Closer to Israel at 65 - Thousands Gathered to Celebrate in Central London on 2nd June

Central London played host to a spectacular Closer to Israel at 65 Parade on Sunday 2nd June 2013. Thousands of participants representing the diversity of British society were joined by spectators and supporters in Central London for a parade followed by a grand finale in Trafalgar Square.

The event highlighted the special nature of the bilateral relationship between the UK and Israel. It was also an opportunity for the Jewish community to fundraise for Help for Heroes.

The celebratory gathering in Trafalgar Square featured guest speakers including Chief Rabbi Lord Sacks and Israel’s Ambassador to the UK HE Daniel Taub. They were joined by the Secretary of State for Education Michael Gove and other leaders from the political and faith arenas.

A special live performance by Israeli pop sensation and Eurovision finalist Harel Skaat delighted the crowd who were also kept entertained by a number of activities including arts and crafts, falafel and other traditional Israeli and Jewish food. The Community Security Trust provided security and logistical support.

President of Israel Shimon Peres welcomed the event, saying:

We have a special feeling about Great Britain. Let us never forget that Zionism was born in Great Britain. The State of Israel was the result of the Balfour declaration. It was a great opening and a great continuation. All those years, 65 years already, you stood on our side and we watched with admiration your dedication to the development of the state of Israel. Together we shall continue to work together for the future and the values and the friendship of Israel with all other nations and achieve peace.

Secretary of State for Education Michael Gove said:

On Israel’s borders the shadow of extremism and the sound of suffering is particularly profound. That is why I think it’s so important that all those of us who are friends of democracy, freedom and Israel take the opportunity whenever it is given to us to stand up and say ‘Israel has achieved amazing things’. It’s people are showing courage at a difficult time – we stand with you in your struggle for democracy.

Chief Rabbi Lord Sacks said:

Israel is a blessing not just to its citizens but to the world. Because while its enemies have been holding whole populations captive to the pursuit of arms and missiles and terror, Israel has been developing agriculture to grow food where no food was ever grown before, developing medicine to heal sicknesses that were not healed before and developing technology to create human possibilities that did not exist before.

HE Ambassador Taub said:

We only need to glimpse Israel through their eyes and we see the miracle of a country in which every day exceeds the most fantastic dreams of our great-grandparents. It's a remarkable achievement. But we haven’t done it alone. And today is a chance to pay tribute to all those here in Britain who have helped us along the way. Thank you! Thank you for believing in Israel, for visiting Israel, for speaking up for Israel, for investing in Israel, for praying for Israel and for marching and being with Israel today.

Head of the Movement for Reform Judaism said:

Israel is a democracy that engages robustly in all its responsibilities: a budget to balance; an Army to deploy; support and threats from other countries. And we are blessed with the best opportunity since the first Century to impact practical decisions about Jewish identity and Jewish values.

Mick Davis, Closer to Israel representative and Chair of the Jewish Leadership Council said:

We are gathered in this great city to celebrate a still young but great country as privileged citizens of the United Kingdom where our connection to Israel is respected and nurtured and allowed to blossom. And today it is only right to highlight the significant bilateral relationships that exist between the United Kingdom and Israel. Relationships in security, trade and scientific collaboration to name but a few.

Vivian Wineman President of Board of Deputies of British Jews and chair of the Membership Council of the JLC closed the day by saying:

I hope these wonderful celebrations must lead to pledges to get even Closer to Israel, through ties with Israeli organisations and clubs. For 2,000 years a return to Israel was but a dream, but  in 65 years we have seen the creation of one the world’s most exciting countries,  one which we as Jews especially love and admire.

 

1. The Parade and Grand Finale was sponsored by the Jewish Leadership Council, the UJIA, The Board of Deputies; supported by the Embassy of Israel in London, the Zionist Federation, Jewish News & Media Group, The Creative Clinic, WIZO UK. Other organisations who took part in Closer to Israel include Mitzvah Day, Reform Judaism, Stand With Us UK, UJS and We Believe in Israel. Security and logistical support was provided by the Community Security Trust.

2. If you would like a quote from any of the organisers or any further information media.closertoisrael@gmail.com or 07960469509.

3. For more information please visit www.closertoisrael.org.uk.