Roy­al­party rather too exclusive for some

The Jewish Chronicle - - NEWS - BY RACHEL FLETCHER, LEON SY­MONS AND CANDICE KRIEGER

PRINCE ED­WARD be­came the first royal of­fi­cially to par­tic­i­pate in Is­rael’s in­de­pen­dence cel­e­bra­tions at a JNF-UJIA din­ner at Wind­sor Cas­tle on Mon­day.

Stand­ing in for his fa­ther, the Duke of Ed­in­burgh who had been hos­pi­talised with a chest in­fec­tion sev­eral days ear­lier, the Earl of Wes­sex at­tended a cham­pagne re­cep­tion for the 300strong gath­er­ing.

Even though he left be­fore din­ner, he greeted guests in­clud­ing Is­raeli Am­bas­sador Ron Prosor and Chief Rabbi Sir Jonathan Sacks.

And a num­ber of lead­ing com­mu­nity names were also ab­sent. Sources sug­gested that the venue and the £5,000-per-cou­ple price had been seen by some as exclusive and pro­hib­i­tive.

The char­i­ties de­clined to pro­vide a copy of the guest list af­ter the din­ner, but it is un­der­stood that those who did not at­tend in­cluded Sir Trevor Chinn, Lord Levy, Lord Kalms, Lord Young, Lord Woolf, Ger­ald and Dame Gail Ron­son, and Bicom chair Poju Zablu­dow­icz. More than half of the Jewish Lead­er­ship Coun­cil were not present.

There was also dis­ap­point­ment ex­pressed that no Is­raeli gov­ern­ment of­fi­cial had at­tended in place of Pres- ident Shi­mon Peres. Those who did at­tend, how­ever, praised the “mag­nif­i­cence” of the evening, de­scrib­ing it as “mov­ing” and a “won­der­ful ex­pe­ri­ence”.

Guests en­tered the cas­tle via the Cam­bridge Gate, to be es­corted by foot­men to the Water­loo Room for cham­pagne and canapes.

They were then ush­ered into St Ge­orge’s Hall for a sump­tu­ous din­ner, pre­pared by kosher caterer Ca­role So­bell.

Out­side the cas­tle, held well back by po­lice, were a small num­ber of anti-Is­rael demon­stra­tors, in­clud­ing mem­bers of Ne­turei Karta, who tried to bar­rack guests as they en­tered the royal apart­ments.

Be­fore the evening ended, guests were given an op­por­tu­nity to visit the Grand Re­cep­tion room, not gen­er­ally open to the pub­lic. Mu­sic, in­clud­ing Is­rael’s na­tional an­them, Hatik­vah, was pro­vided by the band of the Ir­ish Guards.

The din­ner, where guests ate rack of lamb and plum and Ar­magnac tart, was presided over by Su­per­in­ten­dent of the Cas­tle, Ma­jor Alan Den­ham, with Steven War­wick as toast­mas­ter. Toasts to the Queen and the state of Is­rael were pro­posed by Stephen Ru­bin and Colin Wag­man.

Speeches were made by Mr Prosor, JNF UK pres­i­dent Gail Seal and UJIA chair­man Mick Davis. Michael Gross, who helped to or­gan­ise the event, gave the vote of thanks.

Guest Shi­mon Co­hen said: “We were made to feel like heads of state. It was a won­der­ful ex­pe­ri­ence to be es­corted in, and ush­ered up stairs framed by suits of ar­mour, swords, shields and coats of arms.

“The Earl of Wes­sex said how much he had en­joyed his re­cent visit to Is­rael. The band played a range of mu­sic from con­tem­po­rary pop, to bal­lads to klezmer, and songs from Fid­dler on the Roof. It was quite won­der­ful to hear it play Hatik­vah.”

In his ad­dress, Am­bas­sador Prosor ex­pressed the sig­nif­i­cance of Is­rael’s in­de­pen­dence be­ing cel­e­brated at Wind­sor Cas­tle and recog­nised Jewish loy­alty to the Crown.

“In the home of the kings and queens of the United King­dom, we mark this his­toric oc­ca­sion in a spirit of friend­ship,” he said.

“It­wa­sof­course un­for­tu­nate that the Duke of Ed­in­burgh was not well enough to at­tend. But it is my sin­cere hope that we one day have the op­por­tu­nity to re­cip­ro­cate the Royal Fam­ily’s hos­pi­tal­ity. We in Is­rael look for­ward to s o me­day wel - com­ing Her Majesty the Queen and Prince Philip in our an­cient cap­i­tal, the home of our kings and queens.”

UJIA chief ex­ec­u­tive Douglas Krik­ler said the evening dis­played “a won­der­ful show of unity work­ing to­wards a shared goal — to cel­e­brate 60 years of the peo­ple and state of Is­rael”.

JNF UK chief ex­ec­u­tive Si­mon Win­ters added: “The rous­ing singing of Hatik­vah in St Ge­orge’s Hall at Wind­sor Cas­tle to the ac­com­pa­ni­ment of the Ir­ish Guards band was a unique and par­tic­u­larly mov­ing trib­ute to the UK Jewish com­mu­nity. JNF UK are thrilled to have been able to jointly host such a mag­nif­i­cent oc­ca­sion.”

But one se­nior com­mu­nal fig­ure, who de­cided not to at­tend, said af­ter the event: “This was not the way to do things. If you wanted to hold an event at Wind­sor Cas­tle, you can­not just pick only rich Jews to cel­e­brate Is­rael’s 60th an­niver­sary. In my view, you must in­vite in­tel­lec­tu­als, aca­demics, peo­ple who would not be able to af­ford to pay £5,000 a cou­ple.

“For ex­am­ple, how can you have a royal event for an oc­ca­sion like this and not in­vite the pres­i­dent of the Zion­ist Fed­er­a­tion? It doesn’t make sense. I know oth­ers felt the same and that was why some well-known peo­ple in the com­mu­nity de­cided not to go. I hope the or­gan­is­ers learn a les­son.”

An­other com­mu­nal ac­tivist claimed that UJIA had turned down an of­fer for aca­demics to at­tend the din­ner, spon­sored and paid for by a com- mu­nal leader. The char­i­ties in­sisted: “There was no set ticket price — all money raised was through vol­un­tary do­na­tions”.

ZF pres­i­dent Eric Moon­man con­firmed that he had not re­ceived an in­vi­ta­tion to the event. He said this week: “I have had a num­ber of phone calls from peo­ple ask­ing why I wasn’t there.

“I think this was a lost op­por­tu­nity. It would have been bet­ter if all cor­ners of the com­mu­nity had been rep­re­sented.

“Peo­ple have been say­ing to me that when the Jewish com­mu­nity is given an op­por­tu­nity to come to Wind­sor Cas­tle to help cel­e­brate Is­rael’s 60th, they turn it into a fundrais­ing event.”

PHOTO: JOHN RIFKIN

In­cluded: 300 guests en­joy the splen­dour of Wind­sor Cas­tle’s beau­ti­ful St Ge­orge’s Hall

PHOTO: JONATHAN LEIGH

Ex­cluded: demon­stra­tors heckle ar­riv­ing guests

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