So cosy in Manchester
A family crowd at the Hilton
The 700-plus revellers at Manchester's Yom Ha'atzmaut celebration said a cosier venue had heightened the party mood.
This year's event was held at the Hilton Banqueting Suite in the heart of the north Manchester community. The previous venue had been larger and some distance from Jewish neighbourhoods.
The hall was packed and some people were turned away on health and safety grounds. Outdoor space was utilised to provide a fairground ride for children. Indoors, state-of-the-art lighting beamed a laser accompaniment to the sounds of Israeli band the Shuk.
Hailing the event as a success, organising committee chair Karen Solomon said: "There has been a better atmosphere and we have attracted people who would never normally come."
First-time attendee Rachel Yifrah from Worsley in Salford brought along her four children. The family moved from a kibbutz near the Gaza Strip three years ago to get away from Hamas rocket attacks. "We decided to try to do stuff with the Jewish community here. Because my kids don't attend Jewish schools, this event was a way of keeping them involved."
Anne Feingold from Prestwich, a regular at Manchester's event, said the new venue had generated "a much warmer atmosphere." Added her nine-year-old son Zak: "I've seen much more of my school year here this year."
Elsewhere, Cheshire Reform synagogue held a three-day Israel programme with its own first Yom Ha'atzmaut event, linked with UJIA, at which the community was joined by six Israeli soldiers.
On Monday night, 120 people attended an emotional Yom Hazikaron service where the four female and two male soldiers spoke about colleagues who had died in recent fighting. The event then transformed into a celebration with the help of music from the synagogue choir. Organiser David Rabin said: "The synagogue is very pro-Israel. Everybody loved it. It went down a storm."