Thank you all for being here. It is remarkable to see so many people representing so many different paths brought together this evening, and I am greatly honoured to be the occasion of such a meeting. Special thanks to those who have organised this evening - Professor Amitai, Dean of the Faculty of Humanities, Dr Ben-Tor, Chair of the Department of Comparative Religion, Brouria Bitton-Ashkelony, Director of the Center for the Study of Christianity and Serge Ruzer. I greatly appreciate your kind remarks and good wishes. And thanks to those distinguished scholars from several countries who have honoured the occasion with their papers - Dany Schwartz, Marc Rastoin, Yair Zakovitch, Mauro Pesce and Paula Fredriksen. They have given us a feast of learning and inquiry this evening.
In honouring me, you are also honouring the Ecole Biblique, which I have had the privilege of serving for the last 23 years, and which is represented here this evening by its Director, Hervé Ponsot, and by a number of colleagues and students. The association of the Ecole Biblique and the Hebrew University goes back a very long way, perhaps to the beginning of the University. According to a tradition at the Ecole, Fr Lagrange, Founder of the Ecole, was present at the foundation of the University. Over the years since then there have been links of various sorts, notably friendships that have transcended the usual lines of demarcation. Many of us share memories of Pierre Benoît and of Po-Paul Dreyfus. Numerous scholars and students of the Hebrew University have used the Ecole Biblique library and have taken part in academic events "chez nous". Ecole people have studied at the University, in particular François Langlamet and Etienne Nodet. Marcel Sigrist has taught Sumerian and has been working for a long time now with Hebrew University colleagues in the decipherment and editing of Mesopotamian tablets. Then other areas of scientific co-operation: Emile Puech and the Dead Sea Scrolls; Archaeology. The Ecole was represented at the inauguration of the Center for the Study of Christianity.
During the whole time I have been at the Ecole, I have had the pleasure of taking part with Israeli scholars in conferences and seminars here or elsewhere. When Etienne and I brought out our book on the origins of Christianity in 1988, it was 'launched' at a morning seminar organised by colleagues here in which several of you now present took part. I had the privilege of speaking at the special session of The Israel Academy of Sciences and Humanities and The Hebrew University of Jerusalem in Memory of David Flusser in 2001. A very pleasant event took place in Rome two years ago under the auspices of the Cardinal Bea Center for Judaic Studies of the Gregorian University, which brought together Serge, Dany, Mauro, Paula and myself, with others, to consider "Paul's Jewish Matrix".
The closest association between myself and the Ecole on the one side and the Hebrew University on the other, has been the graduate seminar on reading the New Testament as Second Temple Period Jewish literature. That all began one day in September 2005, when Guy Stroumsa and David Satran came to see me at the Ecole to invite me to be the Cardinal O'Connor Visiting Professor in the Center for the Study of Christianity during the academic year 2005-06. The abiding fruit of that lecture series has been the joint seminar, which Serge and I began in 2006 and which has continued since then and become semi-institutionalised. I am delighted that it is going to continue. This seminar fulfils a dream of Professor Werblowsky from many years ago. It has been wonderful to have Jews and Christians -various sorts of Jews and various sorts of Christians - sit down together to read the New Testament. It has also been great fun, and I learned a lot from it.
But enough of speech-making. In ancient symposia, food was followed by drink, then talk. This evening we have had the talk first. Food, drink and more conversation await us. I am about to leave the Holy City of Jerusalem and go to the Eternal City of Rome. That particular journey has illustrious precedents. 'If I forget thee, O Jerusalem...' You represent so many ties that will continue to bind me to Jerusalem. Even though I will no longer be working full-time in a university setting, I will continue to be associated in Rome with The Cardinal Bea Center for Judaic Studies, and thus with the Center for the Study of Christianity here. As I take my leave I thank you all for collegiality and friendship and wish you well on your own journeys. Todah ravah.