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“Let me tell you, friends, what Israel is.

Elaine and I have just come back… We saw the Laniado Hospital in the Netanya, a place I always visit because it moves me beyond words. Many of you know the Laniado Hospital was built by an Auschwitz survivor who during the Holocaust lost his wife and all 11 children. And there in the camps of death made an oath that if he should ever survive he would dedicate the rest of his life to saving life.

Israel is the sustained defiance of hatred and power in the name of life because we are the people who sanctify life.

Israel has been surrounded by enemies and yet it has shown that even so you can still be a democracy, still have a free press, still have an independent judiciary. Israel is the only country in the Middle East where a Palestinian can stand up on national television and criticize the government and the next day still be a free human being.

Israel is an inspiration to the world… On one of my visits to Hong Kong, I went to see Mr. Tung Chee Hwa, the Beijing appointment as head of Hong Kong. And I tell you this man, this Chinese appointment, is a lover of Jews and Judaism and Israel. He said to me, ‘You know, your people and my people are very old people. You’ve been around 6,000 years; we’ve been around 5,000 years. Tell me, I always wanted to know, what did you do for the first thousand years before you had Chinese takeaway?’ [Laughter.]

I said, ‘Mr. Tung, you want to know what we did for the first thousand years? We complained about the food.’ [Laughter.]

Jonathan Sacks

And Mr. Tung said to me, I want to go and visit Israel because I see that as the model of development for us. And he did go two or three months later and came back absolutely inspired. And I went straight to the Israeli ambassador in London and said, ‘Look how the world has changed. There was a time when Israel dreamed about being the Hong Kong of the Middle East; today Hong Kong dreams of being the Israel of the Far East.’

Think about the Jewish people. How probable is it that one man, Abraham, who commanded no empire, ordered no army, performed no miracle, delivered no prophecy, should today be perhaps the most influential man who ever lived, who’s claimed as the spiritual ancestor by 2.4 billion Christians and most of you in the room today? [Laughter]

How probable is it that this tiny people, the Jewish people, numbering less than one-fifth of 1 percent of the population of the world, should have outlived the world’s greatest empires — the Egyptians, the Syrians, the Babylonians, the Greeks, the Romans — every empire that ever stood up to destroy us? They are being consigned to history, and still we stand and sing Am Yisrael Chai.

How likely is it that after 2,000 years of exile our people should have come back to our land — having stood in Auschwitz a mere three years earlier, eyeball to eyeball with the Angel of Death — and therein say lo amut kiechyeh: I will not die but I will live? Israel is the greatest collective affirmation of life in the whole of modern history.

Friends, the Jews represent the defeat of probability by the power of possibility. And nowhere will you see the power of possibility more than in the state of Israel today. Israel has taken a barren land and made it bloom again. Israel has taken an ancient language, the language of the Bible, and make it speak again. Israel has taken the West’s oldest faith and made it young again. Israel has taken a shattered nation and made it live again.”


Rabbi Lord Jonathan Sacks speaking at the 2013 AIPAC Policy Conference.

To get the full effect, listen to Sacks give the talk in his impeccable voice.

Chief Rabbi