Hundreds sign Shalom Declaration at Norwich church
More than 200 people attended the launch of East Anglia Friends of Israel in Norwich at an impressive gathering which brought together members of the local Jewish community and Christians from across the region to demonstrate their support for Israel. Mike Wiltshire reports.
Dan Golan, the cultural attaché at the Israeli Embassy, represented the state of Israel at the event.
Jill Gower, chair of the East Anglia Friends of Israel said: "I am thrilled that our new organisation will provide a platform for the existing support for Israel there is in East Anglia. It was a wonderful evening, and I believe a very important one for this region, as we all stood shoulder to shoulder to stand for righteousness and justice.
“Given the sad history of Norwich as the birthplace of the medieval blood libel, it was extremely moving for so many Christians to make a stand with us this evening against anti-semitism and intolerance."
Hundreds of attendees at the event, which took place at Soul Church in Norwich, signed the Shalom Declaration which calls upon political leaders to combat anti-semitism and extremism across the world and promote positive ties with Israel.
At the event, the new Friends of Israel group announced an informal twinning arrangement with Yezreel Valley College in the Galilee. There are plans for visits to the College and hosting college speakers in the UK.
Board of Deputies of British Jews consultant Steven Jaffe said: "East Anglia Friends of Israel is the latest grassroots friends of Israel group to be launched in the UK, joining East Midlands Friends of Israel which was launched the previous week. These wonderful and energetic new groups demonstrate there is a national and growing movement in support of Israel in the UK. The event in Norwich was an outstanding and very moving show of support for Israel and the local Jewish community."
Group member Rosemary English spoke for many when she said: "It was such an eventful evening . . . we left behind our history and came together with the Jewish community to show our support for Israel - so important at this time of increasing anti-semitism."
Summing up the event, Paul McHenry, vice-chair of the East Anglia group, said: "After such an historic, emotional and unifying night, it’s time to begin the hard work putting words into action. Standing against anti-semitism and injustice, we shall work together with our Jewish brothers and sisters both here in East Anglia, the UK and in the State of Israel itself. Our present and our future is now a united one".
Those taking part included Daniel Rosenthal and Marion Prinsley from the Norwich Synagogue and musicians Brenda Taylor and Juliet Dawn. MC for the evening was the Rev Nigel Fox following a welcome by Pastor Trevor Pimlott.
Pictured above is the East Anglia Friends of Israel launch in Norwich and, above, Dan Golan and Stephen Jaffe shake hands with hundreds of people who came forward with their signed copies of the Shalom Declaration.