Human rights award for Israeli duo

Tomer Heymann, Mira Awad, Achinoam Nini and Nicholas Saphir

Tomer Heymann, Mira Awad, Achinoam Nini and Nicholas Saphir

You do not often see guests dancing at an Anglo-Jewish charity dinner.

But many were on their feet at the New Israel Fund's annual Human Rights awards on Sunday to celebrate this year's winners: Israeli singers Noa and Mira.

The duo, Achinoam Nini who is Jewish and Mira Awad who is Arab, represented Israel in the 2009 Eurovision song contest. They had been due to perform in London earlier this year at the Zionist Federation's Israel Independence concert but Ms Arad withdrew amid political controversy.

But there were no such inhibitions as Mira and Noa took to the stage to entertain 300 guests in the art deco Bloomsbury Ballroom.

By the time they finished their set with a barnstorming version of The Beatles' We Can Work It Out, most of the large contingent from the NIF's younger New Generation group were bopping at the back, joined by Rabbi Laura Janner-Klausner who was unable to resist the beat.

Jane Grabiner, host for the evening, said: "For the first time, we are focussing on those who use the arts to advocate for human and civil rights, and for dialogue and co-existence in Israel."

Sir Ronald Harwood, the playwright, presenting the awards, said that Noa and Mira had used "their enormous musical talent and friendship to promote dialogue and peace".

Also recognised with an award was Israeli filmmaker Tomer Heymann whose documentaries have ranged from disaffected Jewish youth to attempts to set up a binational Jewish-Arab school in Israel. One of his films followed the lives of a group of Filipino transvestites who work as carers of elderly Orthodox men in Israel - prompting Sir Ronald to quip: "Nice work if you can get it!"

Guests included actors David and Clive Swift, Board of Deputies president Vivian Wineman and Reform movement head Rabbi Tony Bayfield and chairman Stephen Moss. One of the night's other attractions was the catering - by fashionable London-based Israeli chef Yotam Ottolenghi, whose business partner Sami Tamimi is a Palestinian from East Jerusalem.

    Last updated: 11:58am, January 10 2011