Chief Rabbi Sir Jonathan Sacks appealed in Trafalgar Square for Palestinians to live side by side in peace with Israel.
“Today, because of Israel, there is at least a chance of peace,” he said. “Yet every time Israel proposes peace, it is greeted with terror and suicide bombings, Katyushas and Kassams. Israel will continue to seek peace — we will continue to support it doing so. We pay tribute to the UK government for its support for Israel and for peace.
“We say to the Palestinians: You have a right to a home. All you have to do is to recognise that the Jewish people also has a right to a home. Let us live together side by side in peace.”
From Israel, Isaac Herzog, the minister of the diaspora, who flew in especially, delivered his own salute to the UK’s “incredible” Jewish community.
Mr Herzog said his father, the late Israeli president Chaim Herzog, would have been moved to see the rally “in such an iconic place”.
While he spoke of the attainments of Israel’s proud, multicultural democracy, he also warned of challenges ahead: “There is a looming threat from the East, from a coalition of hatred from Tehran which we all must challenge together and fight together… Here in the landmark which portrays bravery and courage in British history, from here we say, ‘We will not cave in, we will stand together and overcome this challenge together’.”
Reform leader Rabbi Tony Bayfield was cheered when he said: “Some people said that we shouldn’t hold this rally because it would provoke counter-demonstrations by our enemies. They were and are wrong. Celebrating Israel’s 60th anniversary and celebrating freedom and democracy is what British Jews do.”
Other speakers were Rabbi Abraham Levy, Mick Davis, chairman of UJIA, Israeli ambassador Ron Prosor and the chair of the Union of Jewish Students, Jessica Truman. She thanked representatives of the National Union of Students present, including its president, Wes Streeting.
From the Glastonbury festival, DJ Mark Ronson sent birthday greetings via video, saying he was sorry he could not be at the rally. Other celebrity endorsements came from Michael Douglas and Billy Crystal. Boris Johnson, the Mayor of London, also saluted Israel via video.
At the end of a long day, Henry Grunwald, president of the Board of Deputies, exclaimed: “What an incredible day, what an absolutely fantastic event.”