Israel 'envy of the world' says visiting ambassador
IT'S a nation that is 373 times smaller in size than Australia, but when Israel's ambassador turns up, everyone knows it.
Four special protection police quickly alight from a BMW, while hours earlier another two have been checking out those arriving at the Sunshine Coast venue, where career diplomat Mark Sofer will speak.
The security detail is the sort you would expect to see for the Prime Minister of Australia.
Days earlier the building has been thoroughly examined by federal police with talk of sniffer dogs checking for bombs. In the end none of was needed, thankfully.
More than 300 people, strong supporters of Israel, come together at Nambour's Flametree Baptist Church to celebrate the 70th anniversary of the state of Israel at a function put on by Bridges for Peace.
The organisation, working with Jews and Christians, is currently repairing 22 bomb shelters on Israel's northern border with Iran to help communities which face the 'daily threat of missiles'.
Mr Sofer tells the crowd that despite living in a 'bad neighbourhood', Israelis are among the happiest people in the world.
"Despite the fact that around us there is horror and terror and civil war, what we have built up is the envy of the world... probably nothing less than… a modern day miracle."
He says Israel is a world leader in technology, the only democracy in the Middle East, has a free press, and judiciary headed by a woman.
And importantly, it has become a safe haven for millions of Jews from around the world fleeing anti-Semitism.
But Mr Sofer said the threat from countries like Iran remained constant as its leadership considered the Jewish people a 'bacteria' and "Israel a cancer that must be wiped off the face of the earth.''
The Israeli ambassador abandoned his set speech to speak of the warmth he felt among Australians who shared a love for Israel. Most of those in the crowd had been to Israel themselves to learn of the Holy land.
Dr Ron Weiser, the son of holocaust survivors, who heads the Zionist Federation of Australia, said Australia and Israel shared a special bond dating back to Gallipoli.
"It was also right there at Gallipoli, that the first Jewish fighting force in over 2000 years, since the time of Bar Kochba, was also tested in battle, and became the nucleus of Tzva Haganah LeYisrael - the IDF - the Israel Defence Forces."
Dr Weiser said Israel had been continually under attack despite working to find peace.
"If the Palestinians and the Arab world will ever agree to a Jewish state in their midst - the conflict will be resolved - until then - it is up to us to ensure that Israel has the necessary tools to survive and to thrive."
"Israel exchanged territories, she gave up water to Jordan, she gave up oil to Egypt.
"She withdrew unilaterally from Lebanon in 2000 and from Gaza in 2005, and she offered Syria an exchange of land for peace.
"Israel also offered the Palestinians something no-one had ever offered them before - a state.
"The answer was always two words - "rejection" and "terror"."
"This whole year of the 70th anniversary of the re-establishment of the State of Israel is a miracle milestone.
"Israel is the only nation on earth that inhabits the same land, bears the same name, speaks the same language, and worships the same God that it did over 3,000 years ago.
"You dig the soil and you find pottery from Davidic times, coins from Bar Kochba, and 2,000-year-old scrolls written in a script remarkably like the one that today advertises ice cream at the Israeli corner store - the makolet."
"Israel became a nation about 1300 BCE,
"Two thousand years before the rise of Islam.
"I always like to emphasise the following which then Prime Minister Olmert was fond of saying:
"When Jesus the Jew walked the laneways and pathways of Jerusalem he saw neither mosque nor church for neither Islam nor Christianity had yet come into existence at that time."
"The people of modern day Israel share the same language and culture shaped by the Jewish heritage and religion - passed through generations, starting with the founding father Abraham.
"Before Christianity and before Islam, the Jewish people built the land of Israel.
"King David - a Jew - built his capital - Jerusalem.
"His Jewish son - Solomon - built the Temple long before Mohammed was born and long before the mosque of al Aksa was built over its ruins."
"We survived the Greeks, the Romans, the Crusaders, the Muslims, the Turks and finally the British.
"We are not imperialists
"We are the native people of the land
"We are the true Palestinians
"We are the owners of that land by international law, by moral right and by biblical promise.
"Our claim to the land goes deeper, further back and is on more solid ground than the Americans have to America or the British have to Britain."
He went on to say: "This is not a struggle about how big or small Israel should be - it is a struggle about whether the Jewish state should be. Full stop."
"Israel's struggle is the struggle of the free world. It baffles the mind - it defies logic - that so many around the world do not see this.
"And if I hear the statement again, that these current acts of terrorism from Gaza are "peaceful protests" - or that the regrettable loss of human life is anything other than 100% the fault of Hamas for whom every Palestinian death is a public relations victory - I am not sure I will retain my sanity."