a Royal Sarcophagus of the Tomb of the Kings, for its reopening.
For many years, our two countries have developed very close ties in terms of cultural cooperation. This cooperation is not limited, of course, to the links between our museums, among which I would like to mention for the occasion the Museum of Art and History of Judaism, a Museum of France that has been established for 13 years, in the heart of Paris, as an exceptional place, particularly by the quality of its exhibitions.
France and Israel also have remarkable cooperation in the film and audiovisual fields. I am thinking of the many film co-productions, notably with ARTE, in the field of documentary films as well; of the film co-production agreement which, since 2000, has allowed the co-production of 32 films; the significant share of French products in the Israeli audiovisual market. I am also pleased that my ministry is supporting the ISRATIM Israeli Film Festival in Paris, which has been promoting the reciprocal circulation of our national cinemas since 2001.
Among many other points, I would like to greet, Mr. Ambassador, the commitment of Israel, through IBE, your public television, in the project of Mediterranean audiovisual memory online (MEDMEM), piloted by the INA. With the Franco-Israeli Audiovisual Meetings, with the presence of TV5Monde, also partner of the Haifa Film Festival and of course the French Film Festival, with the presence also, RFI, France 24 and its agreement with WALLA which broadcasts the channel on the net, the links multiply. The strength of these ties is also the importance of the francophone community in Israel, which represents some 500,000 people.
At the service of this cooperation, France and its Ministry of Foreign Affairs mobilize very substantial resources for its cultural, scientific and technical programming in Israel. As a sign of the vitality of this dynamic, the Institut français de Tel-Aviv has been located in new premises since 2007, and relies on its offices in Haifa and Beer Sheva to form a quality network, in which there is also the Centre for Research in Archaeology and Social Sciences of Jerusalem (CRFJ), and of course the new Franco-Israeli high school in Tel Aviv, also inaugurated in 2007.
We were talking earlier about the Shrine of the Book at the Israel Museum: in addition to our participation in the International Book Biennial in Jerusalem, or the presence of Israel as guest of honour at the Book Fair in 2008, I am delighted in the area of books, the significant investment by the Bibliothèque nationale de France in “Rachel”, the European network of Judaica and Hebraica libraries, to promote the conservation and dissemination of Jewish cultural heritage as an integral part of European cultural heritage. Among many other collaborations between the National Library of Israel and the BnF, we find this commitment shared by our two institutions in the digitization programme of the World Digital Library led by UNESCO.
In the field of the performing arts, Israel is clearly one of the main prescribers of contemporary creation. Here too, I am delighted with the density of cooperation that is being established with France, with the presence of remarkable Israeli artists at the National Dance Centre and the CND-Lyon, or the cooperation of the Bezalel Academy in Jerusalem with the Ecole nationale supérieure des Beaux-Arts in Paris, the Ecole nationale supérieure des Arts décoratifs and the Ecole supérieure d'Art et de design in Reims.
All these examples, among others, are the sign of a very strong cultural dynamic between France and Israel. It is also supported by the France-Israel Foundation, which was established in 2005 by President Jacques Chirac and Prime Minister Ariel Sharon. For my part, I made sure, especially last year, with my Israeli counterpart, that we could strengthen our relations in the fields of living arts, digitization and cinema.
Your mobilization today for the Israel Museum honours the friendship between France and Israel, for which cultural cooperation plays an essential role, in my opinion.