Peres: New Year is time to 'seize window of opportunity'

Shimon Peres has highlighted the "dramatic changes" in the Middle East in the last year and expressed hope of opportunities for a better future in the new one.

The Israeli president, in a Rosh Hashanah message to Jews around the world, said he hoped the year 5722 would "herald the realisation of our aspirations for peace, greater security and economic growth, as we continue to strive to safeguard the future of the Jewish people and strengthen the ties between Israel and the diaspora".

He referred to the grassroots social movement that sprung up in Israel over the summer and to wider changes in Israel's neighbouring countries, which he said were generated by a generation fighting to rid itself "of the shackles of the oppressive regimes that governed them".

Mr Peres said that along with the risks, "We must have the courage and foresight to seize this window of opportunity. A trend towards democracy and freedom in the region will benefit Israel as well, and we shall closely watch its progress."

He also urged Jews in the diaspora to place emphasis on educating Jewish youth about Israel and vice versa,

"Together we can develop a vision for the future of the Jewish people based on the Jewish values of tikun olam (healing the world) and peace," he said.

The president, who turned 88 last month, said he knew the coming year would be critical for Israel and the wider region. He said we should "look towards a better tomorrow.

"Standing united while facing existential threats will give us the strength to prevail," he added. "But it will also be a period of opportunities, and I hope we shall take advantage of these opportunities to create a year of promise, growth, and security.

"I extend my warm and best wishes to the Jewish people around the world for a year of peace, joy, good health and prosperity."

    Last updated: 11:00am, September 20 2011