Israel tent city an inspiration for Occupy London protest

By Marcus Dysch, October 27, 2011
Some of the protesters outside St Paul’s Cathedral this week

Some of the protesters outside St Paul’s Cathedral this week

Rabbis and community leaders have signed a letter supporting activists taking part in the Occupy London protests outside St Paul's Cathedral.

Their backing comes as Jewish participants in the protests - working under the "Occupy Judaism" and "Occupy Torah" slogans - drew comparisons with the tent city demonstrations seen in Israel during the summer.

Last week, Jewish protesters led a Simchat Torah service at the camp and erected a succah outside the cathedral. They are also planning Shabbat services.

The letter, signed by rabbis including Liberal Judaism's Judith Rosen-Berry and Sheila Shulman, and Rabbi Howard Cooper, says: "We welcome the movement's openness, pluralism and commitment to a more just world. We see this as fulfilling many of the precepts of Judaism."

North West Reform Synagogue member Kerry Lambeth, who works for a financial and political analysis agency close to St Paul's, said: "I encourage bankers and investors to make sustainable, ethical decisions, in line with my Jewish values. The protest is effectively doing the same thing, but through a different medium. "

Ms Lambeth said she had witnessed some anti-Israel sentiment at the camp, but noted the rejection, by the movement's "general assembly", of efforts to support the boycott of Israeli goods.

James Sevitt, a 32-year-old charity worker, helps to run a "university tent" and lecture series at the camp, educating people about the movement's aims. He is making a film about the protests across Israel during the summer.

He said: "What I saw in Israel inspired me to get involved. There are similarities with what's happening here in terms of the general assembly, the direct democracy decision-making process, the nature of tent cities and creating a space for people who have been ignored for a while. It's not exactly the same as what we saw across Israel, but it is activism, which is focused as much on the process as it is on substance."

Rabbi Cooper visited the tents on Wednesday and later said: "I found my visit quite inspirational. Their hearts are in the right place and they are part of a worldwide movement that is saying 'things have to change'."

Last updated: 10:51am, October 27 2011