Photo Credit: Igor Faberov
Watch the recording here (live broadcast starts at 32:55)
Today, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy addressed the Hebrew University of Jerusalem (HU) in a live speech from Kiev. The speech was broadcast on the university’s social media channels and followed by Q&A with students and staff.
In a war-torn country that has seen 4 months of fierce fighting since the Russian invasion on February 24, 2022, Zelenskyy said to the students assembled, “When the war will end, and I believe it will, we will have to look into one another’s eyes for many generations to come—That’s why I wanted to speak with you, the current generation, today.”
Zelenskyy singled out Israel for not doing more to help Ukraine, “This is about values. Anyone who seeks to destroy another country needs to be held accountable. Unfortunately, we have not yet seen Israel join the other countries that are boycotting Russia.“
During the Q&A, several HU students asked what can be done to keep news of the war in Ukraine front and center. Another student, born in from Kharkiv, proudly told Zelenskyy that her father is currently in Ukraine fighting against the Russians. Moved by this news, Zelenskyy shared “Ukraine’s warriors and civilians need medication, drinking water, fuel. People forget that there is a war going on in Ukraine. No matter where you are, where you study, you can to help those that are fighting. We have many student volunteers who are collecting donations online to send food and medication to our cities under attack. We also have student volunteers writing on social media to make sure the word doesn’t forget about the war and to spread the truth to the world.”
Over the past few months, the Hebrew University has taken in Ukrainian a number of researchers and students who managed to escape the horrors of war. They, too were in the audience. Zelenskyy spoke of his—and his nation’s ties to the Jewish people, noting, “My office is located in the very center of Kiev. Nearby is the house where Golda Meir grew up. Not far is where Sholem Aleichem lived. This is the heritage of Ukraine…it isn’t just historical facts. It’s real human life that has brought our cultures together.” Zelenskyy lamented the impact that the war has had on national sites in Ukraine, including the monument at Babi Yar honoring Jewish victims, “The Russians even bombed Babi Yar…We all remember and treasure these sites. This is all under threat. How can you preserve memorial places during an all-out war?”, he asked.
Zelenskyy couldn’t help noting the difference between the calm HU auditorium where HU students and faculty assembled for his address and the current state of Ukraine’s universities, “2,000 academic institutions in Ukraine have been destroyed. Can you imagine it, sitting in your lovely auditorium in Hebrew University?” He went on to add, “Week after week…the Russians are trying to hide the fact that they’ve been burying dead Ukrainian civilians in unmarked graves. They’re killing and raping and torturing innocent civilians long the way…By our estimates, more than 12 million Ukrainians have been displaced. We haven’t seen these number since World War 2. How can you not help the victims of such aggression?”
In his remarks, HU President Professor Asher Cohen welcomed Zelenskyy, sharing
“President Zelenskyy’s address to the Hebrew University community today is a seamless continuation of our policy to not remain indifferent when innocent people are killed, families are destroyed, and life is put on hold by an unjust and unnecessary war. We, as individuals, and certainly as Israel’s leading academic institution, cannot afford to remain passive in the wake of Russia’s invasion of a sovereign country. We must do everything in our power to reach out and help the people of Ukraine.”
The Ukrainian Ambassador to Israel Yevgen Korniychuk also attended Zelenskyy’s address. He shared, “We appreciate the support we’ve received from the citizens of Israel and now ask for support from Israel’s government, as well. Please help the Ukrainian people in their distress.”
Looking ahead, Zelenskyy was optimistic about Ukraine’s candidacy for European Union membership, “We’re moving towards a new future, closer to the European family. Soon we will be part of that family. This is for our children—to become a European state that will be part of the EU. This will provide us with strong protection.”