Manchester to pitch Big Tent for Israel

By Marcus Dysch, August 25, 2011

A major pro-Israel conference will go ahead in Manchester later this year despite disagreements over its name, format and the range of speakers.

It had been thought the November 27 event would be promoted under the We Believe banner first used by Bicom at its May conference, Britain's largest ever Israel advocacy event, in London.

But, following disagreements between organisers in the north west and Bicom, the Manchester event will now be entitled The Big Tent for Israel.

Bicom and We Believe staff will continue to work with the Manchester advocates to put together the programme of speakers and sessions, but are likely to have a lower profile than first expected.

Rabbi Jonathan Guttentag of Whitefield Hebrew Congregation in north Manchester is leading the organisation of the conference.

He said he wanted to act after reading about a Reut Institute report in the JC last year which branded London the "hub of hubs" of the movement to undermine Israel.

Rabbi Guttentag said: "It was assumed [after May] that Bicom's London conference would be replicated in Manchester. It was not the deal we had made. The last few weeks have been a bit of an Alice in Wonderland situation.

"There have been some different tangents and people talking at cross-purposes. We are also experienced up here. We have our own way of approaching things. There is no need to have just one brand copied everywhere.

"To mobilise and unite the community you cannot presume that we will have a top-down, 'you will do x, y and z' situation.

"To simply roll out a franchise was one option put in front of us – and would have been easier. But we felt we had something extra to add."

Luke Akehurst, the newly-appointed director of the We Believe network, said no final decisions had been made about the Manchester conference.

He said: "It's still very early days in terms of planning. We are trying to sort out an appropriately broad range of speakers and we are trying to make sure it works and goes ahead."

Last updated: 10:59am, August 25 2011