Conversations among friends
Israel’s Ambassador joked during this week’s Conservative Friends of Israel reception that only CFI could have organised an event in Birmingham where the room temperature was hotter than Tel Aviv.
The heat was an indication of the presence of a packed-to-capacity crowd, some of whom had to queue for 20 minutes to squeeze in.
The General Election may be up for grabs, but Theresa Villiers seemed to capture the mood when she said only her party passed the test of friendship with the Jewish state during the war with Hamas.
The crowds – combined with a rise in the numbers signing up to become CFI members – offered a clear response to those who feared a more muted reception at conference.
It was precisely because of the Tories’ robust response to the threat from Hamas – reiterated on Tuesday by the Foreign Secretary – that some may have raised an eyebrow at his remark on the importance of Israel’s response to threats carrying public opinion in Europe; a public that is often not known for its understanding of Israel’s position and was understandably swayed by the deluge of horrific images emanating from Gaza.
Of course it is important Israel doesn’t lose the public and takes every step to investigate itself.
But its security must be its ultimate priority – a position that both Philip Hammond and cabinet coleagues have and continue to show a commendable understanding of.
As Ambassador Taub said, it’s with such friends that the tough conversations on the road to the peace can be most effectively had.
By Justin Cohen
Timing that can build bridges
By rare coincidence, Yom Kippur this year falls over the same period as the Muslim festival of Eid al-Adha, which marks the end of the Hajj pilgrimage to Mecca.
In Israel, Reform Jews have been urged to give food to Muslims who have nothing to put on their tables this holiday, while in the US, interfaith groups have heralded “an excellent opportunity for cross-community engagement”.
It is gratifying to see Jews around the world acknowledge this important date in the Muslim calendar and use the timing to build bridges.
What is less palatable is the UN’s continued insistence on listing only one of these two festivals as an official holiday.
No prizes for guessing which one. At the UN General Assembly in New York this week, it is easy to see why.
Anti-Israel feeling no longer lurks below the surface – it stands at a podium.
This is nothing new.
What is new, and what will be top of every agenda after the holidays, is the threat from militant Islam in the Middle East.
If ever there was an interfaith project to part of, it is the one now required in Iraq and Syria.
By Stephen Oryszczuk