As we herald the Jewish New Year, many of us will recite the words of the time-honoured Hebrew refrain in the Ahot Ketannah, ‘May the year end with her woes!’ With the lives of Israelis and Britons turned upside down by a global pandemic, this could not be truer.
Recent months have seen the Coronavirus devastate lives around the world, with its effects hard felt among this Jewish community and now in Israel where we are facing new measures after a surge in cases. I know the sympathies of my fellow Jewish News readers will also be with those who have lost loved ones and whose company they will be without this Rosh Hashanah.
That so many found new, virtual ways of connecting with our homeland during the difficult first months of lockdown is testament to the precious bond between Israel and the Diaspora. Israel is a home for every Jew, and even though this Rosh Hashanah will be different to usual, we hope to welcome all those whose plans have been put on pause as soon as it is safe to do so.
I am also deeply cognisant of this community’s struggle against a very different sort of virus. Antisemitism remains potent, whether in its traditional form or its latest so-called anti-Zionist mutation. We must continue to stand together against such bigotry, and are fortunate that both our democracies recently elected governments committed to this fight and the strengthening of Israel-UK relations.
Thankfully, as we enter this New Year, there is significant cause for optimism. We will begin 5781 amidst the greatest single advancement for Middle East peace in some 26 years, with an historic ceremony between Israel, the UAE and Bahrain taking place at the White House just days before Rosh Hashanah.
In deciding to establish formal relations with Israel, the UAE and Bahrain have demonstrated remarkable leadership that will strengthen the region’s moderates and bring security, stability and prosperity. The vehement opposition of the extremists – Hamas, Hezbollah and the Iranian regime among them – only reinforces the case for reconciliation.
We truly are witnessing a remarkable change in the regional paradigm, and when others realise the benefits of coexistence and cooperation, I believe peace with Arab and Muslim countries will become the norm rather than an exception. For these reasons too, I hope the Palestinian leadership will abandon its obstinacy and seize this opportunity to join Israel in direct talks to build a brighter future for both our peoples.
Here at Israel’s Embassy in London, we are marking a milestone of our own with the appointment of Tzipi Hotovely as our first female Ambassador. Her story as an Orthodox woman and the daughter of Georgian immigrants demonstrates Israel’s diversity and pluralism. We look forward to introducing her to you all, be it virtually or in person, in the months ahead.
As we begin this New Year by dipping apples in honey, we will do so optimistic for Israel’s future, hopeful for a more peaceful Middle East, and confident in the strength of our partnership with the UK. In the words of the Ahot Ketannah, ‘May the year begin with her blessings!’
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