Big crowds at Closer to Israel parade

By Simon Rocker and Zoe Winograd, June 2, 2013
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Thousands of people flocked to central London today for British Jewry’s biggest solidarity event with Israel for five years.

Closer to Israel, a celebration of the country’s 65th anniversary, began outside Hyde Park at midday, followed by a two-hour gathering in Trafalgar Square from 2pm.

“We are absolutely delighted. It was really exhilarating to see over 50 organisations come together with such joy and enthusiasm," said Douglas Krikler, spokesman of the planning committee.

Spectators were encouraged to gather at three viewing points — outside the Ritz Hotel at Green Park, by Eros in Piccadilly Circus and in the Haymarket. A fleet of open-top buses, floats depicting scenes of Israel and the band of the Jewish Lads and Girls Brigade led the way, with street entertainers performing along the route.

Harel Skaat, who sang for Israel in the 2010 Eurovision Song Contest, is the headline musical act in Trafalgar Square, while speakers will include the Chief Rabbi Lord Sacks, Israel ambassador Daniel Taub and an as yet unnamed UK Cabinet minister.

Mr Krikler said that the Community Security Trust was working hand in hand with police and other agencies to ensure a peaceful event. “We look forward to welcoming record numbers of participants,” he added. “We have even arranged for the sun to shine.”

Last updated: 2:29pm, June 2 2013