Jimmy Savile came to my batmitzvah
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With the Bridge in Britain friends in Tel Aviv in 1975; John Levy is far right
He claimed to have "invented the disco", but Sir Jimmy Savile, the DJ and presenter who died last weekend, also claimed to have done his bit towards peace in the Middle East.
Sir Jimmy always said he had berated the Israeli Cabinet in 1975 for being too soft after the Six Day War.
The bling-loving Leeds-born presenter of Jim'll Fix It and Top of the Pops, who once described himself as "the most Jewish Catholic you will ever meet," was a strong supporter of Israel and through fun runs, marathons and personal appearances, raised funds for many charities including WIZO, Ravenswood, and the British Friends of the Laniado Hospital in Netanya.
His ten-day visit to Israel in 1975, when he met President Ephraim Katzir and Jerusalem mayor Teddy Kollek, was organised by John Levy of the Friends of Israel Educational Trust.
The trip was filmed for the BBC's Jim'll Fix It after nine-year-old Gary Merrie from Liverpool asked "to see the land where Jesus was born."
Sir Jimmy recalled his advice to the Israelis: "I arrived at this reception. The president came to me and asked how I was enjoying my visit.I said I was very disappointed: the Israelis had won the Six Day War but they had given back all the land, including the only oil well in the region, and were now paying the Egyptians more for oil than if they had bought it from Saudi Arabia.
"I said: 'You have forgotten to be Jewish'. He said: 'Would you like to tell my cabinet that?' Next morning, I went to the Knesset; they interrupted a cabinet meeting and I told them the same as I had told him."
Mr Levy recalled: "He was a gorgeous, impish, creative character. Of course, he was an egomaniac, but he was incredibly generous. He wanted to film us walking from Jerusalem to Bethlehem, so there are these scenes trudging the Judean Hills. He had many close Jewish friends, he was a real philosemite. When we returned, I asked him to be a 'Friend' of the Trust and he insisted that I listed him as 'Special Friend'."
During his visit, Sir Jimmy spent time camping near the Sea of Galilee and at Kibbutz Lavi, where he recorded a discussion programme for his Radio 1 show "Speakeasy."
Famous for his "clunk-click" road safety campaign advocating the wearing of seat belts, Sir Jimmy loved nearly everything in Israel, with one major exception - the driving. After his trip and a meeting with then Transport Minister Moshe Dayan, when he returned to London, he presented Israeli ambassador Gideon Rafael with two road safety films which he hoped would be shown on Israeli TV.
Mancunians Pearl Gruber and her late husband Harold were close friends of Sir Jimmy, and invited him to their daughter Sharon's batmitzvah in 1968. Mrs Gruber said: "He was wonderful; he broadcast his radio show 'Savile's Travels' from the batmitzvah party at the Yeshurun Hebrew Congregation in Cheadle. One of the boys at the party really wanted to be a disc jockey and nearly drove him mad."
Sharon Gruber, who now lives in Mill Hill, recalled: "He came to my batmitzvah in a silver suit, and people were whispering 'who does that man think he is, Jimmy Savile?' They didn't realise it was really him!"
One of his eight homes was a small flat in the heart of the Leeds Jewish community in Roundhay. He spent much of his time socialising at the Flying Pizza restaurant on Street Lane, a popular local haunt.
He was a regular at fundraising dinners at synagogues in Leeds and Manchester, particularly for the British Friends of Laniado, donating large sums to the organisation.
He told the BBYO group in Leeds: "I knew nothing about the Jewish community growing up", but visiting Israel had made him realise that "the world owes the Jewish community a great debt."
Manchester Laniado chair Dov Hamburger recalled Sir Jimmy's appearance at the charity's annual dinner, which he did for nothing. Mr Hamburger said: "I cannot recall a keynote speaker who has behaved so generously before."
Former Norwood chief executive Norma Brier recalled Jimmy Savile's visit to Ravenswood Village in 1989. "He came to open the Ravenswood fair and was a great hit, turning up in his gold Rolls Royce. He walked around chatting to the residents and spent lots of time there. We were very grateful for his support."