By Daniel Taub, Israel’s Ambassador to the UK
This Sunday, I invite you to join me in the Closer to Israel parade and celebration of Israel. As we mark 65 years of Israeli independence and
remarkable achievement, this is a wonderful and important opportunity for all those who care about Israel to line the streets of London and celebrate together.
Holding this event in the UK has a special significance. The partnership between Israel and its friends here in Britain dates back long before 1948.
It was here that the early Zionist movement took root, and where some of Israel’s greatest pioneers and leaders were born and raised. British supporters of Israel have worked her fields and made her deserts bloom; they have defended her in war and have invested in her startups; they continue to support her social initiatives, and work to ensure that the image portrayed of Israel in the UK reflects the reality.
The Closer to Israel parade is a chance for all of us to thank you and to celebrate together all we have achieved.
Every one of us, of course, has his or her own special connection to Israel. For some, it is an awed sense of the Jewish people’s return to history in a sovereign state of its own, a recognition that not a day passes in this tiny country which doesn’t exceed the wildest dreams of our grandparents and great-grandparents.
For others it is the joy of witnessing a renaissance of Israeli culture and creativity, with Israeli film, music, and art not simply winning accolades and awards, but giving a new voice to Jewish expression. Some are passionate about Israel as a wellspring of innovation and technology, and others by its commitment to travel to far corners of the world to engage in tikkun olam. But this one event gives us the opportunity to bring all our visions together in a remarkable show of unity.
Gathering to salute Israel with pride and passion is particularly important when there are strident voices trying to wage a political campaign against Israel in the public sphere. This is a moment to show that we celebrate Israel and its achievements with our heads and flags held high. Invariably Israel’s detractors have nothing positive to offer; they can only stand against, in negativity and hatred. By contrast Israel and its supporters are proud to stand for, for the future, for prosperity and progress.
This week in synagogue we will read the story of the twelve spies – the first fact-finding mission sent to explore the land of Israel. As we know, ten of the twelve spies came back and gave disparaging reports. Describing the fearsome inhabitants, they said “We were as grasshoppers in their eyes – and so we were in our own eyes”.
It is a revealing statement. Only after being disparaged by others, do the Israelites start losing their confidence in themselves. When, forty years later, the Israelites return to enter the land of Israel, Moses advises Joshua: “Be strong and of good courage”. Look for your conviction not in others, he says, but within yourself.
Closer to Israel invites us to express our own faith and confidence in the state of Israel and her remarkable people, and in the enormous and exciting potential of what we, the peoples of Britain and Israel, can continue to achieve together.