Israel Solidarity Rally
On Sunday 5th May 2002, Rabbi Sacks stood up as Chief Rabbi and spoke these rousing words in support of Israel. The ‘Yes to Peace, No to Terror’ rally took place at Trafalgar Square.
Ladies and Gentlemen, you have been fantastic, the largest gathering in the history of Anglo Jewry, 55,000 of you.
We have come together from all shades of the political spectrum,
All shades of the religious spectrum,
To say to our brothers and sisters in the country we love,
Israel: you are not alone.
For the past 20 months you have been doubly afflicted:
By a campaign of terror on your streets;
And a campaign of calumny in the media of the world.
You feel bewildered, distressed, assaulted and alone,
Therefore we say to you:
When you suffer, we suffer.
Your grief is ours.
Your fears, your prayers, your hopes – are ours.
And we say to you,
With all the love we feel:
You will never be alone.
Israel is not alone.
Friends, let me tell you, let me tell what Israel means to me.
It was brought into being after the worst crime of man against man,
After 2000 years of exile and suffering,
And I am humbly proud to be part of the people that said od lo avdah tikvatenu.
We never gave up hope.
We said in the words of the Psalm:
Lo amut ki echyeh – We will not die, we will live.
In the face of death, Israel sanctified life.
Israel did not rage in anger against the world. It got on with the simple business of building a future for its children, a tiny place somewhere in this world where after more affliction than any people has ever known, Jewish children could live in peace, in safety, without fear of being attacked, injured, murdered just because they were Jews.
Israel, I am proud of what you did.
And because you sought a place of peace;
Because in all our prayers we speak of peace;
All you ever sought was peace.
Menachem Begin gave up Sinai for the sake of peace.
Shimon Peres went to Oslo to negotiate peace.
Yitzhak Rabin gave his life for the sake of peace.
Ehud Barak offered the Palestinians a state, the whole of Gaza, 97 per cent of the West Bank in return for peace.
And the present [Israeli] government, despite some of the worst provocations any nation has ever known, said to the Palestinians: show us you believe that we, too, have a right to exist.
Just give us seven days – one week – of peace!
Israel – I am proud of what you did.
No country, no country in the world, could live with what you have lived with these past 20 months,
Least of all a country dedicated to the preservation of life, to the sanctity of life.
To see bombs planted in buses, outside schools, to see worshippers murdered as they sat down on Pesach to tell our holy story of freedom.
To see grandparents, to see little children murdered in cold blood,
Day after day, until no-one could walk the streets, or enter a shop, without fear.
Could any country, would any country, live like this?
Is the world really saying that every country has a right to self-defence except Israel?
No. Israel: I weep at what you have had to suffer,
And yet I know that even now, after everything, all you want is peace.
Friends, let the voice of peace sound louder than the noise of war.
I want to ask those who criticise Israel,
I want to ask Israel’s critics:
Tell me, who offered Palestinian children a future?
Its neighbours who from 1948 to 1967 controlled Gaza and the West Bank, and kept the refugee Palestinians in refugee camps so that they could be exploited and used as pawns in a war against Israel?
The Iranians? Do they care for Palestinian children when they send them guns instead of food?
Does the country that organises a telethon to reward the families of suicide bombers, do they care about the Palestinian children ?
Do Middle East countries who use Palestinians to deflect criticism from their regimes of brutality and oppression?
Where was the United Nations’ condemnation of them?
The only country to offer Palestinian children a future is Israel.
Israel: I am proud of what you did.
I want to say to the Palestinians:
Your children deserve a future.
We beg you, don’t teach them to hate those with whom they must one day learn to live.
We beg you, don’t teach them to commit suicide for the sake of shedding innocent blood.
They deserve better than to see two years of violence and suffering,
For what? For what?
All it needed, all you ever wanted you could have had with one word, all it needed was one word from your leader to the terrorists and suicide bombers, saying:
But that word never came, and still it does not come. And because of that your children are seeing their future torn up before their eyes when the so-called friends of Palestinians use them.
I am proud that Israel alone offered Palestinian children a future.
Israel – I am proud of what you did.
From nothing, from nothing you created one of the great economies of the world.
From Iran, Iraq, Yemen, Syria, Russian, Romania,
From 103 countries, you rescued endangered Jews, and you gave them a home.
In a region that never knew such things you brought democracy, an independent judiciary. A free press, free speech.
When any country ever turned to you for help – when the Muslims from Bosnia, from Kosovo, from Turkey asked for your help,
You were there, bringing medical and humanitarian aid.
We say to the people of Israel: we are proud of what you have achieved.
You have taken a barren land and made it bloom again.
You have taken an ancient nation and made it young again.
You have taken a shattered people and made us stand tall again.
Israel – you are not alone.
And now friends, can you hear me? I need your help, because I don’t want us to leave this place this time without doing what Jews have always done at such a time.
Lets just lift our eyes and our voices, to heaven,
And in the words of King David, say together, Psalm 121:
“I lift up mine eyes to the mountains from where my help will come. My help comes from the Lord who made heaven and earth.”
If you can, repeat each verse after me:
Esa eynai el heharim…
[Rabbi Sacks and the crowd then recites the full prayer from Psalm 121 in Hebrew]
Friends, can I ask one last favour? Do me a favour before we leave, please, sing with me – and I am going to ask David to join me – our deepest, deepest prayer right now.
“He, who makes peace in His high places, help us make peace down here on earth.”
[They sing Oseh Shalom]
Oseh shalom bimromav, hu ya’ase shalom aleinu v’al kol yisrael, v’imru imru amen…