Rishi Sunak vows to ‘always’ stand with the Jewish community during school visit

Rishi Sunak vows to ‘always’ stand with the Jewish community during school visit

The Prime Minister told pupils at a Jewish school that his Government will “always” stand by their community as it continues to reel from the shock of Hamas’s attack.

Rishi Sunak visited a secondary school in north London, which has asked not to be named, on Monday to express his solidarity with British Jews in the aftermath of hundreds of Israelis being murdered by the Palestinian militant group on October 7.

He addressed a school assembly in the morning, telling those gathered that he recognises the “enormous amount of pressure” the community is under “given everything that is going on” after the “horrific” assault on Israel.

Mr Sunak, who was given a rousing reception by the youngsters upon entering the hall, touched upon the rise in antisemitism that police forces and the Community Security Trust, a Jewish charity, has recorded in recent days.

He said the “appalling” increase in hate since the murderous campaign by Hamas, which rules the Gaza Strip, is “simply tragic” as he vowed to protect Britain’s Jews.

Speaking in front of a British and an Israeli flag, he said: “No young person, none of you, should have to deal with hate crime.

“It has absolutely no place in our society.

“I want you to know, and that is why I am here, that we will do everything we can to keep you safe and stand with Israel.”

During his three-minute speech, the British leader heralded the country’s diverse make-up as its “strength”.

Rishi Sunak visit to London school
Prime Minister Rishi Sunak addressed a school assembly to offer his support for the Jewish community in Britain (Jonathan Buckmaster/Daily Express/PA)

He continued: “The other thing I was reflecting on is that I’m also someone that is a little bit different.

“And that is something that is wonderful about our country. People from different backgrounds and different religions all find incredible ways to contribute to our society.

“I’m the first British Hindu prime minister. I’m very proud of my heritage, like many of you who come from either the Jewish faith or different backgrounds — I know you’ll be very proud of your background too.

“And that is what is special about our country… diversity is our strength and I will do everything I can to protect it. I wanted you to hear that from me.”

He also reassured the pupils: “We will stand with the Jewish community, not just today, not just tomorrow but always. And we will also stand with Israel.”

The Conservative Party leader concluded his comments using a Jewish term of solidarity, saying “am Yisrael chai”, meaning “the people of Israel live”.

The Prime Minister stayed in the hall to hear from three pupils about their experiences of the past nine days.

One said his sister had lost three friends in the incursion, telling the assembly: “My family have wept this week and I’m sure there have been tears in your homes too.”

A girl said her cousin, a member of the Israel Defence Forces, was shot by Hamas fighters but her relative was regarded as “lucky” given that five of his squadron were killed in the ambush.

Rishi Sunak
Mr Sunak signed messages and prayers for Israel during his visit (Jonathan Buckmaster/Daily Express/PA)

She urged her classmates not to listen to “propaganda” from “either side”, saying Jews “must show support, not hatred” towards Palestinians and Muslims.

Another boy said the attack will bring the Jewish faith together and “show the world how strong a bond we share” as he expressed “anger and disgust at how human life is treated at the hands of terrorists”.

As the Prime Minister and children spoke, above them was an inscription from the book of Psalms, part of the Hebrew bible, saying: “May there be peace within your walls and tranquillity within your dwelling places.”

After the assembly, Mr Sunak met with sixth form students from the school, telling them he knows it was a “tough week” and an “awful time”.

They asked the Prime Minister about how his administration plans to keep the UK’s Jews safe, about tackling online antisemitism and how the law distinguishes between protesters expressing support for Palestine versus support for Hamas, a group proscribed as terrorists and banned in Britain.

Before leaving to return to central London, the Prime Minister signed a card for the school’s “Messages and Prayers For Israel” box, saying: “My heart aches for the people of Israel.”