Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu told Australian Jews in remarks during a visit Wednesday to the Great Synagogue of Sydney that U.S. President Donald Trump took a “strong stand” against anti-Semitism, and said during the same address that “the Golan will never go back to Syria.” He also warned that it is important to “battle those who seek to demonize our people.”
Netanyahu visited the synagogue together with his wife Sara, Australia’s Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull and Chabad-Lubavitch Rabbi Levi Wolff, and was greeted by a crowd of some 2,000 Jewish community members at the house of worship on the first day of his four-day visit to the country.
Calling Israel and Australia two “vibrant democracies,” Netanyahu said that Israel is a beacon of freedom, tolerance, and progress in “a very dark expanse” that he said he hopes and believes will change, as “many Arab countries understand that Israel is not their enemy, but their vital and indispensable ally in warding off the barbarism that threatens all of us.”
He also spoke of his visit to the Jewish community in Singapore, and his visit to the Jews in Kazakhstan and Azerbaijan, two Muslim countries.
“They sang Jewish songs in Muslim countries and that’s the kind of coexistence and tolerance that we’d like to see everywhere. Jewish customs vary but the spirit of our people is universal and there’s a question that many people ask: “Why did the Jews survive? What is the secret of their survival and their success?”
“ Well, I had an inkling of that when I was first elected Prime Minister and I visited a small country, China,” he said. “And the President of China, the leader of China at the time, Jiang Zemin, he said to me: “You know, I really admire the Jewish people.” And I said, “I really admire the Chinese people.” And he said, “Well, the Jews and the Chinese are two of the oldest peoples on Earth.” And I said, “That’s true.” And being not that experienced, I added the Indians too, but, you know, it goes back 5,000 years, in our case almost 4,000 years. And he said, “Yes, this is true.” And I said, “But there is a difference.” He said, “What’s the difference?” I said, “Well, how many Chinese are there?” He said, “Well, 1.2 billion.” And I said, “How many Indians?” He said, “About one billion.” And then I said, “How many Jews?” And he said, “I don’t know.”
“I said, “Well, there are about 13 million Jews at the time, 13 million Jews.” And there was absolute silence in the room, you could hear the jaws drop because that’s, you know, a suburb of Beijing. And I said, “Mr. President, isn’t it odd? We’ve been around for thousands of years; you exceed a billion and we’re only 13 million.”
“He said, “What happened?” “And I said, “A lot of things happened. But they boiled down to one thing: You, the Chinese, have kept China. The Indians kept India. And we, the Jewish people, lost our land and were scattered to the far corners of the Earth. And for the last 2,000 years, we’ve had one goal: To come back to our ancient homeland and reconstitute our life, build our own state, define our own future, control our own destiny. This is the source, this is the thrust of Jewish history…
“Now, by all accounts we should have disappeared, because most nations in antiquity do not exist anymore. But the Jews are different. The Jews refused to die. They’re reborn again and again and again. And throughout the centuries, our people never succumbed to their fate, no matter how large the oppression, no matter how great the oppression and the persecution. Generation after generation, Jews said, “Next year in Jerusalem. Next year in Jerusalem.” We never gave up the dream.
“I also think that we have a battle against those who seek to demonize our people and the resurgent anti-Semitism that we see in many parts of the world. It is something that we need to fight together. I think this is important in Europe. It’s important in America. It’s very important that President Trump took a strong stand against anti-Semitism. And it’s important that we all continue to do so in the years ahead.
The prime minister urged all those gathered to come to Israel, saying, “I want you to visit your friends and your families. I want you to walk the streets of the Old City in Jerusalem, hike in the Golan. By the way, the Golan will never go back to Syria. It will always be a part of the State of Israel. Spend time with our brave young soldiers. Get to know the land. See this miracle. See the Land of Israel. See the people of Israel.The State of Israel lives. The people of Israel thrive. Am Yisrael Chai.”