ZF celebrates Yom Ha'atzmaut despite travel chaos

Eye-level backing: five-year-old Joshua Solomon showing off his Israeli double vision at Logan Hall

Eye-level backing: five-year-old Joshua Solomon showing off his Israeli double vision at Logan Hall

The Zionist Federation claimed a triumph out of disaster after its London concert to celebrate Israel's 62nd birthday fell victim to the travel chaos caused by the Icelandic volcanic ash cloud.

With the Israeli stars of the show unable to travel, the ZF had 24 hours to put together a replacement Israeli-style informal party for 400 people at Logan Hall in Bloomsbury, featuring a London-based Israeli band, a singer and a comedian.

There was food and wine aplenty to help the party along and one of the biggest cheers of the evening was for an absent friend - X Factor star Stacey Solomon - who trilled in a taped message: "I hope you all have a wicked evening. See you later."

ZF director Alan Aziz said that logistically, it had been "the most difficult year we've ever had. But despite all the problems we are still here celebrating Yom Ha'atzmaut.

"We were determined to organise a good event at short notice. We notified every one of the 900 ticket holders and many of them were here tonight. Some of our guests were Israelis on holiday in London. They couldn't get home, so they celebrated with us."

The ZF had monitored the travel situation daily until Sunday morning when the decision was taken to cancel the original event. "The most difficult thing was deciding what to do once we realised we had no performers and an empty auditorium. We decided to do this old-fashioned, back-to-the-roots type of event. The ZF may not be the biggest communal organisation but it is arguably the best-resourced and has enormous goodwill. Everyone has come together to help put this on and there's been a great spirit that we won't be beaten."

His sentiments were echoed by Israeli Ambassador Ron Prosor, who said: "Nothing could prevent us celebrating tonight. No natural disaster could dampen our spirit. The people of Israel must stand together in unity to honour our past, celebrate our present and protect our future."

Among the party-goers was Chigwell accountant Alex Stuart, 56, who explained: "I was going to the original concert and I didn't know until I arrived that it had been cancelled. But I am happy to be here. It's great that people show their support for Israel."

Ian Miller from Hendon, who had also booked for the concert, said it was more important than ever to display solidarity. "I got the ZF webmail about the cancellation. I had no idea what they were going to replace it with but this is very good, much more informal and very relaxed."

Also from Hendon, businesswoman Nizza Fluss praised the ZF for arranging such an enjoyable evening at short notice. "I wasn't going to come to the concert but I was with someone in the morning who told me it had been changed to a party. It's been very good - I even had a dance."

For Brian Gordon, the party was a welcome break from his London Marathon preparation. "I think the ZF has done an excellent job," he said. "I might come again next year if it's like this."

And although Stacey Solomon could not be present, her parents, brother and sister were. Dad David Solomon felt "proud to see everyone together despite the crisis over the ash. We're very happy to be here."

    Last updated: 1:04pm, April 22 2010