Against the odds, Israel 61 show goes on


Anti-Israeli demonstrators left children in tears but failed to disrupt the Zionist Federation’s annual family show to celebrate Israel’s birthday on Tuesday night.

The show was forced to move from the University College London-owned Bloomsbury Theatre at the last minute to the artsdepot in Finchley, north London.

The Bloomsbury claimed that a publicity picture of an Israel Defence Force entertainment troupe, who appeared in the show, breached the ZF’s contention that the event was cultural, and not political. The theatre had received complaints from anti-Israeli groups.

The five Israelis — Loren Benjamin Peled, Shaylee Atary, Noga Erez, Reut Raz and Menachem Liav Ben David — appeared on stage in their uniforms to thunderous applause midway through the two-hour show and performed two songs. Then they were hurried away to appear at a British Friends of Israel War-Disabled dinner.

ZF director Alan Aziz explained that the Bloomsbury’s action caused “horrendous problems” for the organisation, which included bringing a second group of four Israeli singers as a back-up in case the five-person group could not perform.

“There was a point when we were not sure we would be able to use the original group,” said Mr Aziz. “The Bloomsbury took issue with them being in the show whatever they wore. Then we offered to remove them completely but they still cancelled it.

“We had an IDF troupe at Wembley Arena last year. Why should an internationally known venue like Wembley not have a problem, yet the Bloomsbury did?”

Mr Aziz said that the IDF troupe was due to appear at a total of 10 events while here. He said one show sponsor, and a number of kosher restaurants which offered free meals, helped keep costs down.

Around 40 protestors, from Jews for Justice for Palestinians, Jews for Boycotting Israeli Goods and the Palestine Solidarity Campaign, demonstrated outside the theatre. They played rap music and shouted insults at Holocaust survivors and families as they arrived.

One nine-year-old boy sobbed as he walked into the building. His mother, from Mill Hill, said: “They shouted at us as we came in and my son got very upset, especially when he saw the banners. I’ve never seen anything like this at a Yom Ha’atzmaut celebration before”.

A number of other children showed distress at the protest, but the majority of families hurried past the demonstration.

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