Passover greetings by Putin and Obama compared

April 24, 2016


1. Passover greetings by Putin and Obama compared
2. Vladimir Putin’s remarks on Passover 2016
3. Barack Obama’s remarks on Passover 2016
4. Singapore PM Lee Hsien Loong’s remarks in Jerusalem
5. On a lighter note: Three videos that might amuse you



[Note by Tom Gross]

Jews in Israel and around the world have been celebrating Passover these past two days.

Below I attach Passover greetings from Russian President Vladimir Putin and from U.S. President Barack Obama.

It is, of course, remarkable given the course of anti-Semitism, “the longest hatred” as it is often called, that the presidents of the U.S. and Russia both now give official public Passover greetings.

However, what is being noted by Jews in Israel and elsewhere is that Putin’s message is specifically Jewish, whereas Obama chooses to use Passover to give a more universal message.

There is a perception (whether fair or not) that Putin (whatever else his flaws) has in some ways been more friendly and understanding of Jewish concerns than Obama has.

As was noted in this dispatch last year, Putin has gone out of his way to make sure Russia enjoys good relations with Israel:

“Putin has determinedly kept the channels to Israel open, making a point to personally visit Israel and in June 2012, Israel was the first country he visited after his election. He frequently speaks warmly about the Jewish state, expressing pride that it contains the largest diaspora of former Russian citizens. At the Western Wall, accompanied by Russian Chief Rabbi Berel Lazar, he donned a kippah, which would undoubtedly have made his Bolshevik predecessors turn in their graves. He also seemed quite indifferent to the rage this created among his Arab allies.”

Only last Thursday (April 21), Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu was again in Moscow holding consultations with Putin (mainly concerning Syria, Iran and Hizbullah), Israeli President Reuven Rivlin was also in Moscow only a few weeks ago, and Israeli leaders seem to be invited to Moscow more than to Washington these days. (Putin again invited Netanyahu to visit Moscow in June to mark 25 years since the reestablishment of diplomatic relations.)

While Obama has kept his distance from Israel, (he has made only one brief visit there during his two terms in office, he has been, for example, to Saudi Arabia four times and visited countries such as Belgium, the Czech Republic, Denmark, and Myanmar more than once), Israel has been forging ever closer relations with countries in Asia (including some Arab ones), Africa and elsewhere. Just this month, leaders from China and Singapore, among others, have visited Jerusalem. (U.S. Senators and other U.S. officials continue to visit Jerusalem regularly, just not the president.)

I also attach below remarks made by Singapore Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong on his visit to Israel last Tuesday April 19 (which also include Passover greetings). Singapore has long enjoyed close relations to Israel, especially in the fields of business, water management, biotechnology, and cyber security. Trade between the two nations reached $1.35 billion in 2015, which was greater than trade between Israel and most European countries. (Several senior Singapore government security officials have for many years subscribed to this Middle East email list.)

-- Tom Gross



This dispatch has been picked up and translated by several websites around the world, for example, here in Mexico in Spanish.



[In translation]

Congratulations on Passover
Vladimir Putin congratulates Russian Jews on Passover.
April 23, 2016

Congratulations to Russian Jews on Passover.

Pesach – the oldest and most respected of Jewish holidays. Its origins, going back to the important event in the biblical story of the deliverance of the Jews from centuries of slavery.

It is important that the Russian Jews revere the traditions and customs that came to them from time immemorial, and carefully pass them on from generation to generation.

Today, the life of the Jewish community of the country is filled with large, positive developments. It creates new religious, educational, educational, cultural centers, expanding international contacts. And, of course, Jewish organizations are paying relentless attention to the preservation of peace and harmony in our society, fostering mutual understanding between people of different nationalities and religions.

Once again I congratulate you on the occasion. I sincerely wish you good health, prosperity and all the best.

Vladimir Putin



The White House
Office of the Press Secretary
For Immediate Release
April 22, 2016

Statement by the President on Passover

Michelle and I send our best wishes to everyone celebrating Pesach in the United States, in the State of Israel, and around the world.

One of Passover’s most powerful rituals is its tradition of storytelling – millions of Jewish families, friends, and even strangers sitting together and sharing the inspirational tale of the Exodus. Led by a prophet and chased by an army, sustained by a faith in God and rewarded with deliverance, the Israelites’ journey from bondage to the Promised Land remains one of history’s greatest examples of emancipation. This story of redemption and hope, told and retold over thousands of years, has comforted countless Jewish families during times of oppression, echoing in rallying cries for civil rights around the world.

Mah nishtana halailah hazeh? For Michelle and me, this Passover is different from all other Passovers because it will mark our last Seder in the White House – a tradition we have looked forward to each year since hosting the first-ever White House Seder in 2009. We will join millions around the world to celebrate redemption at God’s mighty hand and pray for those who still are denied their freedom. We dip the greens of renewal in saltwater to recall the tears of those imprisoned unjustly. As we count the 10 Plagues, we spill wine from our glasses to remember those who suffered and those who still do. And as we humbly sing “Dayenu,” we are mindful that even the smallest blessings and slowest progress deserve our gratitude.

Passover gives us all a special opportunity to renew our belief in things unseen even as the future remains uncertain. May this season inspire us all to rededicate ourselves to peace and freedom for all of God’s children. From our family to yours, chag sameach.


Tom Gross adds: Despite what President Obama says in his statement he did not attend a Passover Seder this year in the White House. During the first two nights of Passover he was in Saudi Arabia and then in the United Kingdom.



Singapore PM Lee Hsien Loong meets Israeli PM Benjamin Netanyahu
Press release
Tuesday, April 19, 2016

Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong was accompanied to Israel on an official visit by a delegation of over 60 government and business figures, including Foreign Minister Dr. Vivian Balakrishnan and Environment and Water Resources Minister Masagos Zulkifli Bin Masagos Mohamad.

This is the first ever visit to Israel by a Prime Minister of Singapore since Singapore was founded 51 years ago and since the establishment of diplomatic relations with Israel in 1969.

Singapore Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong said:

“Thank you very much. Prime Minister Netanyahu, distinguished members of the Israeli delegation, ladies and gentlemen, I thank Prime Minister for your very warm welcome and express my deep pleasure at being the first Singapore prime minister to visit Israel.

We have a long and deep relationship between Singapore and Israel. Our business-to-business ties are strong. Israel is the second largest contributor of foreign direct investments in Singapore from the Middle East, and we admire your technical prowess and ecosystem. You have the highest number of scientists, technicians, technologists, engineers per capita in the world. You have the third highest number of patents per capita, and I know that many Singaporean firms are interested in doing business with you, investing in Israel, as some have already done.

Our universities and research sectors have also strong collaborations, and there are many exchanges between our institutes. But really it all started with a defense relationship. We are very grateful to Israel that when independence was thrust upon us in August 1965 and when Singapore’s security and survival were in doubt, you helped us, the IDF helped us to build up the Singapore Armed Forces when other countries turned us down.

It’s been a long time since I visited Israel. The last time was in 1977 as a young army officer accompanying our Chief of General Staff, who’s now our ambassador here. And I’m very delighted to be here again. Yes, General Winston Chu, who has been, who has known Israel for many years. And I’m very happy to be back here again after all these many years to thank you personally and to thank Israel for your help and support over the years, and to see for myself developments in Israel, which we follow closely from a distance: your economic success, your technological progress and also developments in the Middle East, which I am sure we will be exchanging views on later.

We are concerned about security issues. We are concerned about cyber security, which is an area of worry for many governments and societies. Also for terrorism, even the attack yesterday in Jerusalem, but the more fundamental issue which threatens many societies not with overturning civilization, but with raking death and destruction and harm in a way which can do a lot of damage.

We also watch carefully from a distance the Israel-Palestine problem and the Middle East peace process, and the progress or lack of progress on these issues. We are concerned about this situation, as many countries around the world are. We wish Israel well. We are friends with both Israel and Palestine. We hope that you’ll be able to resume negotiations and make progress towards a just and durable solution to a long-standing and complex conflict, and we hope to see a two state solution with Israel and Palestine living side-by-side in peace and security one day.

We also hope to explore how we can do more together, whether in technology, whether in cyber security, whether in business, whether in people-to-people relationships. I’m very happy that yesterday I was at the Hebrew University and witnessed the signing of agreements between the Hebrew University and our national research foundation, as well as with our two universities in Singapore, to expand our research and development cooperation. And I am sure that as these individual projects and enterprises grow, so too our overall ties between the two countries and peoples will grow closer.

Finally, as you gather with your families for the Passover, I’d like to wish everyone a blessed time over the Passover holidays.”



On a lighter note, here are some videos which might amuse you:

Acroyoga and Acrobalance Flashmob in Tel Aviv (April 4, 2016)


Six13 - God Split The Ocean (2016 Passover Jam)


Passover Pesach 2015 Seder Rube Goldberg Machine from the Technion in Israel

(I included this video in a dispatch last year, when it first came out, but it is worth watching for all those who have joined this list since then, or for those who missed it.)


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All notes and summaries copyright © Tom Gross. All rights reserved.