Brown: Israel one of 20th century's 'greatest achievements'

Among 60th anniversary greetings - one from space.

gordon brown 224.88 (photo credit: AP)
gordon brown 224.88
(photo credit: AP)
British Prime Minister Gordon Brown has called Israel one of the "greatest achievements" of the 20th century. Speaking in a rare visit to Finchley Synagogue on Wednesday night, Brown called for a future in which the "children of Abraham" would live together in peace as part of the same extended family. "Let us all stand ready to help Israel find a truly secure place in a peaceful Middle East," he said. "Let us celebrate a country that even people thousands of miles away, in the remotest corners of the world, think of as home. And it is this that gives me faith in the future." Greetings from world leaders on the occasion of Israel's 60th anniversary have arrived in abundance at Beit Hanassi over the past week. One of the first was from Queen Elizabeth II of Britain, who wrote: "It gives me particular pleasure to send Your Excellency my congratulations on the celebration of your National Day on the 60th anniversary of your independence. I extend my best wishes for the happiness and prosperity of the government and people of Israel in the coming year." Jordan's King Abdullah expressed the hope that the 60th anniversary year in Israel would be crowned by Israel's and Jordan's joint obligation to achieve a just and lasting peace between Israel and the Palestinian people, and Israel and all the Arab States. However, the message that excited Peres most was the one from American Jewish astronaut Garrett Reisman, who is a crew member on the International Space Station. The liaison between Reisman and Peres is Rona Ramon, widow of Israeli astronaut Ilan Ramon. When Rona Ramon met with Peres several weeks ago, she asked him for some kind of souvenir that she could take with her to America for the ISS. Peres gave her the Presidential Standard and a copy of Israel's declaration of independence and signed them both. The two items were duly delivered to Reisman, 40, who took them with him into space. On Tuesday, Reisman reciprocated by writing a letter to Peres and the people of Israel that read: "From the crew of the International Space Station, I would like to congratulate all of you on 60 years of independence. As the first Jewish International Space Station crewmember, the anniversary is especially important to me, and I am very proud to be carrying a copy of the Israeli Declaration of Independence on board our spacecraft. Every time the station flies over the State of Israel, I try to find a window, and it never fails to move me when I see the familiar outline of Israel coming toward us from over the horizon. At such times, my memories of my several but brief visits to Israel come flooding back to me along with thoughts of Rona and her family. It is a beautiful view and I hope to return to Israel after my mission and share it with all of you. Shalom, Garrett Reisman." Other heads of state who sent congratulatory messages included the presidents of France, Italy, Austria, Switzerland, Azerbaijan and Ireland. Most of the messages were similar to the queen's, but that of French President Nicolas Sarkozy was particularly warm and lengthy in comparison. Sarkozy wrote that France had always been committed to Israel's security, its quest for a just and comprehensive peace, and its right to exist as an integral part of the Middle East. As in the past, France would continue to stand by Israel and to work with Israel to put an end to the suffering of both Israelis and Palestinians, which had continued for far too long, Sarkozy pledged. Sarkozy underscored that Peres's recent visit to France was an important landmark in relations between the two countries, and added that he believed his own upcoming visit to Israel in June would provide an opportunity to further enhance that relationship.