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Friday, October 10, 2008

Brown lauds Israel as 'symbol of hope'

The Jerusalem Post Internet Edition

Brown lauds Israel as 'symbol of hope'

Oct. 7, 2008
Jonny Paul, JPost correspondent in LONDON , THE JERUSALEM POST

British Prime Minister Gordon Brown paid tribute to the tenacity and achievements of the Jewish people and said that Israel is "a symbol of hope from which all the world can learn."

Speaking on Monday night to the annual fundraising dinner of the United Jewish Israel Appeal (UJIA), the largest Jewish charity in Europe, he spoke about the role hope has played in Jewish history and the work done by the charity, not just for the Jewish community but for Britain as a whole.

Paying tribute to everyone involved in the charity, he said how his wife Sarah was "moved and inspired" by the work of one of UJIA's Israel experience programs which she visited in Jerusalem recently.

He was impressed, he said, with the charity's partnership with Israel but in particular with communities of the Galilee, "where you are not simply sending charity but investing fully in the sustainability of that region."

He paid homage to the members of a "great community", who he said "work tirelessly not just for your own community but to give so much to Britain and the world as a whole."

"You don't just give money, you invest in people, you invest in the future, you invest in hope, you nurture the next generation of leaders, you empower them to reinvigorate their communities, you invest in economic, education and regeneration to bring new opportunity to the people of Galilee," he said.

Over 800 people from the Jewish community heard the prime minister talk about Israel's many achievements, what the Jewish people had done to arrive at statehood and how they had "journeyed to an unknown future" with hope sustaining them.

"For 2,000 years, until 1948, the persistent call of the Jewish people was 'next year in Jerusalem,'" he said. "For 2,000 years there was not one piece of land anywhere in the whole world that you could call your own.

"For 2,000 years you had history but not a home. For 2,000 years you lived in the artistic and cultural and intellectual and scientific and political realm of every continent but you had no home.

"For 2,000 years you endured pogroms in so many countries, then the horror of the Holocaust - which is the shame of mankind - because you had no home yet for 2,000 years, yet nothing - no prison cell, no forced migration, no violence, not even the Holocaust itself could ever break the spirit of a people yearning to be free."

He spoke about Israel's achievements in the face of adversity.

"What remarkable achievements Israel has achieved," he said. "Draining the swamps in the twentieth century, pioneering electric cars in the twenty-first, a history of ingenuity that is a lesson to the boundless capacity of mind and spirit. Eight citizens have already been awarded Nobel prizes.

"In Israel today, there are more hi-tech industries, more symphony orchestras, more universities and research institutions than countries that are 100 times the size of Israel. The language of the Bible [was] made the living tongue again so your story, the story of Israel, is the symbol I identify with as a symbol of hope from which all the world can learn."

Brown also expressed his pride at having been the first British prime minister to address the Knesset during his visit in July.

To huge applause he said that it was his hope that Iran would heed the clear message from the rest of world by suspending its nuclear program.

"It is not just a threat to Israel but the entire world, so I say to the Iranian regime, join the world and get the benefits of being part of a global society, or face isolation from all of us.

"If Iran does not cooperate, we will demand the imposition of ever tougher sanctions in the next few weeks," he said.

He talked about standing up to discrimination against Israel.

"We will stand strong against any boycotts of Israel or Israeli academics and its institutions and be active against any forms of anti-Semitism," he said.

To a standing ovation, the prime minister ended by saying, "This year may God write you the people of Israel and all of us in the book of life, and let me wish you Shana Tova."

The event successfully launched UJIA's 2008-09 campaign year and revealed plans for £20.5m in expenditures with £14.5m to be spent in Israel and £6m in the UK.

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