I want to thank all of you who helped make this extraordinary night possible, especially my fellow speakers, Farah Pandith and Imam Talib Shareef.
The person I always greet last and most warmly is my wife, Sally. But I can’t greet her tonight. Last week, Sally underwent emergency surgery to remove a ruptured appendix. She’s fine now—thank God—but she can’t yet travel.
Sally was treated at the Hadassah Medical Center in Jerusalem. In a region in which relations between peoples of different faiths can be arid or even hostile, Hadassah is an oasis of co-existence. Sally was admitted by two nurses, both male, both Muslims. One of her anesthesiologists was a Muslim Arab, as was one of her attending physicians, who regaled her with stories of his medical education in Cairo.
Late one night during her recovery, when she was in considerable discomfort, I asked for a doctor to come to her room. He came, a young man—they all look young to me—who reassured her that her condition was normal for post-surgery, and that she would surely feel better in the morning. I thanked him profusely and asked him his name. And he told me his name, smiling. It was Osama.
This is the situation at all of Israel’s hospitals—Jewish and Muslim patients being treated by Muslim and Jewish doctors, without the slightest hesitation or distinction—without even a thought of distinction.
These institutions provide us with a vision of a better world, a world of understanding and tolerance based on our common humanity and our common faith.
It is a world grounded in our holy books. Tonight, of course, is Laylat al-Qadr, the night of the Holy Quran’s revelation. As a student, I spent an entire year reading the Quran and vividly remember how it referred to the Jews as Ahlu al-Kitab—the People of the Book. It says in Sura 29, “Our God and your God is one, and to Him do we submit.” And in Sura 3, the Jews are invited to, “Come to a word that is just between us and you, that we worship none but God, and that we associate no partners with Him, and that none of us shall take others as lords besides God.”
Similarly, the Bible tells us, in the Book of Psalms, “Behold, how good and pleasant it is when brothers dwell in unity.”And the Book of Proverbs says, fittingly for this Ramadan feast, “Better a dry crust with peace than a house full of feasting, with strife.”
Israel is a Jewish state in the Muslim heartland. And Israel is a Jewish state with a respected and vibrant Muslim community. We have Muslim members of our Knesset, Muslim writers and artists and academics, and yes, Muslim physicians.
My youngest son, Noam, is serving in an elite Israeli army unit and one of his best friends is a Bedouin. Along with Hebrew, Israel’s other official language is Arabic, the language of the Quran.
Therefore, as the representative of all of the people of Israel to our most important ally, I am deeply honored to be hosting this first and long-overdue Iftar at my residence.
My hope is that we, together, have begun a tradition tonight—a tradition of building bridges of understanding and mutual-regard that can extend from Washington to the Middle East and beyond.To all of you and your families, from the government, State, and people of Israel, I wish you Ramadan Karim.