The announcement in to-day’s Israeli press of the death of Yehuda Avner left me profoundly saddened.

Coming as it does so soon after the death of Sir Martin Gilbert a few weeks ago and taken together their passings have left me feeling diminished and inadequate.

I was privileged to have met both these distinguished individuals. Their erudition and consummate politeness was evident at the outset of our conversations.

A frequent thought I have had on visits to Israel is how its people are both a reflection of and embodiment of the land itself. Everyone you meet has been attracted to, relates to and has an opinion on a variety of subjects concerning Israel. However, who they are and how they have responded to Eretz Israel can be taken as a whole.

They themselves are in fact Israel !

In other words would Israel be Israel without its people ? I think not. Like an ungerminated seed the land might exist and have the potential to be, but it would not have found its expression. Perhaps the Talmudic literature confirms this.

As the only Jewish state in the world Israel has the enviable responsibility of showing the world what a Jewish state should be like. Its people are the primary way it does so. To date they have succeeded admirably.