Our Archive – past stories


United nations stand with Israel at Ulster Hall


Representatives of the nations of the world took to the stage at the Ulster Hall in Belfast as the International Christian Embassy of Jerusalem held a Taste of Tabernacles event in front of a packed house. The evening was one of colour, music and worship as the audience got a glimpse of the celebration of the Biblical feast of Tabernacles in Jerusalem.

ICEJ Israel flag 2017 Ulster Hall

Deep in thought

singer icej worship band

We pay tribute to the wonderful Worship band who lead and perform with energy, passion  and commitment at the Taste of Tabernacles events in Belfast and in Co Wicklow organised by the International Christian Embassy of Jerusalem.


icej band key board player

 Shoah victims honoured at Bangor West


Over 300 packed Bangor West Presbyterian church for a Shoah memorial service. Guest speaker was Pastor Werner Oder, an Austrian by birth and son of a leading SS officer. Werner’s father not only murdered Jews but trained others to do so. Werner has dedicated much of his career to raising Shoah awareness. NIFI’s president Gerald Steinberg attended the event alongside Co chairs of Belfast CCJ, Bishop Trainor and Rev Ken Newell and representatives of the Belfast Jewish community. NIFI was proud to help sponsor the event organised by friend Ivor McClinton.


Millisle Remembered

For Holocaust Memorial Day 2017, NIFI’s co chair, London-based Steven Jaffe, was asked to discuss the Refugee settlement farm in Millisle, Co Down on NVTV, Belfast’s local TV station. Steven’s interest in the farm was sparked by photographs he was given as a student. You can watch the programme here:


Millisle - boys

Photo: Dreamers of Zion – members of the Zionist youth group Bachad who trained as farmers at Millisle.

Faces of Jerusalem

colin davidson jerusalem

Congratulations to Ulster-based artist, Colin Davidson, whose epic work Jerusalem is being exhibited for the first time in London. The 12 large-scale portraits of individuals living and working in Jerusalem will be displayed at 33 Fitzroy Square from March 9 to 28. The portraits illustrate the diversity and shared human face of the city’s inhabitants.

Mazal Tov- congratulations to Thompson International Tours
on its 25th anniversary. The Portadown-based company, which boasts decades of experience of arranging Holy Land tours, has recently returned from a celebratory Leaders tour of the Biblical sites in Galilee and Jerusalem. For more information, click on the link here


ICEJ gather for 8th annual conference


The Irish branch of International Christian Embassy of Jerusalem enjoyed a wonderful Conference recently with speakers Christine Darg, Robert Baxter and Edwin Michael. Delegates from Northern Ireland and the Republic looked at the different aspects of Christians being “Watchmen on the Walls” of Jerusalem.

Honoured by Israel, remembered in Derry – a heroine of the Holocaust.

Londonderry women remember their Aunt who died in Auschwitz alongside Jewish children in her care. Jane Haining was posthumously named as Righteous Among the Nations at Jerusalem’s Yad Vashem in 1997.



Visiting Israel with a disability

A group from Northern Ireland visited Israel over Christmas with a particular challenge. Can you tour Israel in a wheelchair and with one of the party needing regular dialysis? With preparation you can see everything from the Golan Heights to Jerusalem and Jaffa – says a determined tour leader Colin Nevin. Colin visited renal clinics located in hospitals and even a rural kibbutz to enable him to enjoy an inspiring visit to the Promised land. Colin says: ” for kidney patients Israeli hospitals and private clinics offer a high standard of dialysis that can be booked through your local hospital in Northern Ireland. The thing I have learned is that having an illness or disability need not debar one from visiting Israel”.

Nifi supports IsrACTION day 


Northern Ireland Friends of Israel are proud to support IsrAction day – our basketful of Israeli goods is being donated to Hope on the Streets, a project of the Adullam Christian fellowship, Sandy Row, to help those in need in inner city Belfast. Today our co chair Andrew Shaw is presenting the Israeli produce to Pastor Paul Burns of the Fellowship. IsrAction day is an international initiative to donate Israeli goods to good causes in the season of goodwill.

Investment, trade and cooperation


Israel’s ambassador, Mark Regev, meets DUP MPs at Westminster. The Democratic Unionist Party are the largest party from Northern Ireland in the House of Commons.

Fraternal Greetings to Wales

NIFI’s London-based co chair brings an Ulster accent to the launch of our sister group, Wales Friends of Israel at the National Assembly of Wales. Steven only hinted at Ulster’s victory over Cardiff the previous weekend.


Talks at Stormont


NIFI’s London-based co chair Steven Jaffe accompanied Michael Freeman, a diplomat from the Israeli embassy in London, for a series of meetings at the Northern Ireland Assembly. They met representatives and leaders from five political parties.

Synagogue visit


The First Minister, Arlene Foster MLA, accompanied by local MLA William Humphrey and Alderman Guy Spence visited Belfast synagogue as guests of the Belfast Jewish community in a show of support for the community following various anti-Jewish and anti-Israel acts. Here the First Minister presents a candle used for Holocaust Memorial day commemorations to the community for safe keeping. The First Minister reiterated her revulsion at what had happened at the Jewish section of the City cemetery and her rejection of anti-Israel extremism.

Hebrew speaker – job in Belfast!

Vacancy for a Hebrew-speaking Customer services rep in Belfast – details here:


Balfour centenary


Huge thanks to the Northern Ireland MPs who participated in this morning’s debate at Westminster to celebrate the Balfour Declaration – the centenary next year of the UK’s declaration in support of the right of the Jewish people to reconstitute their homeland. Jim Shannon MP was amongst the speakers and Nigel Dodds MP and Gregory Campbell MP made strong interventions.

Israel drop in in Bangor


Colin Nevin reports an amazing drop in for Israel on the seafront at Bangor. It took place at Queen’s Parade, just opposite the iconic McKee clock.

Bangor residents and passers by popped in “keen to learn a few words of Hebrew and make the toast l’Chayim – to Life, over a cup of Israeli grape juice!”.

“The atmosphere was exceptionally positive and friendly” Colin reports. “People were particularly interested in the festival of Tabernacles and how it is celebrated in Israel”.

A generous sum was raised for the Belfast Jewish community as a show of support following antisemitic attacks.

Kol ha-kavod – a huge well done – to Colin and all who helped out.

Millisle farm remembered


Down Museum took delivery of a unique item from the Jewish Refugee farm at Millisle – a shoe making machine which had lain undisturbed there for over six decades since the farm’s closure. At Millisle farm Jewish refugees from Nazi Germany and Austria were trained for life as farmers and artisans in the future state of Israel.


NIFI hosts speaker in Belfast

On the eve of the Labour Party conference – we were honoured to host Luke Akehurst in Belfast who spoke about anti-Semitism on the left of British politics today. Luke is director of We Believe in Israel and a life-long Labour Party activist. Other speakers included Nigel Goodrich of our sister Friends of Israel groups in Scotland.


 Repairing the Breach

In September 2016 Jan Cooper of “Repairing the Breach” addressed meetings in Rostrevor and Belfast to give a vivid presentation about a unique gathering held in May 2015 at Haifa Port and Atlit former Detention Camp.

It is the story of how over 80,000 Holocaust survivors ended up in British detention camps in Cyprus following the war when the Royal Navy was commanded to turn back Jews from the shores of pre- state Israel.

The Holocaust survivors on one ship – the Exodus – were forbidden to land and dispatched back to France and Germany.

Heroine Honoured


On October 19, 1965, Yad Vashem recognised Irena Sendler as ‘Righteous Among the Nations’ (Israel’s highest honour for non-Jews during the Holocaust).

In Northern Ireland a stained glass window has been dedicated to honour Irena.

The window was designed and made by folk from NI including Decorum NI (who look after Ex-Service Personnel) and the Disabled Police Officers Association. It is currently on display in Ards Arts Centre and then the North Down Museum.

Irena was a Polish Social Worker and during WW2 she rescued 2500 Jewish children out from the Warsaw ghetto. She took the children out in body bags, tool boxes, potato sacks .

After the war, in typically self deprecating fashion, she claimed no credit for her actions. “I could have done more,” she simply said. Irena died in 2008.


Belfast woman is remembered in Israel


A long-forgotten link between Belfast and the land of Israel. A plaque in Tiberias commemorates an Ulsterwoman, Eliza Reid. The property is now used by the Church of Scotland hotel in Tiberias but over a century ago served as a home for orphaned children.


Scientific Cooperation

Belfast scientists have been awarded a £750,000 grant to fund groundbreaking research into bowel cancer.

The academic team from Queen’s University has been awarded the money from the Stand Up to Cancer charity to bring a new clinical trial to the UK that could help patients reduce the risk of their disease coming back after treatment.

Each year around 1,200 people in Northern Ireland are diagnosed with bowel cancer.

The trial is part of a larger international study currently underway in Israel and other countries and hopes to enlist almost 1,000 patients worldwide.

Library Find

Menasseh ben Israel tenanch Linen hall library

On a visit to the Linen Hall Library in Belfast, Israeli Cultural attache Dan Golan was surprised and intrigued to be shown a 17th century Hebrew Bible – from the Amsterdam home of Menasseh ben Israel – who was instrumental in securing the return of the Jews to the British Isles. Thanks to library director, Julie Andrews, for hosting such an interesting visit.

Dan Golan at Linenhall June 2016

Cultural exchange


Israel’s cultural attaché to the UK, Dan Golan, meets Northern Ireland’s Minister of Communities, Paul Givan MLA at Stormont. Dan met with representatives from leading cultural institutions from across Northern Ireland and had a guided tour of the MAC and Linenhall library.

Israel Celebrated at Stormont

Rabbi and Brian
Brian Silvester and Rabbi David Singer

It was a packed house at the Great Hall at Stormont as the International Christian Embassy of Jerusalem celebrated Israel’s Independence day. Guest speakers included Pastor Malcolm Hedding, Dan Golan of the Israeli embassy  and Rabbi David Singer. Paul Girvan MLA welcomed the ICEJ to Stormont. Music and dance was provided by the Shalom dance team. NIFI’s London-based co chair Steven Jaffe, gave the vote of thanks. Congratulations to ICEJ director Brian Silvester and his team.

WIZO women raise funds for good causes in Israel

wizo BELFAST 2016

Belfast WIZO group held its annual luncheon at the Belfast Hebrew Congregation. The featured speaker was Marilyn Taylor, lecturing on her book Faraway Home, about the Millisle farm in County Down which housed refugees during and after the Holocaust.  A delegation from the Dublin community also attended the fundraising event.

 Welcome to Belfast

inon barnatan ulster orchetra 2015

Shalom and welcome to Belfast to Inon Barnatan, soloist tonight at the Ulster Orchestra’s Beethoven concert – the evening promises to be a treat, Israeli-born Inon was in Belfast last year for a packed and successful concert.


Lost Tribe?

The Belfast Telegraph interviews Rabbi David Singer of the Belfast Jewish community Rabbi Singer was for many years an emergency paramedic in Jerusalem

Rabbi David Singer


Humble Smile

Darren Weiss fermanagh oral dentist

Welcome to Northern Ireland Dr Darren Weiss from Jerusalem, director of the Humble Smile Foundation. Schoolchildren from Fermanagh and Leitrim took part in an event involving local chefs, dentists and educators dealing with charity, oral health, healthy eating and the environment. Dr Weiss explained the amazing work of the Foundation around the world.

Confession of an Israel first timer

Rosa Doherty in Jerusalem

Jewish Chronicle reporter, Rosa Doherty, has an Irish Dad and Jewish Mum. She enjoyed childhood holidays in Northern Ireland but never Israel “because it was too dangerous”. Join Rosa as she makes her first ever journey to Israel where she finds people not places make the biggest impression.


Lack of Atmosphere

roy cathcart kiev

“Frankly there would be more of an atmosphere at Ferney Park” (home of Ballynamallard) was the verdict of Fermanaghman and match delegate, Roy Cathcart, who attended the clash between Dynamo Kiev and Maccabi Tel Aviv on behalf of UEFA. The match was played in a near empty 70,000 capacity stadium in the Ukrainian capital following a UEFA ban on home supporters.  The Israelis still managed to leave Roy distinctly unimpressed as they barely challenged in sub-zero temperatures.

ICEJ welcomes Israeli ambassador with scroll and flowers

ICEJ CONFERENCE 2016 Ballynascanlon

Israel’s new ambassador to the Irish Republic, Zeev Boker, was a guest of honour at the all-Ireland conference of the International Christian Embassy of Jerusalem. Anther guest speaker was Canon Andrew White, the vicar of Baghdad, and champion of Christian and other minority rights across the Middle East.

ICEJ conference welcome ambassador 2016

Chanuka choices

Philip hernberg choosing
NIFI supporter Phil Hernberg has difficulty choosing which Israeli beer to celebrate Chanuka. Phil, who has visited family in Israel, is an expert on beer and a director of new brewery, Lacada, based in North Antrim.

Doing Business between Northern Ireland and Israel

Israel and Northern Ireland are reaching out to each other to explore trade and investment opportunities. Hugo Bieber of UK Israel Business was a guest speaker as part of Lisburn and Castlereagh Council’s Global entrepreneurship week. Trade enterprise and investment minister Jonathan Bell MLA is keen to explore opportunities in food, hi tech and engineering industries. Hugo also spoke in Ballymena as the guest of the DUP Friends of Israel’s David McIlveen MLA.

hugo bieber castlereagh lisburn

Support for a worthy cause

MDA Belfast 2015 2

Belfast gathering to support Israel’s volunteer ambulance service – which serves Jew and Arab alike – Magen David Adom.

High Powered visitors to Belfast

Welcome visitors to Belfast – former government minister Gideon Sa’ar; news anchor journalist Geula Even and Eran Etzion, former diplomat and strategic planner. Seen here with their hosts at the Colonel Patterson memorial on Northumberland Street

Israeli politicians belfast

Communications class

yiftah curiel belfast nov 15

Israeli Press Attache, Yiftah Curiel, addresses a seminar at the Northern Ireland Assembly on Communications. He also spoke to trainee journalists and students at Queen’s during his two day visit.

Northern Ireland under 17s play in Israel

Sadly Northern Ireland under 17 football team failed to emulate the achievements of the senior squad and qualify for a major football tournament – but they gave a good account of themselves playing in over 30 degrees heat at the official Israeli FA training camp at Shefayim. The team, under manager Jim Magilton,  played three matches in Israel as part of the UEFA elite qualifying matches. They drew with Norway, lost to France and then lost narrowly to host country Israel. Shalom and kavod – peace and respect to the boys in green, many of whom will make the breakthrough to the senior team. Report of the Israel match here:


Sderot Media centre in Belfast

Noam bedein group photo


Noam Bedein, director of the Sderot media centre, spoke to 140 NIFI supporters at a packed out event in Belfast. Noam gave a graphic account of life for families and entire communities under missile and rocket barrage by Hamas and other Iranian-backed Islamist groups on southern Israel. There have been over 20,000 such rocket attacks – in the Israeli city of Sderot every block of flats, bus stop, public building and even playgrounds has a bomb shelter attached. Families have 15 seconds warning of an attack to gather children to the bomb shelter. William Humphrey MLA gave the vote of thanks for the powerful and disturbing presentation. Noam also met representatives from different political parties on a visit to Belfast City Hall. Thanks in particular, to deputy Lord Mayor, Guy Spence, and Cllr Jeff Dudgeon who gave Noam a tour of City Hall.

Noam Bedein shul crowd oct 2015

Jeffrey dudgeon noam city hall oct 15

Noam guy spence city hall oct 2015

Shalom Declaration presented in Belfast

Brian Silvester shalom declaration

The Shalom Declaration is a UK wide initiative by Christians in appreciation of Israel as the only democratic state in the Middle East and the only country in the region where the Christian community is growing. It was signed by several hundred Christians in Northern Ireland at an ICEJ event in Belfast and by churches across the Province, including Victory Praise community church, Ballymena, Elim Pentecostal church Larne and Adullam Fellowship in Belfast. At a recent event in Belfast the declarations were presented to Mr Gerald Steinberg, vice chair of the Belfast Jewish community. Mr Steinberg praised Christian groups for their longstanding support for the local Jewish community, the Jewish people generally and for Israel. Representatives from many different prayer groups and churches were present. ICEJ Ireland director, Brian Silvester, gave a short address on behalf of Christian supporters of the Shalom Declaration.

Visitor from Christ Church Jerusalem

Rev Don Stanley spoke to various Christian audiences across Northern Ireland regarding his work at Christ Church Jerusalem and Heritage centre, an Anglican institution in the heart of Jerusalem.

Israel Ahoy!

Thanks to NIFI supporter Diarmaid Elder for “flagging up” this 50 year connection between Northern Ireland and Israel. The Israeli flag flies in the Maiden City back in 1964, as an Israeli ship on its maiden voyage exports Irish potatoes to the Canary Islands!

Israeli ship Derry

Hebrew meets Ulster Scots – NIFI at Broadisland Gathering

NIFI team ballycarry 15

Northern Ireland Friends of Israel team at Broadisland Gathering,  the largest Ulster Scots festival in Northern Ireland. NIFI’s stall attracted much attention at the cultural evening at Ballycarry , big thank you to Sharon, Neil, Ivor and Andrew. Deputy Mayor of Mid and East Antrim BC,Timothy Gaston, visits the NIFI stall. Event organiser Dr David Hume welcomes NIFI to the event which brought together community groups from across the spectrum amidst an evening of music, dance and cultural presentations. Israeli wine and snacks were popular, as was the NIFI quiz!

deputy mayor Garston

david hume ballycarry 15

Northern Ireland’s Laura  features in heart warming account of Israeli charity.

Laura Kafif from Northern Ireland features in this wonderful account of Israeli charity, Save a Child’s Heart, which provides the very best of heart surgery to children from countries without access to such healthcare. This is provided without cost and to children from every conceivable national and religious background. Laura, originally from County Down, manages the children’s home attached to the hospital where the children are brought to on arrival in Israel and where they recuperate after the operations.

Go Dancing with Dolphins in Israel

diving eilat

Latest recommendation from Northern Ireland Travel Magazine: “For snorkellers, I have also recently recommended DOLPHIN REEF near Israel’s Red Sea resort of Eilat, the only place in the world where you are guaranteed to go ‘dancing’ with wild – but friendly – dolphins.”

Golden oldies

If Northern Ireland followed the example of Israel it would add thousands of millions to our economy, says local expert – Israel has the fourth best record in world (OECD countries) for harnessing the power of older workers – read the story from the Irish News.

golden oldies


Israel’s Press attaché gives Belfast breakfast briefing

Yiftah breakfast June 15

Israel’s press attaché, Yiftah Curiel, addresses a NIFI breakfast briefing in Belfast. Local MP Gavin Robinson, members of the NI Assembly William Humphrey MLA, Robin Newton MLA, members of three political parties, NGOs, clergy and journalists attended. Yiftah met with broadcasting and print journalists while in Northern Ireland and gave an interview for Radio Ulster.

Yiftah curiel dup members


Celebration of Israel at Stormont

Yiftah curiel at Stormont

Christians and Jews gathered in Belfast last night for celebration of Israel, filling the Great Hall, Stormont. Congratulations to Brian Silvester and his team at ICEJ Ireland branch. Guest speakers included Ian Paisley Jun MP, Yiftah Curiel from the Israeli embassy, David Parsons ICEJ Jerusalem office, Rabbi David Singer, host David McIlveen MLA and Deputy Mayor, Guy Spence. Wonderful music from Isobel and Jerry, and the Shalom dance team


Going Global: the amazing Upsee, enabling wheelchair bound children to walk.


Local PR firm JPR explains how the amazing Firefly Upsee was marketed globally without an advertising budget, a harness enabling severely disabled children to move around free of their wheelchairs. Invented in Israel by mother Debbie Elnatan, manufactured in Northern Ireland by Leckeys,  and an absolute boon for disabled children and their families and carers around the world. Click the link to read about the PR side of this amazing story


Academic lecture followed by a trip to the pub.

Love this invitation from Ben Gurion University in the Negev to a lecture on Ireland and the First World war followed by a trip to the pub for a complimentary Guinness and traditional music session. Speaker was Prof Keith Jeffrey from Queen’s.

Invitation keith jeffrey

 Belfast WIZO – 60 years Young!

wizo uk logo

Young WIZO has been active for 60 years in Belfast and celebrated its special anniversary with a lunch at the Jewish community centre. The event was attended by over fifty guests who had come from America, Manchester, London and Dublin as well as members of the Belfast Jewish Community and friends.
WIZO ladies 2015 lunch
The Guest Speaker was Jill Shaw,  incoming Honorary President of WIZO UK who gave an interesting talk on the work of the movement. The international Woman’s Zionist organisation is active in 50 + countries and  has over a quarter of a million members. It raises funds, campaigns for and organises social welfare programmes for disadvantaged women and children in Israel.

Barry and Batya from Jerusalem visit Belfast.

Barry Batya Shalom Belfast
Christians from across Northern Ireland filled the Drama Room at Ashfield Girls’ High School in Belfast to hear Israeli singers Barry and Batya Segal on Sunday 31st May at an event hosted by the Shalom congregation.
joseph storehouse
Barry and Batya sang songs in Hebrew and English with themes from the Hebrew Bible. A substantial amount of money was raised towards the humanitarian work that Barry and Batya oversee for poor and needy Israelis – both Jewish and Arab – which is called ‘Joseph Storehouse.’ According to those attending: “The enthusiasm and support for Israel at the event was palpable”.

Tribute to Colonel John Patterson unveiled in Belfast

Patterson mural Belfast

A fascinating connection between Belfast and Israel has been commemorated by an exhibition and display recently unveiled off Belfast’s Shankill Road – Irishman Colonel John Henry Patterson was both a commander of the UVF in Belfast prior to the First World War and commander of the Jewish Legion, the forerunner of the IDF. The display – on Northumberland Street – traces Patterson’s career and is well designed and hugely informative.

Ishmael Khaldi in Belfast


Israeli diplomat, Ishmael Khaldi, met community and political leaders, academics and churchmen, while in Belfast at round table events. In the evening Ishmael spoke to over 100 NIFI supporters on his journey from Bedouin shepherd to diplomat. He spoke openly about the issues of minorities in Israel and his experience of anti-Israel extremism in the UK.  When asked if his Bedouin community were pro Israeli, Ishmael declared: “we’re not pro Israeli, we ARE Israeli. We are proud to be full members of Israeli society.”

QUB academic and peer speaks up for Israel engagement and Peace

lord bew

Lord Bew of Donegore tells the Jewish Chronicle of his support for Israel and peace in the Middle East. Lord Bew chairs the Anglo-Israel association which is at the cutting edge of promoting academic and trading links between Israel and the UK, for the benefit of the people of both countries.


Israel independence day celebrated in Belfast

Belfast yom ha'atzmaut

Christians and Jews combined to celebrate Israel’s 67th birthday in Belfast. After the traditional Jewish evening service – with special psalms recited –  there was an enthusiastic rendition of Hatikvah – Israel’s national anthem. Those gathered enjoyed a meal of hummus, falafel and Israeli salad. The event was organised jointly by the Belfast Jewish community and Council of Christians and Jews, Belfast branch.

Seaview and Solitude: The road to Israel for women’s elite U19 Footballers

North Belfast hosted elite qualifying matches for the finals of the UEFA European Women’s Under 19 championship which are being held in Israel this summer. Sadly, Northern Ireland didn’t make it to Israel following heavy defeats to England and Norway at Seaview and Solitude respectively. This is the first time Israel is hosting the finals of a major women’s tournament following their successful staging of the men’s Under 21 competition in 2013.


On NVTV Tuesday 14 April – Arab and Jewish educators look to the future

hand in hand school

20:30 | Learning Together

14 Apr 15 | Duration: 60:00

In January 2010, leaders of integrated education in NI & Jerusalem came together when Ala Khatib and Dalia Peretz, the Jewish & Arab co-principals of the Max Rayne Hand in Hand School visited Belfast.

Israeli diplomat visits Belfast – speaks at packed Ulster Hall to honour ICEJ Irish branch

rony yedidya ulster hall

In Belfast to explain the Israeli electoral system was diplomat Rony Yedidia-Clein. Rony conducted a breakfast briefing to elected representatives and NGO leaders, met MLAs at Stormont and the media.

Rony breakfast 2015

In the evening,  Rony was amongst those addressing over 600 Christian supporters who packed the Ulster Hall in Belfast for a Taste of Tabernacles – a spectacular evening of colour, music, dance and worship. Rony delivered a message of thanks from Israel’s president, Ruvi Rivlin, to the director of the Irish branch of the International Christian Embassy of Jerusalem, Brian Silvester, in tribute to his years of dedicated friendship towards Israel and the Jewish people, and for the amazing work of the branch.

rony at breakfast 2015, elected reps

Omagh victims spokesperson shares experiences with victims’ families in Jerusalem

Michael Gallagher speaking at an international conference for families who have suffered from terrorism which was held in Jerusalem last month. At the conference, entitled Walk with Me, Michael met with Israeli friend, Arnold Roth. Both men have lost children to terrorist violence and have dedicated their lives to seeking justice and helping others.  Michael is Founder/President of the Omagh Support and Self-Help Group, founded in the aftermath of the Omagh Bombing, August 1988.  The title of his speech: “The Importance of the Voice of the Victim”.

Michael Gallagher Jerusalem 2015

Educator Desi looks to Israel to discover roots of his Christian faith

Northern Ireland based Christian educator, Desi Maxwell, turns to the land of Israel in a series of TV programmes on Christianity’s Jewish root. UCB TV, this week, Wednesday to Saturday, 7pm

Join Desi tonight on Sky Channel 584 or online for the first programme. Go to ucb.co.uk/live.


NIFI salutes Mayor of North Down, Councillor Peter Martin

Mayor of North Down, Peter Martin, has come to the end of his Mayoral year. He is a steadfast supporter of NIFI. Councillor Martin is pictured here with members of the Bangor West Presbyterian Church Prayer for Israel group who he welcomed at the Town Hall, Bangor for a reception last summer. Ivor McClinton of the Prayer Group has signed the Shalom Declaration, which calls for Peace in the Middle East and acknowledges Israel as the only democratic state in the region which extends freedom of worship to all its citizens.

Bangor west prayer for Israel

NIFI joins Friends of Israel groups from across UK

WBII regional panel

Northern Ireland Friends of Israel was proud to be a participating organisation in the We Believe in Israel conference, which drew a huge attendance and great speakers in central London. Big thanks to Peter Martin (Mayor of North Down) and NIFI co chair Andrew Shaw for coming over from NI, joining over 1,500 delegates. London-based co chair Steven Jaffe chaired a panel with Sussex, Yorkshire, West Midlands and North West Friends of Israel and the south London friends of Israel, Palestinians and Peace initiative.

we believe

NIFI supporter Stephen runs Jerusalem half marathon

Stephen Haire Jerusalem marathon

Huge well done to NIFI supporter Stephen Haire, who has completed the Jerusalem half marathon. Stephen says: “Amazing experience doing half marathon in Jerusalem..What a city to do first one in.. More photos to follow with time…Meanwhile rest and Shabbat shalom.. “שבת שלום

Israel experiences: Lord Trimble speaks to Council of Christians and Jews

Nobel laureate Lord Trimble has spoken recently at Israel events in Leeds and London about his experience of peace processes and long-standing interest in Israel.  In Belfast Lord Trimble spoke at the annual general meeting and dinner of the Belfast branch of CCJ. Lord Trimble is an active member of the international Friends of Israel initiative.

Lord trimble ccj 2015

Running the extra mile for Israel


Northern Ireland born Stephen Haire is running the half marathon in Jerusalem to raise funds for Friends of Gush Katif – which helps Israelis who were forced to leave Gaza in Israel’s 2005 disengagement. Stephen’s efforts will help them purchase much-needed medicine. Stephen says:.Gush Katif is very close to my heart. After seeing the kindness of all the Gush Katif former residents I have met there was no other cause I could think more deserving… For me the people of Gush Katif epitomize what Israel and the Jewish people are about. I want to give something back to say thanks for being our first line of defence against radical Islam, for giving us so much innovative technology and for giving so much to the rest of the world.To learn more about the cause and to make a donation please click here: http://www.gushkatif.co.il/en/content/-1421914382/

Speaking  out against Antisemitism

Local MP: Ian Paisley Jnr

Ian Paisley MP was amongst parliamentary authors of an extensive all-party inquiry into the surge of anti-Semitism in the UK and across Europe. In the meantime NIFI’s London-based co chair, Steven Jaffe, and NI born, Robin Benson,  featured in the TV programme Middle East Report on the same alarming and depressing topic.


NIFI at Westminster

Yesterday at the excellent Lobby of Parliament organised by the Zionist Federation and Christian Friends of Israel, NIFI delegates joined remarkable people who had travelled, for instance, from Lancaster, Swansea, Redcar and Northern Ireland to lobby their MPs against anti-Israel extremism.  MPs with barely a handful of Jews in their constituencies said they wanted to stand by us and articulate our concerns. Photo (from a previous ZF/ CFI lobby) shows DUP MPs and the NIFI delegates – Colin Nevin flew in from Northern Ireland and co chair Steven Jaffe came all the way from North London!

Dup westminster 12

Hundreds gather in Belfast and around Northern Ireland to commemorate 70 years since liberation of Auschwitz

jonathan bell hmd 2015

Hebrew songs were performed by Christian Friends of Yad Vashem representatives, Isobel and Jerry Kuzma, at a very moving commemoration at Titanic Quarter Belfast to mark Holocaust Memorial Day – over 400 attended. Our photo shows Government minister Jonathan Bell lighting a commemorative candle alongside a member of the Belfast Jewish community. Elsewhere survivor, Inge Radford, spoke at a meeting hosted by North Down Mayor, Peter Martin. Earlier in the day, Belfast synagogue was packed for a commemorative event involving schoolchildren attended by Minister Jenifer McCann.

NIFI in Omagh


NIFI’s London-based co chair, Steven Jaffe, was honoured to visit the Omagh Support and Self Help group during his visit to the town. Steven met with chair, Michael Gallagher, who is visiting Jerusalem later this year for a gathering of families and opinion formers who have been impacted by violence and terror. Michael lost his son Aiden, aged 21, in the horrific bomb attack on Omagh town centre in which 29 people lost their lives. Steven said: “I remarked to Michael how much he reminded me of Israeli father Arnold Roth who lost his 15 year old daughter Malki in a terror attack on a pizza bar in Jerusalem. Both men had dedicated their lives to positive and energetic activity to help others”. It turns out Arnold and Michael are friends and look forward to seeing each other when Michael is in Israel.

Holocaust Memorial events across Northern Ireland

HMD 2015

70 years since the Liberation of Auschwitz – for details of some of the Holocaust Memorial Day events across Northern Ireland this January please click on the link and scroll down.


World renowned pianist premieres in Northern Ireland

inon barnatan ulster orchetra 2015

Shalom and welcome to Northern Ireland to Israeli-born pianist Inon Barnatan who received rapturous applause last night at the Ulster Hall. The Ulster Orchestra hosted the Northern Ireland début of world-renowned Israeli-born pianist Inon, who was recently named New York Philharmonic’s first ever Artist-in-Association. Inon gave a pre-concert talk in Belfast on the Beethoven Piano concertos and the Ulster Hall concert was recorded live on BBC Radio 3

Je Suis Juif

danny kinahan

Danny Kinahan MLA secured a Stormont debate on recent terrorist atrocities in Paris. In condemning the assault on freedom of speech, Danny Kinahan also spoke of his abhorrence at the rise of murderous anti-Semitism and condemned the attack on the kosher store. Mr Kinahan’s speech can be watched here:

Jim Shannon MP: Zero tolerance to anti-Semitism

Jim Shannon

A big thank you to Jim Shannon MP who spoke out at a recent Westminster debate on anti-Semitism. Jim ensured instances of anti-Semitic abuse in NI were not overlooked in the debate, including the attacks on Belfast synagogue and assault on Israeli products in supermarkets. He challenged the minister to have relevant discussions with the Northern Ireland Assembly. The MP for Strangford said: “We must not tolerate any form of racism or anti-Semitism, and we must come down hard on those who commit those crimes”.

A candle of Peace: From Bethlehem to County Cavan via Ben Gurion airport

The Peace of Light from Bethlehem is a chain of lights signifying a token of peace, warmth, love and family and has been making an annual visit to Ireland for over the last 15 years.  On December 11th, a candle was lit in the Grotto of Christ’s birth in Bethlehem and two young scouts – one from Israel and Palestine – took the light to Tel Aviv airport.

From there the light was passed to scouts in Austria, Switzerland, France and Scotland.  Then the Peace of Light arrived at Castle Saunderson Scout centre located on an estate which straddles the border between Northern Ireland and the Republic – a most significant moment, according to site director, Noel Synott. The centre itself will welcome Israeli and Palestinian young people to work together.


Israeli goods go to good cause for Belfast homeless

Israction basket

IsrACTION Day – a day for buying Israeli products and donating them to good causes across the UK. NIFI is proud to donate Israeli goods to Adullam church in Belfast’s inner city for its “Hope on the Streets” initiative which has for a number of years been handing out warm clothes and food to those in need on the streets of Belfast. NIFI is proud to play its part. Photos show Sharon Lough, the church’s Pastor Paul Burns and lots of goods from Israel
Israction 2015

Reflecting on experiences of shared education in Northern Ireland

tony gallagher

A recent attack on the famous Hand by Hand joint Jewish and Arab school in Jerusalem prompted Professor Tony Gallagher to reflect on Northern Ireland’s experience of schooling in a divided society. You can read his article here:


Einat engages across the spectrum in Northern Ireland

Einat wilf breakfast 2014 2

Former Knesset member, Dr Einat Wilf, speaking at our NIFI breakfast at the Skainos centre in East Belfast. Representatives of local organisations and think tank groups heard Einat give a cogent analysis of Israel and the Middle East. A lively Q and A followed. Later Einat gave a stimulating and thought-provoking address to over 150 NIFI supporters at an evening meeting. In between she took in engagements at Queen’s University and the NI Assembly. We are hugely grateful to Einat for the energy and intellectual rigour she put into her visit to Northern Ireland.

DVDs of Israel: Land of Prophecy and Vision


Have you always wanted to visit Israel on a Christian pilgrim tour but never had the opportunity? Or would you like a remarkable reminder of a visit you have undertaken? Carrickfergus-based Land of Prophecy and Vision have produced an 8 volume DVD set, filmed live and unrehearsed on tour in Israel, with commentary  by accomplished Israeli Christian guide, Hanna Ben-Haim. The set is on special sale price this Christmas of £40 + pp – please contact info@lpv-teaching.com
LPV’s vision statement: “Bearing witness to God’s word and promoting understanding of Israel in relation to the Bible”www.lpv-teaching.com

In Transition – Haifa and Jerusalem join Ramallah in Belfast


Fourteen cities from around the globe came to Belfast for the 2014 conference of Cities in Transition, including Jerusalem and Haifa, and Ramallah from the Palestinian Authority. The cities met to discuss “reconciliation through resilience”. Alongside the Israeli cities were Tripoli from Lebanon and Iraqi cities  Baghdad and Kirkuk, as well as cities in Africa, Europe and in particular, former Yugoslavia. Belfast, Derry-Londonderry and Craigavon also participated, with Belfast acting as host city to this unique gathering.

UJIA spreads the word in Northern Ireland

iVAN lEWIS ujia

The largest UK Jewish charity which works in Israel, the United Jewish Israel Appeal, held a successful dinner in Belfast to raise awareness of its work, particularly amongst disadvantaged children in Israel. Members of the Belfast Jewish community and friends learnt of the charity’s work in northern Israel as well as its educational and cultural work at home. Speakers included Harvey Bratt of UJIA’s London office and Ivan Lewis MP, shadow secretary of state for Northern Ireland. The dinner was organised by Dr Sandra Baillie, secretary of the Belfast branch of the Council of Christians and Jews.

Ivan Lewis and Harvey Bratt UJIA 2014


Kristallnacht anniversary


Commemorating Kristallnacht Nov 9/ 10 1938 – last year over 300 attended NIFI’s commemoration of the 75th anniversary. Watch here an amazing story linking the attacks of Kristallnacht to finding refuge in Northern Ireland, from last year’s event.


Welcome visitors to Northern Ireland 
Last weekend, courtesy of the International Christian Embassy of Jerusalem, Irish branch, a dynamic young couple, Paul & Jess Parkhouse visited Northern Ireland. Paul and Jess lived in a Christian community on Mount Carmel, Haifa,  from 2010 to 2012. Since their return to the UK they have worked for a greater understanding of Israel in the Church, particularly amongst younger Christians. Paul & Jess joined the ICEJ as leaders of ARISE UK in June 2013. During their time in Northern Ireland they spoke, sang and led worship at various church centres.

Man in the middle

Alon yefet goal

Welcome to Belfast for Israel’s man in the middle. Referee, Alon Yefet, took charge of the Northern Ireland v. Faroe Islands fixture at Windsor Park, Belfast last night (11 Oct). The Israeli did award the Faroe Islands a penalty but is shown here as NI score to win the match.The last time Alon took charge in Belfast NI beat Slovenia, 1 –  0.

Students value relations with Israel


Over 80% of Queen’s University Literific debating society members voted for  normal, positive relations with Israel – at a debate at Queen’s senate room. A memorable contribution to the debate was made by Professor Alan Johnson of BICOM which was appreciated by all. It was jam packed at the debate with over 100 students attending. Pro Vice Chancellor, Tony Gallagher, presided.

Israeli artist in residence at Cushendall

curfew tower

What brought Israeli artist and curator, Sagit Mezamer, to the beautiful village of Cushendall on the county Antrim coast? Sagit was artist in residence at Curfew Tower in the village (pictured). Here fellow artist and host, Bill Drummond, explains why he is prepared to shatter simplistic myths by bringing Israeli artists to a predominantly Irish Republican village and dreams of bringing Palestinian artists to the neighbouring Loyalist village up the road.


Sagit, born in Acre in 1974, produces video installations, and is a graduate of the Bezalel Academy of Art in Jerusalem.

sagit mezamer


The Herzog plaque – we want it back

Herzog plaque removed

The removal of the plaque to Israeli president Chaim Herzog, following a spate of attacks on the building in Cliftonpark Avenue where he was born, was condemned by all main parties in Northern Ireland. But the campaign to get the plaque reinstated and put on display in the interim at City Hall has received widespread and positive publicity locally, nationally and even internationally. The campaign featured on Radio Ulster, BBC NI, UTV, and newspapers in Belfast and Israel, including Ha’aretz. Over 500 have signed a letter to the Lord Mayor calling for the plaque to be restored. We now think hundreds of thousands of people are now aware of the Herzog-Belfast connection for the first time. Not quite what those who wanted the plaque removed had in mind.


chaim herzog

Preserving Northern Ireland’s Jewish heritage and links with Israel

Millisle - boys

Thanks to North Down Council who clearly want to preserve Jewish heritage, not erase it. The Millisle refugee farm was established by young Zionist pioneers from Germany, Austria and Czechoslovakia who were training for agriculture in the land of Israel. The farm provided refuge for child refugees and also child survivors of Auschwitz. North Down council have listed buildings at the Millisle Farm to preserve this unique aspect of local history.


Jewish perspectives on Peace and Reconciliation

Yehuda Stolov

Dr. Yehuda Stolov of Interfaith Encounters, Jerusalem visited Northern Ireland at the end of August as part of a visit by interfaith activists from many religious traditions. Dr Stolov participated in a number of workshops and teaching engagements covering themes of dialogues of understanding, forgiveness and reconciliation. Yehuda hails from the modern Orthodox Jewish community in Jerusalem. His visit – and that of the delegates from other faith traditions – was arranged by Rev Chris Hudson, minister of All Souls Unitarian church.

NIFI on Facebook


NIFI’s page on FB has now passed 1,500 likes and is growing all the time. News, stories, info – its worth joining FB for!  Our items there regularly reach thousands of people.

Why I’m a Zionist

ruth dudley edwards

A capacity crowd of 100 people turned up last night to hear writer, academic and journalist Ruth Dudley Edwards explain why she was a Zionist to a meeting of the Northern Ireland branch of the Council of Christians and Jews. Ruth’s journey began with a conversation with her Grandma who supported Hitler principally because he was an enemy of the English! The Belfast Telegraph columnist deplores how being a Zionist is presented in extremist and negative terms when it basically entails support for the Jewish people’s right to self-determination in part of their ancestral homeland – something Ruth subscribes to openly and passionately. Ruth’s encounter with anti-Zionist boycotters outside a Sainsbury’s store in central London last month was a particularly memorable anecdote she shared with the audience. A lively Q and A session followed.

Holocaust art – Yad Vashem curator speaks in Belfast

Yad vashem art

Earlier this month the Northern Ireland branch of the Council of Christians and Jews held an excellent talk by visitor, Eliad Moreh Rosenberg, art curator at Yad Vashem, Israel’s outstanding Holocaust memorial and research centre. Over 80 people attended an interesting and moving account by Eliad of Holocaust-related art in Israel.

Israeli-born musician wows them at Ulster Hall

Israeli-born flautist Sharon Bezaly was lead soloist with the Ulster Orchestra at a packed concert in the Ulster Hall.

Ulster orchestra israeli 2014

A dignified gathering

city hall vigil 2

With less than 24 hours notice approximately 70 NIFI supporters gathered at City Hall to express support for the families of the murdered Israeli teens, Gilad, Naftali and Eyal. Three candles were lit for the boys and a fourth for all innocent victims of the conflict and in hope for a better future for the children of the region. Psalms were recited in Hebrew and English. The gathering brought together Israelis and local people, Jews and Christians, people of all faiths and none. A big thank you to all who supported this.

city hall vigil 6

Ulster celebrity helps raise thousands for children in Israel

Colin Murray UJIA

Which Ulster celebrity helped raise tens of thousands of pounds to improve the lives of children in northern Israel?


Our man in Brussels lands top Israel job

Alex Benjamin

NIFI stalwart Alex Benjamin has landed himself an important job as Director of Political Affairs for the European Friends of Israel.  Alex was involved with NIFI at its Stormont launch back in 2009  and retained an interest even though his work took him to the European Parliament. Alex, an ex official at the Ulster Unionist Party, has stood up for Israel in the Northern Ireland press. He is now able to pursue his passion for Israel across the  continent. European Friends of Israel brings together hundreds of parliamentarians who are supportive of upgrading relations with Israel for the benefit of European and Israeli citizens. Mazal tov Alex!

That was the week that was

Eitan Na'eh at Stormont 14

Approximately 200 people gathered at Stormont for the annual International Christian Embassy of Jerusalem event at Stormont, guest speakers include the deputy ambassador of Israel to the UK, Eitan Na’eh,  Alban Maginness MLA and Donna Holbrook from Canada; on the previous evening DUP launches a friends of Israel initiative led by David McIlveen MLA. First Minister Peter Robinson MLA speaks.

dup friends israel

Meanwhile, NIFI co chair Steven Jaffe accompanies Eitan Na’eh, deputy ambassador, as he meets political and community leaders from across the spectrum; Ballymena hosts a night to honour Israel; and finally on Sunday evening over 160 people attend an event of solidarity with the people of Sderot – NIFI hosts the former Mayor of an Israeli city on the border with Gaza, which has taken the brunt of thousands of missiles and rocket attacks. The event takes place at the Skainos centre in East Belfast.


skainos crowd

Sderot pause for thought

Lessons from the Book of Ruth

Over 130 Christians gathered at Belfast synagogue for a lesson on perspectives on the Book of Ruth, conducted by Rabbi David Singer of the Belfast Jewish community.

The book of Ruth, with its harvest backdrop, is read by Jews on the festival of Shavuot (which is a harvest festival in the land of Israel). The festival, which was celebrated last week, also commemorates z’man matan Torahtenu – “the season of the giving of our Law”.

The event was organised by the Irish branch of the International Christian Embassy of Jerusalem.

book of ruth

Rainy Days in Israel

NI and Shetland

It was the last thing a group of pilgrims from Northern Ireland and the Shetland Islands expected while in Israel in May. A downpour, storms, blocked roads and flash flooding.

NIFI supporter, Peter McAllister, reports that the storms did abate (as his photo of the group in Jerusalem shows) and the temperature was cooler and more comfortable than might be expected at this time of year.

Like so many visitors, Peter is planning his next trip to the land of Israel! Next time to indulge his interest in ornithology. He might pack an umbrella!

Israel event in Portadown

A large and interested audience enjoyed a great evening at the first-ever event in Portadown promoted by the International Christian Embassy of Jerusalem, Northern Ireland branch.

Worship was led by George and Carol Elliott and musicians David Pedlow, Peter Galloway, Paul Ervine and Ken Callaghan. Speaker for the event was Brian Sylvester. ICEJ extends special thanks to the folk at Portadown Christian Centre for hospitality.

ICEJ Portadown

The Little Book of Belfast honours a Belfast-born President.

chaim herzog

The Belfast Telegraph reports: Raymond O’Regan, a lecturer in Irish history at Queen’s University, has teamed up with award-winning tour guide Arthur Magee to produce what they have described as a reliable reference book and a quirky guide, which can be dipped into time and time again. Co-author Magee said that they struggled to squeeze in the supreme talent the city has produced.

However making the top 10 of startling Belfast facts is the former president of Israel Chaim Herzog. He was born at 185 Cliftonpark Avenue in north Belfast in 1918. Herzog’s father was a rabbi of the Annesley Street Synagogue in Belfast and moved the family to Dublin to become Chief Rabbi to Ireland. The house now has an Ulster History plaque on the outside wall in memory of this ‘Son of Belfast’. Chaim held office for two terms in Israel between 1983 and 1993. He died in Tel Aviv in 1997.

Christian Pilgrim tours to Israel – “Going Beyond” with tour guide Hanna


A licensed Israeli tour guide who leads fellow Christians on pilgrim visits to Israel was in Northern Ireland recently. Hanna Ben-Haim spoke at Carrickfergus Methodist church.

Hanna was born in the USA and in 1984 made Aliyah (emigrated) to Israel with her husband and their family. They originally lived in Tiberias and since 1987 have made their home in Jerusalem.

Her passion for the Bible and Israel’s history – ancient, contemporary and future is contagious. Hanna is now seeking those who want to go one step beyond the normal pilgrimage experience to deepen their connection with the land.

Shadow Secretary of State.

Ivan Lewis MP shadow secretary of state for Northern Ireland met NI Friends of Israel president, Gerald Steinberg, who is also vice chair of the Belfast Jewish community. Ivan was the minister responsible for the UK’s Middle East policy during the last Labour government.

GS Ivan Lewis

Jerusalem by portrait

colin davidson jerusalem

Jerusalem is an exhibition of twelve new paintings by Belfast artist, Colin Davidson. According to the Dublin gallery hosting the exhibition: “Continuing the theme of large scale portraits, Davidson turns his attention to the ancient, mystical and multi-denominational city of Jerusalem. Twelve individuals who live or work in the city have been recorded in paint. They come from different backgrounds, cultures and traditions. Some are well known, others not. Within the dozen Jerusalemites are Jews, Muslims, Christians, a politician, a monk, a doctor, a peace activist, a hotel worker, a holocaust survivor, a cross-section that lives together with conflict, prejudice and separation. Colin has drawn on his experience growing up in Belfast during the Troubles to identify the tension that exists in every Jerusalem resident and capture the city’s unique atmosphere through the ciphers that are his subjects”.

Learning modern Hebrew in Belfast

Want to learn modern Hebrew? NIFI has contact details for two excellent  tutors in the Belfast area. Total beginners or topping up existing skills – please contact us at nifriendsofisrael@ymail.com for more info.


Armagh archive yields rare glimpse of Holy Land


Amongst the collections at the Cardinal O Fiaich Library and Archive in Armagh is a rare collection of  historical photographs of the Holy Land dating from the Ottoman period (pre 1917). Here you can see archive director, Roddy Heggarty, showcase  the photographs as part of a special presentation to mark the 60th anniversary of the state of Israel (in 2008). The collection, entitled Palestine through the Stereoscope, is believed to have been acquired by a former Archbishop of Armagh, Cardinal Logue (1840-1924).


Yanky woos them in Winnipeg


Irish-based historian,  writer and broadcaster, Yanky Fachler, addressed 7 audiences in four days during a whirl-wind visit to Winnipeg, Canada.  

Yanky’s speaking engagements included a fundraising banquet, a teaching seminar, a city-wide open meeting, a synagogue, a church, and a book launch and signing.


His topics covered a wide spectrum of subjects focusing on Israel: from how Winnipeg’s own Rev William Hull directly impacted on Israel’s independence, to the impact of Canadian Premier Stephen Harper’s recent Knesset speech.


Yanky’s final engagement in Winnipeg was the launch of the Canadian edition of his latest book, “Gentile Heroines and Heroes: Encouraging the Jews to return to their ancient homeland“. This book is the third in a series about Christians who supported Zionism before 1948.

Yanky is the chair of the Jewish Historical Society of Ireland. Photo shows Yanky with leaders of the Canadian branch of the Christian organisation, Bridges for Peace.


Irish runners cross country in Israel

cross country israel 2014

A year ago the St Malachy’s college Belfast cross country team were crowned champions at the all-Ireland competition at Jordanstown – run in windy and wet conditions. And as Irish champions the team qualified for the world’s school championships which this year was hosted at Emek Hama’ayot,  near Tiberias, Israel. We can only imagine the weather conditions were very different! The St Malachy’s team in Israel consisted of six students and their coach and came in 7th overall in the unofficial listings for the boy’s competition. Competitors came from 17 different countries, including  Australia, China, Slovakia and Turkey.


Academic visitors for Peace


The Queen’s University School of Education hosted visitors from the Minerva Human Rights Centre, Hebrew University, Jerusalem as part of its on-going link with the centre.

Following on from a similar visit last year, the group of academics and students from Israel were on a study tour of Northern Ireland to learn more about conflict and transition to peace. The visitors participated in academic seminars and a panel discussion which included ex combatants from loyalist and republican backgrounds. The delegation  from the Hebrew University also met with MLAs at Stormont.

Northern Ireland dance competition judged by Yair


Israeli Yair Werdyger is an internationally acknowledged adjudicator in Irish dance. He runs the highly successful academy of Irish dance which operates out of eight Israeli cities. Yair was a welcome visitor to Belfast at the beginning of April to act as one of the judges in the Northern Ireland dance championship  held at the Europa Hotel.

Outstanding Holocaust educator visits Northern Ireland from Israel

Susanna K

An outstanding Holocaust educator from Yad Vashem in Israel has delivered lectures and workshops in Northern Ireland – Dr Susanna Kokkenen spoke in Belfast and across the North West to peace and reconciliation groups, local authorities and the general public. The visit was organised by Isobel Kuzma, who is the representative of Christian Friends of Yad Vashem in Northern Ireland. Yad Vashem is Israel’s national Holocaust memorial and resource centre in Jerusalem.


susanna kokk 2014

Israeli innovation, developed, manufactured and trialled in Northern Ireland

Huge global interest. Israeli mum, Debbie Elnatan, invents a device enabling her son with cerebal palsy to walk! In April, Northern Ireland manufacturer Leckey, based in Lisburn, launch the device world-wide. The story in the Mail on-line alone is shared by half a million people. Read it and be inspired!



Saying hi to their Belfast friends from Israel!

Paz Purim

NIFI’s Israeli guests, Yedida and Paz, who were in Belfast in November visiting schools, churches and youth groups, have been busy in final year at school. Next year Yedida begins her national service at the Ministry of Justice where she will be working in the department to counter human trafficking. Paz’s destination is as yet unknown. Our photos show the ex Belfast pair in festive mood during the recent Jewish holiday of Purim.

Yedida Purim

The mother of all hangovers?

This year the Jewish festival of Purim – a joyeous day of street parades and carnival, is immediately followed by St Patrick’s day. Leaving Irish dancers from Israel with the mother of all hangovers. Our illustrations show a typical city parade in Israel on Purim and some of Israel’s many Irish dancers gearing up for St Patrick’s day.


Our Gloria raises funds for disadvantaged children in Israel

Northern Ireland’s own Gloria Hunniford supports Jewish charity UJIA raise funds for underprivileged children in Israel and UK – by being the VIP speaker at the organisation’s annual women’s dinner in London. Gloria quips that although not Jewish herself she was absolutely delighted when a fellow guest invited her to a traditional Friday night dinner at her home!

UJIA has changed the lives of thousands of children by funding educational programmes in northern Israel.

Music and Praise

Members of the Music, Praise and Dance teams who performed at the Taste of Tabernacles events in Belfast and Dublin, organised by the International Christian Embassy of Jerusalem.

ICEJ singers

ICEJ shalom dancers

Over 500 gather at Ulster Hall

Ulster Hall 2014

Music, dance, colour, enthusiasm and praise. Over 500 came to celebrate a Taste of Tabernacles in Belfast and offer support for Israel. Our photo shows guest Garry Miller, and speakers Allen Jackson, Grant Wetherall and Malcolm Hedding. The event was organised by the Irish branch of the International Christian Embassy in Jerusalem, directed by Brian Silvester. Superb performance by Shalom dancers and Praise musicians. NIFI’s co chair Steven Jaffe came from London to show the appreciation of the UK Jewish community for the event.

Ulster Hall 2 2014

Belfast Jews – Last Minyan

BBC Northern Ireland featured a profile of Belfast’s aging Jewish community which is still going remarkably strong despite declining numbers. The programme was reviewed here in the Times of Israel


Featured in the programme, Lottie Black, born in Germany, brought to Belfast on the kindertransport and now living in Israel. A beautiful lady full of energy! NIFI’s Andrew Shaw remembers staying with Lottie and late husband Morris on his first visit to Israel and hasn’t forgotten her elegance and hospitality!

The programme was ably presented and directed by Lottie’s grand-nephew, Aaron Black.

If you missed the programme you can watch it here: http://www.bbc.co.uk/iplayer/episode/b03xq462/True_North_Series_2_The_Last_Minyan/

Forty Shades of Green

As we move on from Six Nations rugby to the day for the patron saint, I wonder if you can guess which country the following photos were taken in…(courtesy of the Molly Bloom pub near the seafront, Tel Aviv)


“Fully Booked”

We are not surprised, Desi is one of Northern Ireland’s most popular Christian educators and Israel attracts more pilgrim visitors from Northern Ireland than any other part of the UK (per capita).

with Rev Desi Maxwell
Jesus and the Jewish World
22 April 2014 – 10 Nights


Christians in the Holy Land

Recent Queen’s graduate, Bethany Coates, reflects on the position of Christians in the Holy Land, in a recent blog on the website of Christian Friends of Israel. Bethany’s journey begins with a black taxi tour of Belfast.


taxi tour

Shoshana chairs interfaith gathering in Belfast

CCJ dinner 2014

There was an excellent turnout and strong support at the annual dinner of the Council of Christians and Jews held at Belfast synagogue. Speaker was David Ford MLA Minster of Justice. Also present was the Lord Mayor of Belfast, Councillor Máirtín Ó Muilleoir, Junior Minister Jonathan Bell MLA and Alban Maginness MLA, along with clergy from all denominations. Joint chair of the local branch is Israeli-born Shoshanna Appleton, shown in our photograph keeping the guests in order. The principal organiser of the branch, which meets monthly to discuss subjects of interests to both Jews and Christians, is Dr Sandra Baillie. CCJ was formed nationally in the 1940s to combat anti-Semitism in the churches, and to provide a welcoming environment for dialogue and conversation between the two faiths. The Belfast branch, one of the most active in the UK, dates from the 1990s.

Northern Ireland academic chairs conference on UK Israel collaboration on food security

Anthony Julius

Lord Bew of Donegore chaired a gathering of over 60 scientists, parliamentarians, diplomats and experts at Lancaster House for a Round Table hosted by the Anglo Israel Association.

The conference was titled, “Food Security: the mismatch between population and the ability to provide adequate nutrition.” The day-long conference provided an exciting platform for Israeli and British experts to share research and ideas.

Chaired by Lord Bew of Donegore, the Anglo-Israel Association is a London-based charity that plays an active role in advancing Britain’s relationship with Israel. This year, the conference was held in association with the Weizmann Institute, whose leading experts showcased the innovations that are being produced in Israel.

Our photo shows Lord Bew (right) chairing a NIFI meeting in Belfast.

From Belfast to Haifa

Two great port cities – Belfast and Haifa. NIFI’s London-based co chair Steven Jaffe visits the city hall in Haifa to discuss shared interests and ideas. Photo shows Steven with Bracha Sela, secretary general to the council and the city’s foreign relations director. Steven also met with Asaf Ron, director of Beit Hagefen, an Arab Jewish cultural centre in the heart of the city.

Haifa municipality

Haifa Bracha

Irish dancing is big in Israel

The Israeli Academy of Irish dance goes from strength to strength – story from Irish Central.



Ladino rocks Carrickfergus

In a commemoration and celebration of the music and culture of the exiled Jews of Spain, it was a packed house for the fabulous Los Desterrados in Carrickfergus. This is the band’s third visit to Northern Ireland. Ladino is the medieval Jewish Spanish dialect with the odd Hebrew word thrown in.

Los desterrados cfergus

Christian Friends of Yad Vashem appoint representative in Northern Ireland

Isobel meets friend of Anne frank

Congratulations to Isobel Kuzma who has been appointed by Christian Friends of Yad Vashem to be their representative in Northern Ireland. Isobel has a passion for teaching Holocaust education and was a student on a course at Yad Vashem for Christian educators. Our photograph shows Isobel with a childhood friend of Anne Frank who she met while studying in Israel. Yad Vashem is the official Holocaust memorial in Jerusalem. CFYV was established in 2006 to raise awareness about the Holocaust and its universal lessons in Christian communities. Today CFYV is active in many countries worldwide and works with a variety of denominations and Christian ministries to build bridges between Jews and Christians. CFYV firmly believe in Yad Vashem’s motto: Remembering the Past, Shaping the Future.

Incredible Support


An amazing £20,000+ raised in 2013. A big thank you to the International Christian Embassy Jerusalem, Northern Ireland and Ireland branches. The donations have supported Jews and Arabs in the land of Israel who are in need – including support for the Haifa Home for Holocaust survivors. Tremendous work.
“For over 30 years the ICEJ has embarked upon a journey of giving comfort to Israel. This journey has involved deeds of compassion impacting virtually every town, village and city in some way through benevolence ministry”.

ICEJ AID, the Embassy’s social assistance arm touches the lives of all people in Israel by contributing to projects across the nation in every sector of society, meeting the needs of children, elderly, disabled, new immigrants and needy families.

Irish music reaches new audiences in Israel

Bloomers israel

You may recall Irish Israeli musician Daniel Manor who performed excellently for us at NIFI events – playing Israeli songs with an Irish twist. Daniel is now back in Israel where he is promoting Irish music to the Israeli public. Uri Schleifer, Philip Khripkov and Daniel Manor, all met at the “Molly Bloom’s” Irish pub in Tel Aviv, and have been playing at the session there since 2007.

More recently, they decided to take their passion for Irish music one step froward, and formed a group whose musical “trademark” is young, enthusiastic and lively arrangements to well-established (as well as original) Irish tunes and songs. The Bloomers perform regularly in pubs, private events, in festivals and on various stages throughout Israel.

 Orthodox Jewish women make history in Northern Ireland visit

A delegation of Israeli Strictly-Orthodox high profile women in a visit to Belfast met with politicians, religious and community leaders, former combatants and victims of violence from both the Unionist and Republican communities. Participants of the delegation included women who are well-known and influential in Israel.  According to the organisers, Forward Thinking, this visit marked “a crucial step for the strictly-Orthodox community in Israel, as it provided a space for delegates to discuss and understand the mistakes, achievements and lessons of the Northern Ireland Peace Process”. In doing so, hard questions were raised concerning their role and the role of their community within the pursuit of a durable peace agreement in the Middle East.

NIFI launches on Facebook

nifi x1

With over 180 likes on its first day, NIFI launches a page on FB packed with photos and stories.

To like and share please click on the link here:


Israel’s party leader has distinguished Ulster pedigree

Ministerial approval: Terry McCorran meets Israeli minister Isaac Herzog, Nov 2009
Ministerial approval: Terry McCorran meets Israeli minister Isaac Herzog, Nov 2009

Isaac Herzog emerged victorious as leader of the once all-powerful Israeli Labour party, following leadership elections in November. Ha’aretz journalist, Anshel Pfeffer, points to the new party leader as “a scion of the old establishment” of Israeli politics – describing Herzog as “son of president Chaim Herzog, nephew of legendary foreign minister Abba Eban and grandson of a chief rabbi”. What Pfeffer failed to mention is that all three of Herzog’s distinguished forebears were living in Belfast in 1918! Herzog’s grandfather, also Isaac, was rabbi of the Belfast Jewish community, his son Chaim was born on Cliftonpark Avenue while Abba Eban was a child evacuee living at Kinnaird Street off the Antrim Road. Photo shows NIFI’s co chair, Terry McCorran, presenting Herzog with a plaque of the city of Belfast.

Save Exploris – support from Israel

The campaign to save Northern Ireland’s unique aquarium at Portaferry has gone international, and picked up support from Israel. From the coral of the Red Sea to the maritime life of Strangford Lough. Here Israeli, Gil Shamgar, says Save Exploris in English and Hebrew.

Exploris - twitter


Swords into Ploughshares: clergy of three faiths in Belfast to learn Peace


Learning and listening. That is the key to discussing and debating conflict. With that in mind, the Board of Deputies of British Jews came up with the innovation of bringing over different faith leaders from England to Northern Ireland for a two day conference: these leaders hold differing views on the Israel-Palestine conflict; indeed their own communities are often polarised on the debate. The 14 faiths leaders, Jewish, Muslim and Christian, travelled together to Belfast to meet with representatives from the religious, grassroots and political sector to hear about how day to day conflict – with life and death consequences – can be managed, and in the long run, how to bring different peoples closer together. The group met at the East Belfast Mission in Skainos Centre, a new complex created on the initiative of the Rev Dr Gary Mason MBE, the Methodist Minister of the Mission, in a Protestant area of Belfast with the deliberate attempt to create a neutral space where different community groups could meet. According to Rabbi Natan Levy (pictured above), the Board’s Interfaith and Social Action consultant who helped coordinate the trip, “We needed to hear about how hard resolutions are made, how reconciliation can work on a day to day level, how faith leaders take extreme risks for peace: that led us to Belfast, to Revd Gary Mason, and-ultimately, to these deeply transformative two days together.”


Belfast academic hails Israeli technological advance

From water into wine and now water into oil. A professor of chemistry at Queen’s University Belfast has described a technological breakthrough at Ben Gurion university, Israel, as an “exciting prospect”. Professor Christopher Hardacre was referring to Israeli scientists who have created an eco-oil that could become the petrol of the future. The Professor explains: “The efficient conversion of CO2 into fuel via reaction with H2 is very valuable and has the potential to be a significant development in the replacement of fossil fuels.” If you are technically minded and want to know what the Israeli scientists have been up to, you can read more here:



Lord Mayor meets visiting Israeli students

Lord Mayor, Yedida and Paz

Belfast Lord Mayor, Councillor Máirtín Ó Muilleoir, welcomed student visitors from Israel to City Hall.

The two students were in Belfast to meet young people from across the city in a visit organised by Northern Ireland Friends of Israel.

The aim of the visit is to promote dialogue between young people in Northern Ireland and Israel.

The Lord Mayor is pictured with Paz Ben-Nissan (right) and Yedida Jacobs (left).


Israel and Northern Ireland – honours shared

The two countries shared the points as Israel and Northern Ireland ended a disappointing World Cup qualifying campaign by drawing one each at the Ramat Gan stadium. Here Northern Ireland fans at least seem to be having a good time and the young Israeli fan in the middle will never find himself amongst friendlier fans. Here’s looking to Euros 2016.

Northern Ireland fans in Tel Aviv


Northern Ireland MEPs speak out for Israeli participation in EU research programmes

Diane Dodds MEP and Jim Nicholson MEP have both contacted Baroness Ashton to raise concerns about political obstacles being put in the way of Israel’s participation in Project Horizon, one of the biggest research programmes being promoted by the EU. Both representatives made the point it is EU citizens who stand to gain most from Israel’s research and development capacity – whether in hi tech, medicine or agriculture. Here Diane makes the point powerfully in a speech at the European Parliament.



Helping with enquiries – Israeli Arab policemen and community leaders learn from PSNI

Police visit

The Abraham Fund Initiative for the integration and equality of Arab citizens of Israel organised a trip last week for 15 Arab-Israeli community leaders to Northern Ireland, to learn from its police force. The visitors learnt about the changes to policing in Northern Ireland since the Good Friday agreement. Community liaison committees between the Arab communities and police have already been set up on the model of local policing committees in Northern Ireland.


Learning principles of negotiation and peace

Young Israelis and Palestinians tipped as future leaders of their societies were in Belfast this month as part of the Shades pilot negotiation project. The Shades Programme is supported by leading American academic institutions such as Harvard University and Columbia University. The visit of Shades programme members to Belfast was organised in conjunction with the East Belfast mission. They visited City Hall and were welcomed by Lord Mayor, Councillor Máirtín Ó Muilleoir. Our photograph shows the Lord Mayor with Rev Gary Mason of EBM, and two participants in the programme, Israeli Lior Frankiensztajn (far left) and Palestinian Zeina Barakat.

Shades - Lord Mayor 1


Friends of Israel visit from across the seas
John Tweedie

A very welcome visitor to Northern Ireland is Bangor-born pastor and educator, Rev. Dr John Tweedie. John, who pastors a Christian community in Ontario, is the chairman of Christians for Israel in Canada – one of the largest and most active friends of Israel groups in that country, and Christians for Israel international which is a global organisation based in the Netherlands. A hugely experienced and popular broadcaster, John teaches Christian audiences about Biblical perspectives regarding the land of Israel. He has led countless pilgrimage tours to the Land and undertakes extensive charitable work for good causes in the Holy Land and elsewhere. Rev Tweedie emigrated from NI to Canada in 1967.


Here to win medals!

Police games logo

Amongst the Israelis visiting Belfast this summer is Levy Aharon, a policeman from Jerusalem, who is competing in the Police and Fire Brigade games.

He won a bronze medal in the games back in 2003 in Barcelona and is looking to do even better this time. He is competing in both the cross country and indoor rowing competitions.

Levy’s impressions of Northern Ireland? “It is very green here, relative to Israel, and quite nice,” he said.


Rabbis for Human Rights at West Belfast festival.


Perhaps not noted for the diversity of its thinking on the Israel-Palestine issue, the West Belfast festival this year welcomes an Israeli speaker who describes himself as a Zionist and an Israeli patriot – which is perhaps a first for the festival. Rabbi Arik Ascherman works for Rabbis for Human Rights, which is most famous for defending the human rights of Palestinians, believing that its work is vital for the legitimacy, moral standing and security of the state of Israel and vital also to empower both Israelis and Palestinians who desire peace. Elsewhere at the festival, festival goers will be invited to Boycott Israel by a panel consisting of leftist politician Jeremy Corbyn MP; leftist artist Robert Ballagh and leftist academic Bill Rolston – no doubt a lively debate will ensue, but unfortunately without Rabbi Ascherman.

“Life is not a rehearsal” – global performers make it up as they go along in City of Culture


Shalom to Israeli dancers, Yaniv Mintzer & Shahar Dor who are two members of an international team of performers participating in ‘The Motion Ensemble,’ an innovative and spontaneous composition which forms a spectacularly unplanned part of the City of Culture programme.

Creative, challenging and spontaneous, a passionate exploration and a poetic celebration of the universal human experience of knowing that we are all ‘making it up as we go along’… Venues, pretty much everywhere in the city and beyond. 1 August 2013 – 17 August 2013. Enjoy!

They found love in Israel

Neil Taylor

Belfast man Neil Taylor is featured in this week’s Jewish News. As 32,000 spectators gather in Jerusalem to welcome 9,000 athletes at the 19th Maccabi Games (an almost Olympic scale event which sees Jews from around the world compete in sports with Israeli counterparts), sports-mad Neil will be leading out the UK Jewish community’s junior rugby team at the opening ceremony. However, sport isn’t the only matter on Neil’s brain. At the last Maccabi Games Neil met his wife to be, Abbi Pinnick from London. Abbi was an open netball player and manager of the swimming team. Neil explains a marriage made in heaven – and in Israel: “Abbi’s a physiotherapist who loves sport, while I’m a sports science teacher. I couldn’t believe I found a girl who was interested in sport, and she couldn’t believe she found a Northern Irish Jew while in Israel!”

Our photo shows Neil and Abbi, the couple on the right, together with another husband and wife team who met having competed in the Maccabi Games in Israel.


Learning Peace in Enniskillen

clinton fermanagh

Students from Israel and the Palestinian authority joined others from Kosovo, Kenya, the Basque country  and from more than half a dozen  other parts of the world for an international  summer school to learn about peace making in Northern Ireland. The sessions took place at the Clinton Centre in Enniskillen.  Delegates watched a welcome video from President Clinton himself whose mother’s family came from Northern Ireland and met with political and civic leaders in County Fermanagh. The event was sponsored by the American Ireland fund and private donors.


Getting to grips with an Israeli in Florence


The  Ju-Jitsu club based at the Antrim Forum has strengthened links with fellow sportsmen from across the globe, including Israel, following a successful session promoting the sport in Italy. Local master, Peter Cooke, and Israeli Shihan Amir Barnea helped lead a course for over 300 students of the martial art in the Italian city of Firenze (Florence). Invitations to and from Israel and other parts of the world followed the event. Both Peter and Amir are certified as international coaches through the World Ju-Jitsu federation.


Medical Aid in Israel

wizo logo

Over 50 people attended the annual lunch in aid of the charity WIZO in Belfast. Guest speaker, Rabbi David Singer, recalled his work for Israel’s ambulance service, Magen David Adom (the equivalent of the Red Cross). Trained in Hadassah hospital in Jerusalem, the rabbi has advanced paramedic qualifications. Guests came from Dublin as well as Belfast. WIZO is an international women’s charity which supports vulnerable families in Israel regardless of race, ethnicity or religion.


Postcard from Israel

Grant and Gary

Wellington Record is the magazine of one of the largest Presbyterian churches in Ireland. On the front cover we were delighted to see a photograph of “the crystal-clear waters springing from Mount Hermon on their way to filling the river Jordan.” The photograph is used to illustrate a reflection on Biblical themes entitled “Postcard from Israel” by church member, Bill Brodie. Further in an excellent photograph of NIFI supporters Grant Wetherall and Gary Millar meeting Israeli ambassador, HE Daniel Taub, in Belfast.


Music and Dance – Celebrating Israel at Stormont


Two hundred people packed the Great Hall, Stormont for the sixth annual Celebration of Israel promoted by the International Christian Embassy of Jerusalem, Irish branch. The host was MLA David McIlveen and speakers included government minister, Jonathan Bell MLA, deputy ambassador of Israel, Alon Roth-Snir, and Ugandan Pastor Umar Mulinde, who is receiving medical treatment in Israel following a horrific acid attack. Considered “the best event ever” by many of those attending, musical entertainment was provided by local musicians and the Shalom dance team. Guests included Rabbi David Singer , who gave the vote of thanks. A huge well done to organiser, Brian Silvester, and his team for a fantastic celebration of Israel.


Linenhall Library marks visit by Israeli ambassador

From the latest edition of the Linen Hall library Newsletter:

Amb taub in Linenhall

Israeli Ambassador to the UK Daniel Taub visited the Library in February.
He was particularly interested in the Northern Ireland Political
Collection, which includes a number of political posters that were
exhibited in Israel a few years ago.

Pictured (l-r) are President of Northern
Ireland Friends of Israel Gerald Steinberg,
Israeli Ambassador to the UK Daniel Taub,
Deputy Librarian Monica Cash and former
Library Director George Priestley OBE.


Religious Responsibility

Brian Silvester and Rabbi David Singer
Brian Silvester and Rabbi David Singer

Issues surrounding religious coercion and tolerance, both in Israel and the Middle East, as well as here in Northern Ireland, were raised when the new rabbi of the Belfast Jewish community, Rabbi David Singer, addressed the Northern Ireland branch of the Council of Christians and Jews on the subject of “Religion and Responsibility.” Rabbi Singer, who spent over three decades in Israel, gave a thoughtful and scholarly insight into the topic and a lively Q and A session followed. Over 60 people attended. In the chair was Shoshana Appleton and Brian Silvester gave the vote of thanks.


“The greatest experience of our lives” – a Northern Irish family in Israel

Denis and Caroline Coll share their experience of volunteering in Israel for three months for the charity, Bridges for Peace. “The greatest experience of our lives”, Israel is “a vibrant and free country” and it was “coming home to the roots of our Christian faith”. A fascinating interview by Elchanan Berkovitz in Jerusalem.
Hebrew University students here to learn in Northern Ireland


On a study tour to Northern Ireland are Hebrew University students – both Jewish and Arab – who have been learning about Northern Ireland as a case study regarding Transitional Justice and Conflict resolution.

While in Northern Ireland the students will meet with civil society, practitioners, governmental authorities, scholars and students.


Israeli artist on display

Golden thread

Israeli-born photographer, Inbal Abergil ,was amongst an array of international artists who featured in a group exhibition hosted by the Golden Thread gallery in Belfast. The theme of the exhibition was Imagined Communities. The exhibition looked at the place of national identity in various parts of the world. Recently Inbal’s series Nothing Left Here But The Hurt was nominated for the prestigious Prix Pictet Photography award (2012).

You can view Inbal’s stunning work by clicking here.

Holocaust education in Coleraine


NIFI’s co chair Steven Jaffe joined Belfast rabbi, David Singer, and Dr Leon Litvack of Queen’s University, in taking workshop sessions for youth workers, community professionals and young people, at the lauch of a Holocaust education programme. The programme is delivered by Springboard Opportunities Limited and promoted by six local authorities across the north east of Northern Ireland. The exciting educational project has attracted over 80 participants and is funded under the European Union’s PEACE III Programme.Steven spoke about connections between Northern Ireland and the Holocaust. Rabbi Singer addresed the subject of Judaism as a living culture and religion, and Dr Litvack, the keynote speaker, gave an overview of the Shoah and spoke of his personal experience as a child of Holocaust survivors.

Steven explains his own presentation: “People tend to view the Holocaust as happening in far-away places with foreign-sounding names. I wanted to “bring home” the Shoah by showing the impact it had on local people and places. I spoke about the story of Klara, a young Jewish girl from Vienna who was rescued before the war and brought to a refugee farm at Millisle, County Down, but lost her family. I also told the story of a boy veteran of Auschwitz called Victor Greenberg, who after the war began his recuperation at the same farm in Northern Ireland. Finally, I gave the first-hand account of a County Antrim man, Lord Molyneaux, who was one of the first Allied servicemen to enter Belsen”.


Boston professor asks if atrocity at marathon was ‘mindless’

Richard Landes

A Visitor to Belfast recently was Boston professor and Israeli citizen, Richard Landes, who is an outspoken supporter of Israel. Richard was guest lecturer at Queen’s University on the subject of millenialism, the belief that the world will, at some point in the future, go through a massive transition to a perfect world of justice, peace, abundance and fellowship. Millenial movements, which are often considered in the context of Judaism, Christianity or Islam, aren’t always religious and have helped shape the western world today. In particular, Prof Landes analysed the global jihadist movement, and its supporters amongst the far left. He describes this as a violent millenialist movement. Its supporters regard themselves as “cosmic warriors fighting for good against evil” in the final battle of the world, for which there is no room to show mercy – even to marathon runners. The attack on the Boston marathon was an act of global Jihadi warfare against people who the bombers deliberately targeted to die and be maimed, because they were non-believers and citizens of the Great Satan.

While in Belfast Richard was interviewed by BBC Radio Ulster’s Sunday Sequence, due to be aired on 26 May. Richard blogs at the Augean Stables and his views are set out in his book, Heaven on Earth. The Varieties of the Millenial Experience.

Like waiting for a bus….


On the same evening as the Richard Landes lecture, Dr. Guy Beiner, of Ben Gurion University, Israel gave the prestigious JC Beckett memorial lecture at Queen’s, on “Regenerating Ulster: meaning, persistence, effacement and the reinvention of historical tradition“.


Israeli rabbis visit Belfast

Shas in London

Six Israeli rabbis who are involved in conciliation work in Israel, visited Belfast earlier this month – hosted by the Causeway Institute for Peace-Building and Conflict-Resolution. The theme of the visit was “Writing the Religious Initiative”. The rabbis discussed with local political and religious leaders the relationship between religion and politics in Northern Ireland and the Middle East.

The speakers from Northern Ireland gave an honest appraisal of the challenges of peace-building, but also stressed the potential for religion to play a positive role in resolving conflict. The rabbis were greeted by the Lord Mayor of Belfast at City Hall, the seminars were hosted by East Belfast Mission and kosher food was supplied by the Belfast Jewish community.


From a chance meeting


Bangorman Ivor McClinton is a graduate of a Holocaust education course at Yad Vashem, Jerusalem. A chance meeting with the Cohesion officer for a major cross-community project in Northern Ireland led to Ivor being invited to speak to a local audience on the subject of the Holocaust. Ivor told the story of Viennese Jew, Otto Goldberger who was among the last Jews to escape Austria before the start of World War 2, and who found refuge in Northern Ireland. Ivor showed slides on the damage wrought on Jewish lives and property during the notorious Kristallnacht – many of those present said they were unaware of the extent of the atrocities which prefigured the Holocaust itself, but which failed to ignite an effective international response to the persecution of the Jews. Following the talk, a coach was laid on to take the people to Belfast synagogue for a guided tour. North Down Mayor, Wesley Irvine, was amongst those attending the talk.


Trade Union Friends of Israel in Belfast


TUFI took part in a lively panel discussion and question time on Israel and Palestine at Unite’s office in Belfast in early May. The event was organised by the Unite not-for-profit branch and attended by over 50 people. TUFI Director Steve Scott said “it was a great opportunity to speak about Israel and Palestine to a diverse, engaged audience who were willing to listen and ask tough and pertinent questions to a panel with a diverse range of opinions.”

Local author translated into Hebrew

Israeli schoolchildren are enjoying the unique mixture of fantasy and westerns authored by Dunmurray writer, Derek Keilty. Derek has written a series of novels based on the character, Wilf Gallows, a young elfling sky cowboy. Now translated into Hebrew and available from all good book stores, The Wilf Gallow books are being read in Spain, Geramany and Brazil as well as in Israel.


New Jobs

Over 50 new jobs in Northern Ireland linked to international work in USA, Australia and Israel!


Jim Wells MLA on Israeli co-operatives, international development and ornithology.

Jim Wells mla

Steven Jaffe, London-based co chair of Northern Ireland Friends of Israel, met with South Down Assemblyman, Jim Wells at Stormont. Jim, who has been an advocate for Israel since his student days, pledged his personal support for Israel as the only democratic state in the Middle East. Jim expressed his opposition regarding the Co-op resolution to boycott certain Israeli companies. He expressed disappointment regarding the stance of Christian Aid and Trocaire in seeking to ban certain trade with Israel as he believes that the extension of trade and facilitating human contact between Israelis and Palestinians are the paths to peace.

Jim noted how residents in his constituency had expressed their opposition to the Co-op boycott and their warm support for Israel by signing NIFI petitions. Jim is the vice chair of all party committees on co-operatives and international development, and was interested to learn about Israel’s spectacular contributions in these areas: for example, through the Kibbutz movement and technological advancements, such as Israeli invented solar energy panels and water desalination programmes which are making a big difference in the developing world. As a keen ornithologist, Jim would be particularly keen to visit Israel in the early autumn time, when the country hosts millions of birds on trans-continental migration.


closer to israel 65

NIFI is proud to be part of the UK Jewish community’s celebration of Israel at 65 – a year long marking of the community’s close relationship with the state of Israel. The programme is open to all – Jewish or not – and if you are holding an event celebrating Israel or an Israeli theme please let us know.


Dail’s Joanna Tuffy shares her path as a friend of Israel


Irish Labour TD Joanna Tuffy spoke to over 50 members of the Belfast branch of the Council of Christians and Jews about what brought her to seek greater understanding and support for Israel. It wasn’t so much her religious beliefs which is the key factor for her, said Joanna, who represents Dublin Mid West in the Irish parliament. Instead it was the progressive case for Israel as a democratic state. She sees as entirely consistent her support for Israel, her support for a Palestinian state and support for peace. She utterly rejected the recent boycotting motion passed by the Teachers Union of Ireland – which seeks to ban Israeli schoolchildren and students from educational exchange visits with Irish schools and colleges.

Celebrating Israel at 65

YH 2013

Along with Jewish communities across the UK, the Belfast Jewish community celebrated Yom Ha’atzmaut, Israel’s independence day. A felafel spread was enjoyed by all and the party goers heard an interesting talk by visitor, Ariel Tzion about life in the southern Israeli city of Be’er Sheva.


Not yet booked your summer hols?

Dundalk’s Yanky Fachler extols Israel as a holiday destination on Irish radio!

Israelis on Thermal shopping spree in Belfast

Seder kippah

It was a case of “smash and grab”, as Israel took all three points from their World Cup qualifier with Northern Ireland in Belfast, thanks to stout defensive play and two late goals. But at least one Belfast shopkeeper was not left empty handed by the Israelis’ visit – over £500 of thermal leggings was sold to the team, who swapped 80 degrees sunshine in Tel Aviv for sub zero temperatures and a howling wind at Windsor Park, Belfast. The result leaves Israel with some chance of qualification and NIFI wish them every success in their remaining fixtures. Regardless of the result, “The playing of Hatikvah, the Israeli national anthem, made hairs stand on my neck” was the verdict of one NIFI supporter who attended the match!

Another says: “It’s the 1st time in a long while that I have seen ‘norn iron’ outplay a team and get beaten, but Israel took their chances and scored 2 good goals… I felt like a spare wheel in the Railway end lol only person there with an Israeli flag and t-shirt on top of my coat!”



Lord Trimble  gives it straight to UN Human Rights Council


Lord Trimble took the UN Human Rights Council to task in a debate with its commission of inquiry into Israeli settlements, delivering a statement on behalf of the Geneva human rights group, UN Watch.  He told the UNHRC, in effect: “Your inquiry is wrong, your report undermines peace, stop the selectivity against Israel.”

Lord Trimble, a former leader of the Ulster Unionist Party, was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 1995 jointly with John Hume for their efforts to find a peaceful solution to the conflict in Northern Ireland.  He was First Minister of Northern Ireland between 1998 and 2002.

Lord Trimble joined former Spanish prime minister, José Maria Aznar and other senior international politicians in the Friends of Israel Initiative launched in 2010.  A lawyer himself, he is a Patron of UK Lawyers for Israel.


Welcome to Belfast – Rabbi David and Judith Singer

Rabbi David Singer

The Belfast Jewish community has welcomed its new spiritual leader, Rabbi David Singer, to Northern Ireland. Birmingham-born Rabbi Singer has come from Jerusalem where he trained as a medic and ambulance driver for Magen David Adom (the Israeli equivalent of the Red Cross) and enhanced his medical skills by obtaining an Advanced Cardiac Life Support qualification from Jerusalem’s Hadassah hospital. He qualified as a rabbi from Yeshivat Hanegev in Israel in 1981. NIFI says baruchim habayim, welcome to the rabbi and his wife Judith. “Cold, wet and very friendly” was the rabbi’s initial assessment of Northern Ireland!


800 turn out for a taste of Tabernacles in Belfast!


On Monday night over 800 people packed the Ulster Hall for a “taste of Tabernacles” – courtesy of the International Christian Embassy of Jerusalem, in a large gathering of support for Israel in Northern Ireland. The event featured the annual Christian celebration of the Feast of Tabernacles in Jerusalem. Guest speakers included Malcolm Hedding, vice chair of ICEJ, musical entertainment was provided by celebrated international violinist, Serguei Popov, accompanied by the Shalom dance team and musicians from several churches in Northern Ireland. ICEJ Irish branch director Brian Silvester said this was the largest gathering ICEJ has ever put on in Northern Ireland. Over 800 Christians in the province were encouraged to visit Israel and see for themselves the festival of Tabernacles – in Hebrew, known as Succot – being celebrated in the Holy Land.


Photograph from the 2012 celebration at the Ulster Hall – this year over 100 more attended.


Hofesh Shechter to wow them in City of Culture

I want to give the  musicians and dancers from Derry a sense of what is out there, what it is to be  part of a huge show, part of something that is dance and music and nothing  else.  No agendas, just being part of a  really powerful performance which brings people together. What matters by the end  of Political Mother are the very simple human qualities we share, a feeling for  what’s right and wrong. What matters is the connection between the people.
I  can’t wait to be there in Derry to do it.
” – Jerusalem-trained choreographer, Hofesh Shechter


Trade Unionist in Israel

On our home page GMB trade unionist Margaret Gregg, from Northern Ireland, reports on her visit to Israel and the Palestinian Territorities late last year, when she met trade unionists from both Israel and the PA. A land of different traditions and many different narratives, Margaret was particularly interested in meeting workers’ representatives to learn how they organised and campaigned to improve their working conditions and rights.

TUFI 2012


Government minister Jonathan Bell MLA reflects on meeting Israel’s ambassador

Amb taub and Jonathan Bell

Junior Minister Jonathan Bell met with the Israeli Ambassador to the UK Daniel Taub.

Speaking after the meeting Mr Bell stated;

“We continue to build on our firm foundation of friendship between our United Kingdom and Israel and look to see mutual benefit in the areas of education, commerce and tourism enhanced.

I was delighted that the Ambassador has agreed to send the commercial attaché over to this part of the United Kingdom to consider business opportunities. I look forward to this bearing fruit in terms of economic growth and jobs.

There are many opportunities to build science and business links with Israel particularly in the field of information technology and communications where Israel has a deserved reputation for best practice.

I look forward to future work with the Israeli Ambassador to the Court of St James and am encouraged by his interest in Northern Ireland.”


Wonderful Gift from Christian Friends of Israel.

Ivor and Michael

Supporters of Christian Friends of Israel from across Northern Ireland have shown their tremendous support for the Belfast Jewish community by making a magnificent gift to mark the arrival of the congregation’s new minister, Rabbi David Singer, who is coming from Jerusalem. Our photograph shows CFI representative, Ivor McClinton, presenting the gift to Michael Black, chair of the BJC. On behalf of Belfast’s Jewish community, Michael paid tribute to the warm support from Christians in Northern Ireland for the community which now numbers fewer than 80 members but is determined to battle on and maintain Jewish religious and cultural life in Northern Ireland. The very generous donation will be spent on essential refurbisment work going on at the rabbi’s new home in North Belfast.


That was the week that was!

Amb Taub crowd scene

In a week over a thousand people attended NIFI related events in Northern Ireland. Over 300 NIFI supporters gave the Israeli ambassador, HE Daniel Taub, a rousing welcome in Belfast (see story in words and pictures on our homepage). Later in the week more than 700 listened to a Palestinian Christian speak frankly about life in Bethlehem for the Christian community – lifting the lid on the rise of Hamas and Islamic radicalism, corruption within the churches and the misappropriation of funds from the west. The speaker, who can’t give her name or have her photograph taken, was a guest of NIFI and the International Christian Embassy of Jerusalem, Irish branch, and spoke in two churches outside Belfast.


Interfaith in the Holy Land – VIP visitor in Belfast


International president of the Council of Christians and Jews, Dr Debbie Weissman, was guest of honour at the 18th AGM of the Belfast branch of CCJ. Jerusalem based Debbie spoke of her personal experience of leading interfaith work in Israel and in promoting dialogue between Israelis and Palestinians based on faith. During her visit Debbie was hosted at Stormont by Robin Newton MLA. At the AGM, branch secretary Dr Sandra Baillie outlined the activities of CCJ over the past year which included talks by Ian Paisley Jr MP, Anna Lo MLA, Rabbi Menachem Brackman, Philip Orr and the UK representative of Magen David Adom (the Israeli equivalent of the Red Cross).


A song of Hope from Jerusalem

Words & video: Elchanan Berkovitz (Jerusalem)

Music: Composed, sung and recorded by Jim Clint
(Northern Ireland)

Location: Jerusalem

Elchanan says: “Many thanks to Northern Ireland Friends of Israel for introducing me to Jim”.

(c) By Your Light 2012



The International Christian Embassy of Jerusalem, Ireland branch, has held its largest ever residential weekend conference, with over 200 braving difficult weather conditions to attend. Delegates came from right across the island of Ireland, reports ICEJ Director, Brian Silvester – with more people from Northern Ireland attending than ever before. Speakers included well-known Christian educator, David Pawson. Guests of honour included the Israeli ambassador to the Republic of Ireland, Boaz Modai, and deputy ambassador, his wife Nurit. The Israeli representatives expressed their delight to be at such a large gathering of friends of Israel.


NIFI at Westminster

parl lobby

Northern Ireland Friends of Israel, represented by London-based Steven Jaffe, and Colin Nevin, who travelled over from Northern Ireland specially for the occasion, were amongst over 300 people who took part in the largest ever lobby of Westminster organised by the Zionist Federation and Christian Friends of Israel. Ian Paisley Junior, Nigel Dodds and Jim Shannon MPs were amongst parliamentarians who addressed the lobbyists while at Northern Ireland question time on the floor of the house, MPs from all sitting parties united to condemn incidents of anti-Semitism in Northern Ireland, including the attack on a stall at a Belfast shopping centre – following a question raised by John Mann MP, of the all-party group on anti-Semitism.


Belfast boy done good in Israel – with Arsenal FC

Arsenal community coach, Matthew Quinn, from Northern Ireland, at work in a Primary school in Akko, northern Israel, coaching Israeli children – Jewish and Arab, how to play football the Arsenal way!



How Odd of God? Lifelong Learning at Stranmillis

desi maxwell

Have you heard the one: “How Odd of God, to choose the Jews?”. Accomplished educator, Desi Maxwell, explores New Testament figures in a Hebrew context in a brand new adult education course at Stranmillis later this year. Desi points out: “Hebraism and Hellenism – between these two points of view moves our world. Without even thinking about it most of us have inherited a distinctively Greek way of thinking. In this course we shall examine the Hebraic alternative, exploring the matrix of the Bible and the figures of Jesus and Paul”. This course is supported by an off-site visit to the synagogue in Belfast. Desi is well known for his innovative pilgrim trips to the land of Israel.

11.00am – 1.00pm

Thursday, 5 weeks

2nd May 2013 – 30th May 2013

£40.00 (concession £30.00)

For more information please contact Stranmillis.


Holocaust remembered – Millisle links with Israel

Over 300 people attended the Northern Ireland regional commemoration of Holocaust Memorial day – which this year was held iat the Queen’s Hall,  Newtownards. Amongst the keynote speakers was Dublin-based Marilyn Taylor who spoke of the real life stories which lay behind her children’s novel, Faraway Home, regarding the refugee settlement farm at Millisle, County Down. The farm was founded by chalutzim – pioneers, training to be farmers with the intention of settling in the land of Israel. These teenagers came to Northern Ireland from Germany and Austria on the eve of the Second World War and many later helped establish the famous kibbutzim in the fledgling state of Israel.

Marilyn pin pointed the following lesson from the Holocaust: “because there was virtually no place where Jews facing annihilation could go, a country, Israel, came into being …put into context the Kindertransport scheme could only save 10,000 of the one and a half million Jewish children killed because there was no country that would take them in, not Britain, not Ireland, not the USA”. Amongst those listening to Marilyn were junior ministers Jenifer McCann MLA and Jonathan Bell MLA, the mayor of Newtownards, Alderman Hamilton Gregory and local MP, Jim Shannon. The headmistress of Millisle school, Linda Patterson, spoke about the Safe Haven Holocaust Garden opened at the school in 2007 to permanently record the refugee children who attended the school during the war years. A candle was lit by survivor Inge Radford, accompanied by her granddaughter, while memorial prayers were intoned by Cantor Shulman of the Dublin Jewish community.


A worthwhile resolution – Visit Israel in 2013

Colin in Jerusalem
Colin in Jerusalem

Whenever we send out invitations for NIFI events, the best excuse for not being able to attend is “Sorry, we are in Israel on that day”. NIFI supporters have certainly been visiting Israel in increasing numbers. If you receive our circular you will have seen superb travel articles written by Ian Truesdale, Grant and Rachel Wetherall and by experienced travel journalist, John Trew. On our home page follow Bangorman Colin Nevin who takes us on a virtual tour in words and pictures – based on his latest visit to Israel – in autumn 2012.


Newsletter shines light on Belfast’s Zionist tradition


Thanks to Roderick McMurray of the Belfast Newsletter who shone the spotlight on support for the Jewish national movement in Belfast which goes  back over 80 years. Earlier this month, Roderick included in his column a reprint from the Newsletter of December 1927 which recorded a “fundraising bazaar in aid of helping Jews revive the land of their forefathers”. The event took place at the City YMCA at Wellington Place. According to then Lord Mayor, William Turner, “it was well known that since the dispersal of the Jewish nation to the four corners of the world, hope had never been given up of an eventual return to the Land of Israel to renew their national existence”. Rabbi Jacob Shachter of the Belfast Jewish community declared at the opening of the bazaar: “After 2,000 years of forced silence, Israel had claimed its rights in the world”.


Belfastman experiences missile fire on Tel Aviv

Queen’s University pro Vice Chancellor Tony Gallagher found himself in Tel Aviv during a missile attack. Tony was in Israel to discuss Northern Ireland’s experience of shared education with Jewish and Arab educators. In the Belfast Telegraph he writes of his experiences:

Read more: http://www.belfasttelegraph.co.uk/opinion/news-analysis/what-israel-wants-to-earn-from-our-peace-16239934.html#ixzz2CwOxyAHv


 Northern Ireland Women’s under 17s take on Israel at Coleraine

A foretaste of next year’s World Cup qualifyer when Israel take on Northern Ireland at Windsor Park? At the Coleraine Showgrounds in September Northern Ireland’s U17 women’s team brushed past Israel 4-1 to qualify for the next stage of the UEFA competition. Israel’s consolation goal was scored by Saja Ibrahim. The Israelis were soundly defeated by England at Solitude in Belfast and by Italy in Castledawson.

You can watch highlights of the Northern Ireland v. Israel match here – Michael O’Neill might want to take note!



MDA in Belfast

Magen David Adom (the Red Star of David – equivalent to the Red Cross) is Israel’s  ambulance service. Regional UK Director, Richard Simon, was in Belfast in November to address the Council of Christians and Jews on the MDA’s work. Total casualties treated by MDA in connection with Hamas attacks on Israeli civilians over the past week reached 364, following the bomb attack on a Tel Aviv bus, explains Richard.

MDA staff at work at Tel Aviv bus bomb


And the word shall go forth from Jerusalem…

Jerusalem-based communications expert, David Olesker, shown here in action, addressing a NIFI meeting in Belfast in November. David took a lively question and answer session on all aspects of presenting Israel’s case. The meeting was chaired by NIFI co-chair Terry McCorran.

Coming Home

A visitor to Belfast is Jerusalem-based Michael Freund. Michael heads Shavei Yisrael which is bringing back to Israel a community of Jews known as the Bnei Menashe who live in northern India. Michael’s visit to Belfast was supported by the International Christian Embassy of Jerusalem, Irish branch.

“This is one of those moments where you really feel the hand of God at work in history”, said Michael. “Despite the long exile and wanderings of the Bnei Menashe, they never lost sight of who they are or where they came from, or where they one day dreamt of returning.

“Another thing we cannot overlook is that Jews and Christians are joining together to make this happen, just as the Hebrew prophets foretold”, Freund continued. “This is a miracle as well. We deeply appreciate the assistance of the International Christian Embassy Jerusalem and our other Christian friends”.


EU eases import of vital Israeli medicines

The EU Parliament today voted overwhelmingly to reject playing politics with people’s health, jobs and national health budgets. It decided to relax regulations regarding the import of cutting edge Israeli medicines. Speaking in the debate, Diane Dodds MEP said she was representing the “many constituents in Northern Ireland who contacted me on this matter”, to support the rights of EU citizens to have effective and low cost medicines. Jim Nicholson and Diane Dodds supported the measure.


Anti-Semitism denounced at Stormont

On 23 October, the All Party Parliamentary Group Against Antisemitism (APPG) held a reception at Stormont. Hosted by David McIlveen MLA, the event provided an opportunity to learn about the work of the APPG. The secretary of the group at Westminster is Lady Hermon MP and members include MPs Ian Paisley Jnr, Nigel Dodds and Mark Durkan.

John Mann MP spoke about the key lessons learned from the All-Party Inquiry into Antisemitism, including the importance of the cross-party approach and the requirement for parliamentarians to challenge troubling incidents within their own parties. He suggested there may be lessons to learn from the Irish experience. Mark Gardner from the Community Security Trust (CST), who also spoke, outlined some of the current trends in antisemitism.

The reception was attended by amongst others, Jonathan Bell MLA, junior minister in the Office of the First Minister and representatives of the Belfast Jewish community.


Seeing is Believing: Arise in Israel

Kerrie from Northern Ireland  joined young Christians from nine different countries who spent time in Israel, reaching out to those in need in Israeli society. The group, called Arise, combined prayer and pilgrimage with assisting hands-on social work amongst Israel’s poor, including volunteering at an absorption centre for Ethiopian Jewish immigrants, painting rooms and hallways, and joining with children in creating a beautiful mosaic of Jerusalem. The group met Holocust survivors at the Home in Haifa which is sponsored by the International Christian Embassy Jerusalem. According to Kerrie, her experience in Israel has deepened her Christian faith – “We were there to bless, but we were blessed” was the group’s verdict of their time in Israel.


Ian Paisley Junior brings cricket to Israel

North Antrim MP, Ian Paisley Junior, has proven he is a hard hitter, he has been selected to take part in a unique Westminster delegation, to combine Middle East fact-finding with sporting diplomacy.

Together with meeting Jewish and Arab political leaders,  an all-party Westminster cricket team will play a Palestinian team in the village of Houra and also take in some net practice with young Bedouin players as part of the Cricket 4 Peace initiative.

The tourists will also play a game against the Israeli champions, Young Ashdod, made up of Jewish immigrants from India.

The initiative is backed by the Peres Centre for Peace as well as the Israeli Cricket Association. The Westminster team includes players from across the political spectrum.



Night to Honour Israel in Coleraine

Music, songs and praise all featured in a memorable night to honour Israel, organised by the Irish branch of the International Christian Embassy of Jerusalem, and hosted by the Cross Community Victory Church in Coleraine. Principal speaker was Juha Ketola, International Director of the Jerusalem-based ICEJ. Juha challenged the audience to come to a fuller appreciation of the Biblical and historical significance of the re-birth of the State of Israel and the regathering of the Jewish people, after 20 centuries of exile and persecution. Do you know that Israel is mentioned over 2,000 times in the Bible! The audience were encouraged to pray for the Peace of Jerusalem and stand with Israel as a blessing to the world.


Happy New Year

Steven Jaffe and Robin Benson, both Northern Irish born,  contributed to a special edition of the Middle East Report,  to mark the festival of Rosh Hashana – the Jewish new year, on Revelation TV. London-based Steven, who co chairs NIFI and Robin, communications director for Christian Friends of Israel based in Eastbourne, and presenter Simon Barrett surveyed the year ahead for Israel and the Jewish community in the UK.


Steinberg family strengthen links with Israel

The late Lord Steinberg of Belfast was a generous benefactor to charities in the UK and also Israel. When asked about his charity giving in Israel he said: “I do not see my investment as charity but as justice, giving justice to the people of Israel”. Three projects in Israel now bear the name of the late Lord Steinberg, founding president of Northern Ireland Friends of Israel. A sefer torah – scroll of the law – was completed by family members at a yeshiva – or rabbinical academy – at Nahariya in the north of Israel. The sefer torah was carried through the town, amidst lively music and dancing by the yeshiva students. At Merom Hagalil, a girls school has been named after the Belfast-born peer, having been extensively modified. Over 400 girls attend the Torani school which now boasts facilities for arts, sports and computer science. Thirdly, the family have dedicated to Lord Steinberg’s memory a dormitory at a school in Nahal Al, which was originally established to assist children from the Former Soviet Union. The dormitory accomodates 54 children. All three projects benefit the geographic periphery of Israel.


Munich remembered – in Omagh

In a particularly poignant setting, the Israeli athletes murdered at the Munich Olympics 20 years ago were remembered at an inter-denominational service marking the 14th anniversary of the Omagh car bombing, Northern Ireland’s worst single act of terrorism. A reading on the Munich massacre was delivered by Belfast Jewish community president, Ronnie Appleton, at the service, attended by more than 200 people. “I thought it was such an impressive gesture by the organisers to remember the tragedy of the Israeli athletes,” Ronnie said. “It was a very dignified and moving occasion. The two atrocities are examples of man’s inhumanity to man.” The event, held at the memorial garden a short distance from the bomb site, was organised by the Omagh Support and Self Help Group.


Gordon is going to Israel

Gordon on right, celebrating Yom Haatzmaut in Belfast. Next year in Israel!

Nessiyah tovah  – wishing a good journey to NIFI supporter, Gordon McKnight. Gordon is off to Israel to teach English in the Ramle-Lod region of central Israel for the coming academic year. Ramle-Lod is a city of Israeli Arabs and Jews mostly from the Former Soviet Union and Ethiopia. Gordon, from Bangor, is already a gifted linguist with a degree in applied linguistics and no doubt his Ivrit – modern Hebrew – will come on by leaps and bounds. Gordon has promised to keep in touch with NIFI and we look forward to receiving regular updates of how he is getting on living and working in Israel.


Cooking in Hebrew

New immigrants to Israel and people learning Ivrit (Modern Hebrew) around the world have a chance to “cook in Hebrew”, thanks to Bangor chef, Colin Nevin. The Jerusalem Post ivrit edition, “An easy-Hebrew monthly for the whole family,” carries Colin’s story of how he came to live and work in Israel for 10 years as a chef, and readers can see a photograph of him at Carrickfergus castle. Colin , who writes and broadcasts from Northern Ireland on subjects including Israel, anti-Semitism, and matters pertaining to his Christian faith, says triumphantly: “This is my first newspaper article in Ivrit!” Chazak u baruch Colin (“Strength and Blessing”!) We are very sure there will be more to come. Our photo shows Colin just after he spoke at our NIFI summer event last year on “A Christian in the Jewish state”.


Hapoel at the Milk Cup

Hapoel Haifa took home the Milk Cup Globe at this year’s junior section of the famous international football tournament hosted in North Antrim. Israel’s sole representatives in the competition beat a County Antrim team on penalties at the play off at the Ballymena Showgrounds. Earlier the Israelis scored impressive victories over CSKA Moscow and Dundalk but went down to defeats at the hands of County Tyrone and Queen of the South. The photo here shows the Hapoel boys on arrival at the tournament (University of Ulster).


Heart to heart

“The Hemodynamics and Respiratory effects of Cuirass Ventilation in Health Volunteers”.  On our home page we highlight some cutting-edge medical research combining Medical consultants  from Belfast,  Jerusalem and Italy. Belfast consultant, William McBride, who has lectured in Israel  – in Hebrew! – notes a fruitful relationship with his colleague from Hadassah hospital in Jerusalem, Prof. David Linton. Their work has benefited patients of all possible religious and ethnic backgrounds in both countries and globally.  Yasher Koyach (literally, may your strength be straightened) – or, more power to their elbow!


Remembering Munich

Northern Ireland MPs from every party sitting at Westminster joined ranks to call for a proper commemoration of the massacre of Israeli athletes, coaches and referees which took place at the Munich Olympics forty years ago. Sadly the International Olympics Committee has rejected  calls for such a commemoration to form part of the London Games, although a number of events will be held elsewhere in London. Amongst the MPs supporting the call were Naomi Long (Alliance), Nigel Dodds, Jeffrey Donaldson, Jim Shannon and David Simpson (all DUP), Mark Durkan, Margaret Ritchie and Alasdair McDonnell (all SDLP) and independent MP, Lady Hermon


Never mind the weather: Fundraising and social success for Israel

Over 50 people – including guests from Dublin, Glasgow and Manchester – braved atrocious weather to attend Belfast Wizo’s annual fundraising lunch at the Belfast Jewish community centre. The guest speaker was Glasgow-based Geraldine Shenker who spoke publicly for the first time about her mother’s experiences as a Holocaust survivor. The event was a social success and over £500 was raised for WIZO projects in Israel. WIZO is an international women’s movement for advancing welfare projects in Israel which serve all communities.


Israeli hi tech will benefit UK economy.

Belfast-born executive, Toby Coppel, was a keynote speaker at a recent Innovation conference in London, which seeks to build connections between the Israeli and UK economies. Toby was a leading executive at Yahoo! and is now a partner in a feeder fund for new high tech enterprises. He is a member  of both the Israel-Britain and PalestineBritain Business Councils and sees economic cooperation, investment, trade and jobs as a vital contribution towards achieving a better and peaceful environment for both Israelis and Palestinians. Toby’s thoughts were published in the Jewish Chronicle and can be read on the home page of our website..


Israel celebrated at Stormont

Host: David McIlveen MLA speaks at ICEJ Stormont celebration

A packed Great Hall at Stormont celebrated Israel’s 64th anniversary at an event organised by the International Christian Embassy of Jerusalem, Irish branch, and hosted by David McIlveen MLA. Guest of honour was Alon Roth-Snir, deputy ambassador of Israel at the Israeli embassy in London. The audience enjoyed music and dance from the Shalom Dance team. The deputy ambassador paid tribute to Brian Silvester, director of ICEJ in Ireland, for his tireless work for Israel, leading prayer rallies, pilgrim tours, putting on national conferences and for the recent huge demonstration of support for Israel at the Ulster Hall. Musicians and performers at Stormont included Chloe Gonzalez, Simon Anderson and Carl Matthews who performed Israeli and other songs. David Elms of ICEJ UK branch was amongst the speakers.

Celebrating Israel at 64 in music and song


Faith, Politics and Israel

North Antrim MP, Ian Paisley Junior, spoke about his friendship and admiration for Israel at a recent talk to the Belfast branch of the Council of Christians and Jews at the Jewish community centre. Over 60 people attended the event and received an insight into Ian’s work as an elected representative at Westminster. He pledged his support for Israel as the only fellow democracy in the Middle East. On being asked about his views regarding attempts to boycott Israel in Northern Ireland, Mr Paisley said he would strenuously oppose anti-Israel bias. He said this all too often “panders to the lowest of all instincts. We should never allow prejudice against the Jewish state to become an acceptable face of ugly and vicious anti-Semitic hatred”. He condemned the  recently announced Co-Op boycott of certain Israeli companies for being one-sided and discriminatory in its approach.  Ian also voiced his support for an official commemoration for the Israeli athletes murdered 40 years ago in Munich, at this summer’s Olympic Games. Ian Paisley Jun has previously spoken at a NIFI event in Ballymena and his father spoke at the launch of NIFI back in March 2009. CCJ’s Sandra Baillie paid tribute to Her Majesty the Queen on the occasion of the Diamond Jubilee. “The Queen has been patron of CCJ since 1952 which indicates her commitment to improving inter-faith relations,” she said.


Flags and Emblems

The star that didn’t burn – the Israeli flag set alight at City Hall, Belfast

NIFI supporter and community activist, Fiona Presho, presented on the Star of David at a recent training session on Building Relationships and communities, hosted by TIDES, in Derry/ Londonderry. Fiona told delegates from around Northern Ireland about the meaning and history of the emblem – both as the “yellow star” of the Shoah and the blue star on the flag of Israel. Fiona spoke of her personal reaction on appreciating how the star was exploited by the Nazis as a sign of separation to mark people out for persecution. Fiona’s talk gave rise to lively discussion and you can learn more from her article on the home page.


Holocaust hero Janusz Korczak – Polish Jewish hero remembered in Belfast

The depth of connection between Poland, the Jews and the land of Israel was featured in this year’s celebration of Polish Cultural week in Belfast in May. The programme included a commemoration of the life and works of Polish Jewish children’s author, Janusz Korczak (real name Hersh Goldszmit). Taking place at the Ulster Museum, the event paid tribute to the author who established an orphanage in the crampt and overcrowded Warsaw ghetto, which provided shelter to over 200 children. Although offered the opportunity of a Swiss passport and a chance to escape, Korczak boarded the train with his children to Treblinka extermination camp. Korczak is hailed as a hero in Israel which he visited regularly in the 1930s. Below are some of his thoughts regarding his visits to the land of Israel.

If there is a land in which the child is forthrightly allowed his dreams and anxieties his longings and perplexities — perhaps it is the Land of Israel. —Janusz Korczak, from a letter to Yosef Arnon, 8/10/32

In Israel we must see … the attempt to revive the land, the language, the human being, his destiny and his faith. When I was borne aloft for the first time in an airplane, I felt something more than astonishment, more than curiosity, pride or joy… The predominant thought was this: Of all my ancestors not one, I am the first to be given this privilege, to fulfill the desire expressed in the prayer that is repeated every year: “Next year in Jerusalem!” We have come to the borders of exile, returned after two thousand years of wandering and persecutions. I was privileged to come here. —Janusz Korczak, “Notes and reflections,” 1937

Despite everything I believe in the future: of humanity, of the Jews, of the Land of Israel… It is not myself I am trying to save, but my thoughts… I wish that tomorrow I could be sitting in my narrow little room in Jerusalem, in front of a Bible, some textbooks, a Hebrew dictionary, paper, pencil… so that I could say: A new leaf — final chapter. —Janusz Korczak, from a letter to Moshe Zertal, 1937


The Holocaust, Antisemitism and Israel

Isobel (r.) meets Hannah Pinker (seated), a friend of Anne Frank

“An honour and a life changing experience” is how NIFI supporter, Isobel Kuzma, described her attendance at a recent Christian Leadership seminar at Yad Vashem, Israel’s National Institute for Holocaust studies in Jerusalem. Isobel joined 26 delegates from all over the world and from different branches of the Christian faith, to attend lectures concerning the Shoah, meet survivors, attend the national Holocaust memorial day ceremony and tour Jerusalem and the land of Israel. “It was an educational experience second to none” says Isobel. Discover more about Isobel’s experiences in Jerusalem by reading her report on the home page. Robin Benson, originally from Northern Ireland, was also on the course while NI’s Christian Friends of Israel representative, Ivor McClinton, graduated from the course last year.


Welcome visitor

A welcome visitor to Northern Ireland was John Levy,  director of the London-based Friends of Israel Educational Foundation and an experienced educator and speaker. John met  senior academics at the universities and young people at  venues from Fermanagh through to Belfast. “Its been some years since I was in Northern Ireland,” John says, “and there have    been many changes. The interest in the Middle East I  encountered is phenomenal”.  John was particularly impressed  by the number of important research links there are between  Northern Ireland and Israel and says: “The academics I met are  extremely keen to develop these.” John was also guest speaker  at the Israeli independence day party in Belfast, co sponsored  by NIFI and the Belfast Jewish  community.


Stephen in Sderot

NIFI supporter Stephen Haire recently visited Sderot, the Israeli town within a mile of the border with Gaza. A town hit by several thousand rocket and mortar attacks, Stephen volunteered with Hope for Sderot, a Christian charity which brings food and comfort to the poorest of its residents. Stephen writes of his visit on the NIFI website – see the homepage, and asks what development charities, Christian Aid and Trocaire, are doing on the ground in response to a man-made and entirely preventable humanitarian disaster.


Celebrating Israel’s birthday in Belfast – a sea of blue and white

For the second year running, Israel’s independence day was celebrated in style in Belfast – with dancing, Israeli cuisine, and a shouk (market)  selling arts and crafts in aid of Magen David Adom (Israel’s equivalent to the Red Cross). The evening began with a sombre commemoration to Israel’s war dead, led by Rabbi Menachem Brackman, to mark Yom Hazikaron (Israel’s memorial day to fallen soldiers, which is held on the eve of Independence day). Special guest was John Levy of the London based Israel Educational trust, who is visiting various community groups across the province. A big thank you to the organisers, Paula Tabakin and Sanda Baillie and all who helped them. NIFI and the Belfast Jewish community were proud to help sponsor the event. L’shana Haba b’Yerushalayim  – next year, we should all celebrate in Jerusalem!


Pray for the Peace of Jerusalem

illustration by NIFI supporter and accomplished artist, Martin Doran


Forgotten Refugees

In 1948, upwards of a million Jews lived in Arab lands – today the number living from Morocco through to Iraq is much fewer than 10,000. NIFI held an event to commemorate the history of the Forgotten Refugees of the Middle East. Over 170 people attended the Mossley Mill in Newtownabbey (provided courtesy of Newtownabbey Borough council) to watch a film and hear a presentation by Lyn Julius of Harif, the Association of Jews from Arab lands. Deputy Mayor of Newtownabbey, Victor Robinson, welcomed NIFI to the mill. The hard-hitting film recorded ethnic cleansing of Jews from across the Middle East and asked the telling question, why do these refugees remain the forgotten refugees of the region. (Photos courtesy of Harif and Newtownabbey Borough Council).

Crowd gathers for NIFI event in Newtownabbey
From left: Steven Jaffe (NIFI co chair), Gerald Steinberg (President), Deputy Mayor Ald Victor Robinson and deputy mayoress, guest speaker Lyn Julius of Harif


Largest demo ever!


Over 750 attend tribute event for Israel at the Ulster Hall on 12 March, organised by International Christian Embassy of Jerusalem, probably the largest demonstration in support of Israel ever held in NI. Just awesome. Speeches by Jeffrey Donaldson MP and David Parsons of ICEJ Jerusalem office. Entertainment by Serguei Popov, acclaimed violinist from Finland, and Shalom dance team. Steven Jaffe was privileged to represent NIFI at this event. A huge well done to Brian  Silvester of ICEJ  and his dedicated team. An ICEJ event in Coleraine the following day brings to near 1,000 the numbers attending the demos for Israel over the two days! (Photos: David Morrow)



From Wicklow to the Kotel – an Irish boy’s bar mitzvah in Jerusalem

An RTE podcast follows a Jewish boy from Wicklow on his journey to Jerusalem to celebrate his Bar Mitzvah


Faces of Israel – in Belfast

A Russian immigrant. The son of Holocaust survivors. Strictly Orthodox,  Muslim and secular. An Israeli Arab and a Jewish immigrant from Ethiopia. Political left and right. The diverse faces of Israel came to Belfast earlier this week when a group of seven Israelis arrived in the city to meet political and community representatives. A visit to Stormont, hosted by Sammy Douglas MLA, was followed by a tour of interface areas and meetings with community leaders, conducted by Rev Gary Mason, superintendent of East Belfast Mission. In the evening the group met over 60 community activists at an event at EBM, which featured presentations, frank discussion on subjects such as inclusivity and diversity, and traditional Irish music.

(Photo: John Nicholson).


No Mean City – Chaim Herzog honoured at City Hall.

What have Alex Higgins,  Van Morrison and Mary McAleese got in common with Israel’s sixth president, Chaim Herzog? They were all “made in Belfast”. Chaim Herzog’s memory is honoured at Belfast city hall along with 67 famous Belfast citizens, including former Lord Mayor and industrialist, Sir Otto Jaffe (1846-1929), president of the Belfast Jewish community. Their portraits form part of the No Mean City exhibition, honouring Belfast men and women – ranging from Mary Peters to Frank Carson,  who have made an exceptional contribution to society. You can view the exhibition at Bobbin Coffee shop at City Hall.


Minister in Israel

Northern Ireland government minister Jonathan Bell MLA visited Israel recently as part of a UK delegation and met with Israel’s trade minister, Shalom Simhon MK. Hi tech was high on both men’s agenda with Israel boasting more companies on the NASDAQ stock exchange than any country in the world outside North America and China. Jonathan, who recently met Israel’s deputy ambassador, Alon Roth-Snir, while the latter was in Belfast as the guest of NIFI, is very keen to encourage trade and cultural relations between the two countries.


NIFI at Westminster

NIFI meets the DUP: from l. to r. Lord Morrow, Nigel Dodds MP, Jim Shannon MP, Colin Nevin, Steven Jaffe, William McCrae MP, David Simpson MP and Lord Browne (Photo: Aryeh Jaffe)

For the third year running, Northern Ireland Friends of Israel was actively involved in the lobby of Westminster organised by the Zionist Federation and Christian Friends of Israel. A record number attended the lobby this year, from all parts of the UK, requiring two separate committee rooms to accomodate all those taking part. Northern Ireland was represented by Colin Nevin from Bangor, Sheridan Watson from Portadown and London-based NIFI co chair, Steven Jaffe. As in previous years, NIFI delegates met with MPs from all parties who take their seats at Westminster, including the following members of the DUP team: Nigel Dodds, David Simpson, Jim Shannon, William McCrea, Lord Browne and Lord Morrow; Naomi Long of Alliance; Lady Hermon (Indep) and Alasdair MacDonnell of SDLP. Nigel Dodds and Jim Shannon were amongst those MPs who spoke to the lobbyists, expressing their strong support for Israel in the face of aggression and threats from Iran.


Sarah Herzog – a Jewish woman in North Belfast

Belfast’s Women’s Resource and Development Agency has received funding for training women tour guides and are holding tours themselves on 8-10 March to mark International Women’s Day in Belfast . Following a request from WRDA, NIFI’s co chair, Steven Jaffe, penned a portrait of the remarkable Sarah Herzog, a resident of Cliftonpark Avenue in North Belfast. Sarah is remembered perhaps as a rabbi’s wife and mother of a future Israeli president (Belfast-born Chaim Herzog), but was a strong personality in her own right. Sarah became a leading champion of medical provision in Jerusalem – the Sarah Herzog memorial hospital is the largest psychiatric and geriatric hospital in the Middle East – and the founding president of Emunah – a  Jewish women’s organisation which today boasts over 180,000 members in almost 30 different countries. You can read how Sarah’s story of public service began in North Belfast by clicking here:  https://nifriendsofisrael.wordpress.com/2012/01/22/sarah-herzog-a-jewish-woman-in-north-belfast/


Yair Werdyger is Lord of the Dance

Israeli Irish-dancer, Yair Werdyger, received the coveted diploma from An Coimisiún le Rincí Gaelacha (The Irish Dancing
Commission) , which names him as a recognized Adjudicator of Irish Dance competitions.
Yair is the first ever  Israeli to be awarded this title.  With this award, Yair continues to blaze a trail for Irish dance in Israel, which he started by
becoming the first ever accredited teacher of Irish Dance in Israel and subsequently establishing his own academy of Irish Dance.  Most recently, Yair was accepted to the international cast of Lord of the Dance.

Yair’s hit new show Magic of Ireland can be viewed via this link

Yair’s success is evidence of the
successful flourishing of Irish culture in Israel.


Nava visits Northern Ireland

An Israeli Kibbutznik and experienced teacher of Modern Hebrew, Nava Eshel, is visiting Northern Ireland in February – if you are interested in attending an intensive course at Kibbutz Mashabei Sadeh, in the Negev desert, or finding out about life on a Kibbutz, please let us know and we will forward your message to local contact, Stephen Haire. NIFI supporter, Stephen, who visited Israel over the holiday period, has attended the centre in the Negev and warmly recommends it


All lit up

Belfast Jewish community Chanukah lighting at the Jaffe fountain, Victoria Square. Amongst those attending was NIFI co chair Terry McCorran with wife Julie. The Jaffe fountain commemorates the founder of the Belfast Jewish community, Daniel Joseph Jaffe. Chanukah celebrates the survival of the Jewish people at the time of Syrian Greek conquest in Jerusalem and Judea over two thousand years ago.


Testimony for Israel

Well-known NIFI supporter Colin Nevin spoke of his love for the land and people of Israel during an interview broadcast on Christmas day on Revelation TV. Bangor-based chef Colin explained to presenter Rachelle Fisher how his passion for Israel developed during his 10 years living in the land and is rooted deeply in his Christian faith. Since returning from Israel Colin determined to be a friend of the country by speaking out against anti-Israel bias  in the media and in the church. Colin praised the Northern Ireland Friends of Israel for responding to flag burning and flag waving by focusing on dialogue and engagement . “It was the icing on the cake” is how Colin described the invitation to speak at NIFI’s  summer reception at Belfast synagogue to mark the 20th anniversary of his arrival in the land.

Colin (holding book) with from left, councillors Guy Spence, William Humphrey MLA and Thomas Hogg

Photo J Cohen


Paula speaks to CCJ

Paula,r., with CCJ’s Shoshana Appleton

Life as an olah-chadashah, a new immigrant in Israel, formed part of Paula Tabakin’s recent address to the Belfast branch of the Council of Christians and Jews. Paula is South African born. She lived in Israel where she learnt Hebrew, did national service and qualified in community drama at Tel Aviv university before coming to Belfast. Paula discussed her evolving Jewish identity both living in Israel and in the diaspora. Paula’s passion for Reform Judaism, feminism and community-based drama  were explored in the question and answer session which followed Paula’s address.


Exhibition at Castlereagh

Last year, NIFI’s photographic exhibition on the Millisle Refugee farm attracted much interest and stirred many local memories. The exhibition, hosted by the North Down museum, tells the story of Jewish  pioneers from Germany, Austria and Czechoslovakia who escaped Nazi persecution. Aged in their late teens, they came to Northern Ireland to establish an Ulster Kibbutz, as preparation for farming in the Land of Israel. This year, NIFI is delighted to announce that Castlereagh Borough council will be staging the  exhibition on council premises. Dates and venue to follow shortly…

For more events relating to Holocaust Memorial Day 2012 in Northern Ireland please visit the events tab to this website.


Israel My Love

Why do people feel moved to stand by Israel? Christian supporter, Michelle Singleton from Belfast, felt strongly enough to put together this video on Youtube.   Never forget, says Michelle, and Pray for the peace of Jerusalem.



You’ve Haggada be joking

It will be a night of miracle and wonders. But sadly not at Windsor Park. News that the Israeli football team is playing its World Cup qualifyer in Belfast on the second night of Passover has gone down none too well amongst Jewish supporters of Israel resident in the UK and Ireland. Its a religious festival night for diaspora Jews – when they have their second seder meal and recite from the Haggada, telling the story of the exodus of the Children of Israel from Egypt. But not for Israelis (who only celebrate the Passover on the previous evening). Why? A hangover from a lunar based calendar that decrees Jews outside the land of Israel keep two festival days while those who are from the land keep one. NIFI co chair Steven Jaffe declared himself as sick as a Tuki (Hebrew for parrot) at missing out on the big game. He told the London Jewish News: “The Irish FA have a principle of not playing on Sundays due to religious reasons and we hope they’ll understand and be accommodating towards people of other religions in this instance”.  So if the Palestine lobby are calling for the match to be called off, Friends of Israel would be delighted with a one day postponement.


NIFI in the big tent

Over 600 people attended the Big Tent for Israel event in Manchester on Sunday 27 November. Not a literal tent, but a coming together of diverse supporters of Israel from across the political and religious divide. Amongst the speakers was NIFI co chair Steven Jaffe who was asked to talk about bringing together Jews, Christians and secular people – people of all faiths and none, to promote Israel’s case.


From Jerusalem to Northern Ireland: welcome to Christian visitors


Two prominent visitors to Northern Ireland in the past month have addressed well in excess of 600 people at events across the province.

They were David Dolan, a Jerusalem-based Christian journalist, who came as guest of Christian Friends of Israel, and Susanna Kokkonen, another Jerusalem resident, who is director of Christian Friends of Yad Vashem (the national Holocaust memorial centre). Susanna was guest of the Irish branch of the International Christian Embassy of Jerusalem. You can read about both visits on our homepage.


At Westminster

Its good to be able to report two pertinent contributions in parliament. Lord Alderdice, former leader of the Alliance Party of Northern Ireland and now convener of Liberal Democrat peers in the House of Lords, had this to say about water issues in the region:

Lord Alderdice:when we have gone to these countries and Governments, and have been able to bring many of them together in conferences in Turkey, Switzerland and elsewhere, it has been clear that there are opportunities to co-operate. Noble Lords will not be surprised to know that we very quickly ran into the problem that most countries in the region simply would not sit down with the Israeli Government. We tried various ways to facilitate that but we came to the conclusion that for the present that is not possible, which is a dreadful pity. The Israeli Government and the Israeli scientific community have been remarkable in the developments of technology that they have been able to make in their region. …

Gregory Campbell MP asked the following question:

Mr Gregory Campbell: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs if he will make representations to Palestine’s Prime Minister Salam Fayyad on the need to begin discussions with the Israeli Government to agree a solution in the Middle East.
Alistair Burt: We continue to believe that the best way to achieve a lasting solution to the Middle East Peace Process is through negotiations. Our focus is on doing all we can to achieve this—putting pressure on both sides. The British Consul General to Jerusalem most recently discussed the issue with Palestinian Prime Minister Fayyad on 6 October.

Shattered Dreams 

is a stunning exhibition of photographs on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict which is currently on display at the Red Barn Gallery as part of the Belfast Festival. The work of award-winning Israeli photographer, Judah Passow, the exhibition graphically brings home the often tragic human consequences of the conflict between Israelis and Palestinians. As Judah says, his exhibition does not make comfortable viewing for people with either flag-waving friends of Israel or pro Palestinian agendas. Judah, who is now based in the UK, spoke at the opening night and feedback indicates a great deal of empathy from visitors arising from their own experiences of living through political and religious division and conflict. The exhibition  runs until 5 November and admission is free.


Anglican Friends return from study trip to Israel

Two Ulster-born NIFI supporters, who now live in England, Simon McIlwaine and Steve Nimmons, have just returned from a study tour of Israel.

The trip was organised by the Zionist Federation. Both are leading members of Anglican Friends of Israel (AFI), Simon as a founding member and Steve as AFI’s Director of Community Affairs. Steve played a key role in bringing the Anne Frank + You exhibition to the Province in 2010, which was visited by thousands of schoolchildren and adults in Strabane, Newtownabbey and Belfast.

You can read a report of their visit on our home page. Both say they have returned from Israel inspired by their visit – not only energised to put Israel’s case to their friends and contacts, but  also renewed in their Christian philantropic impulse – the visitors were particularly impressed by the cutting edge medical and social work of Bar-Ilan university and by the social and religious diversity in Israel.


The changing dynamics in the Middle East and lessons from Northern Ireland

From left: Cllr Robin Newton MLA, Very Rev Canon Ivan McElhinney and CCJ secretary Dr Sandra Baillie

On Wednesday 14th September the Jewish community centre in Belfast was filled with over seventy people attending a meeting of the local branch of the Council of Christians and Jews. Rt. Hon Jeffery Donaldson M.P sent his apologies as he was unable to attend due to parliamentary business. At very short notice, Councillor Robin Newton M.L.A agreed to step in and gave an excellent talk on the challenging topic of “Israel – The changing dynamics in theMiddle East and lessons from Northern Ireland.” Mr. Newton outlined his own faith and personal commitment to Israel. He reminded the audience of the difficult road to peace inNorthern Ireland by outlining a chronology of some major events in the ‘Troubles’. He also urged the audience to lobby their public representatives to persuade the UK government to oppose unilateral steps at  the United Nations to recognise a Palestinian State in advance of a comprehensive peace settlement.

Dr Sandra Baillie is the Secretary  of Council of Christians and Jews, NI branch.  She writes: Our next event will be held at the Belfast synagogue on Wednesday 2 November at 7.45pm. The speaker is Cantor Jaclyn Chernett. If you would be interested in joining CCJ or news of forthcoming events contact:-sbaillie03@qub.ac.uk


Spiritual Diaspora

NIFI supporter, Paula Tabakin, has explored the Jewish concept of spiritual diaspora in the 2011 publication of the Irish Peace Centres.

Paula (centre) at a recent event in London

How has Jewish identity been sustained outside the land of Israel? In a reflective article which outlines some fundamental features of the Jewish faith, Paula points to the part of the Jewish prayer service where Jews pray  for the government and people of the land of Israel and also for the head of state where they reside. “This reflects, on the one hand, the sense of yearning for our place and people and on the other hand a sense of allegiance and belonging to wherever we find ourselves”. Paula was born in South Africa to a Jewish father and Irish mother. She has lived in Israel as well as in the diaspora and is therefore well placed to discuss the similarities and contrasts of diaspora and Israeli Jews.


A Christian in the Jewish state

(Photo and text J O’Fee)

Bangorman Colin Nevin gave a well-attended talk under the auspices of the Northern Ireland Friends of Israel, at the annual NIFI summer reception.

Colin, though a Christian, is noted for his numerous articles and letters published in local (and even national) newspapers and magazines on Jewish and Israeli themes. He displayed copies of a huge number of these on an exhibition board. Indeed they overflowed on to the floor of an ante-room. Furthermore Colin displayed on tables his numerous memorabilia of Israel and of Jewish life.

Colin’s talk explained how his interest had developed. He had trained as a chef and went to Great Yamouth in East Anglia to work. He hoped to take a holiday in Israel but instead saw an advertisment looking for a chef to work in Israel. His fancy was tickled so he applied for this. He didn’t get this but was told of another job in Israel. He was interviewed and told that he had got the job, only later finding out that he was the sole applicant!

This job was in a Church of England hostel in Jaffa and it was during the Gulf War. He worked there for several years before moving to work in the Hilton Hotel in Jerusalem, one of Israel’s premier hotels. There he once prepared the food for a private dinner given by the Prime Minister of Israel for Tony Blair as Prime Minister of the UK

After 10 years Colin moved back to Northern Ireland where he has become a passionate advocate for the Jewish people and the State of Israel. Colin continues to work as a chef locally.

After the talk Colin answered many questions from the 200-strong audience. Jim Shannon MP (Strangford) proposed the vote of thanks.


Come and learn Hebrew – at Queen’s

The course is : Spoken and Written Hebrew for Beginners .

Starting : Thursday 29 September 19:00-21:00 . For ten weeks. Cost :£ 58.00 (concession rate £36.00)

Information and registration either through QUB open learning prospectus or:
By Phone : 028-90973323
By Web site: http://www.qub.ac.uk/edu/ol

Please note : this is a beginners course and will cover Hebrew letters , basic vocabulary and is focused on modern Hebrew. Also good as a refresher for people with some knowledge. The lessons will be interactive and promise to be fun as well as informative :). The teacher, Paula Tabakin, hopes to see you all there!


Belfast to Brazil – Israel face Northern Ireland on the road to Rio

Northern Ireland Friends of Israel would like to congratulate FIFA for drawing Israel and Northern Ireland in the same World Cup qualifying group. We would like to extend our commiserations to the supporters of Portugal, Russia, Azerbaijan and Luxembourg who clearly won’t be qualifying for Brazil 2014!

Cardiff City defender, Dekel Keinan, has told the London Jewish News that a big test for Israel will be the two matches against Northern Ireland. Keinan, 26, who is starring for Israel in their current 2012 European Championships qualifying campaign, said: “I know Northern Ireland can also surprise the bigger teams. They have players who play in the Premier League and the Championship, so we know it will be a tough game in Belfast…..On the face of it, Portugal and Russia are of course favourites, but we will fight to try and finish in the top two places”. 


Jews and Arabs reconcile – in Belfast

A heart warming photograph of Arab Jewish friendship, but look carefully, its St George’s market in Belfast and “the Arab” is a dressed up stall keeper. He is getting on well enough with a more than bemused Israeli tourist!

Peace talks at St George’s market

From Slugger O’Toole

St.Georges market has been open on Sundays for a year. Yesterday some of the traders dressed up to celebrate. Sean who sells antiques donned a Keffiyeh (shemagh mhadab) and as luck would have it a visiting Israeli tourist came along and they got chatting.



As seen on TV!

Robin Benson

NIFI co chair, Steven Jaffe, and communications director of Christian Friends of Israel, Robin Benson, are both Northern Irish born, living in England. They were interviewed on Revelation tv to discuss parallels between Northern Ireland and Israel and whether the Good Friday agreement  held lessons for achieving peace in the Middle East. In the hour long programme, The Middle East Report, hosted by Simon Barrett, the guests contrasted the approach of dialogue and inclusivity adopted by the parties in Northern Ireland with the push to boycott Israel and silence its spokespeople internationally. Concrete examples were given of Christians, Jews and others working closely at a grassroots level to show solidarity with Israel in the face of international demonisation. The Middle East Report is an on-going series broadcast weekly on Fridays at 7pm and repeated on Sundays at 3.30pm.


Israel exports potatoes – to Ireland

Israeli spuds?

An Irish Independent reader this week asks boycotters to investigate how rain-starved Israel can successfully export potatoes to Donegal — “where desertification and drought have never been concerns”. He shouldn’t be worried. In 2007 the Ireland Palestine solidarity campaign launched its ban the Israeli potato campaign. Meanwhile the Israelis have struck back and developed battery power from boiled potatoes:  Haaretz: “An electric battery based on boiled potatoes could provide a cheap source of electricity in the developing world, according to the technology transfer company of the Hebrew University of Jerusalem“. Perhaps not  surprising as the Israelis are already a dab hand at micro chips.


Israel at Westminster

Thank you to Northern Ireland’s MPs for raising Israel matters at Westminster during the last session. Ian Paisley Junior, Gregory Campbell, Nigel Dodds and Jim Shannon all signed an early day motion put by Robert Halfon, regretting West Dunbartonshire council’s resolution to boycott Israeli goods. The wording of the boycott resolution would have included Israeli books – a highly offensive echo of Nazi book burning from the 1930s. The furore caused by the public becoming aware of this aspect of the boycott resolution, caused the local authority to backtrack by saying the boycott would not apply to printed material. Nothing could better illustrate that boycotts are ill thought out, negative, sterile and couterproductive. Also during the last session, Nigel Dodds, raised an important question with the foreign minister, William Hague, asking him what progress had been made in getting Palestinian leaders, including in Hamas, to recognise Israel.  Mr Hague had little progress to report and reminded the House that Hamas remained a proscribed organisation until it commits to a negotiated solution and a peaceful approach.


Israel celebrations at Stormont

Enthusiasm, celebration and joy. Israel’s 63rd anniversary was celebrated in style at Stormont earlier this month by the Irish branch of the International Christian Embassy of Jerusalem .  As usual for this annual event, the Great Hall was filled to capacity. Robin Newton MLA hosted the evening and guest of honour was HE Boaz Modai, Israel’s ambassador to the Irish Republic. A  highlight of this year’s  event was a presentation to   Billy and Carol Donaldson.  Billy and Carol gave a donation to mark their 50th wedding
anniversary to help Holocaust Survivors living in the Holocaust Survivors Home in Haifa. Mazal tov – congratulations – to Billy and Carol and kol hakavod, a huge well done to Brian Silvester and his team for organising another memorable and successful celebration for Israel. (Photos: Joey Cohen)

Mazal tov and well deserved: Presentation to Billy and Carol as Brian Silvester looks on
Friends for Israel: Ambassador Modai pays tribute to the Donaldsons


 NIFI in Ballymena

Local MP: Ian Paisley Jnr

On 2 June, NIFI took the Case for Israel to the Braid, Ballymena where over 100 attended, including the newly elected Mayor, Hubert Nicholl,  and local MP, Ian Paisley Junior, and MLAs and councillors. NIFI supporter Grant Wetherall organised and chaired the event, and the guestspeaker was Michael Brodsky, director of Public Affairs at the Israeli embassy in London. Michael spoke of his personal experience as a Jew born in the Soviet Union in 1972, at a time when wishing to emigrate to Israel, or even learning Hebrew, could give rise to a lengthy prison sentence. He is one of over a million Jews from the former Soviet Union who are now  Israeli citizens. Michael thanked the many Christian groups who had supported the cause of Soviet Jewry through times when it seemed impossible that their right to emigrate would ever be granted. He presided over a very lively question and answer session about all aspects of Israel’s quest for peace. Ballymena Council chief executive, Anne Donaghy, closed the meeting by paying tribute to the many positive links between Northern Ireland, Israel and the Jewish community.


Belfast Bash – Celebrating Israel’s birthday in Belfast!

Hands Up. Dancing the “Hora”!

Photos: Alex

Belfast’s Jewish community centre became a sea of blue and white when Northern Ireland Friends of Israel, the Jewish community and the Belfast branch of the Council of Christians and Jews joined together to celebrate Yom Ha’atzmaut. Organisers, Paula Tabakin, an Israeli living in Belfast, and Sandra Baillie, were delighted that over 100 turned up to party, many dressed in national colours. Northern Ireland Assembly member for East Belfast, Sammy Douglas, spoke passionately about his support for Israel. Arts and crafts of an Irish Jewish flavour, produced by local artists Lorraine Pollock and Rosetta Jallow, were sold in a mini shuk, and proceeds for the event were donated to Israeli charities. A greeting from Israeli President Shimon Peres was read by NIFI supporter, Stephen Haire, and guests enjoyed the best of Israeli dancing, film and cuisine.

Yanky Fachler came to town

Guest of honour, Yanky Fachler, spoke at the annual WIZO lunch in Belfast on the remarkable history of the Zion Mule Corps and Jewish Legion during the First World War. As Yanky pointed out, these were the first fighting units to be allowed to take the field as a distinctly Jewish force in almost 2,000 years. The annual lunch was the work of the indefatigable WIZO committee, led by Margaret Black. The event was well supported, attended by over 60, including a large contingent from Dublin, and funds raised were donated to WIZO projects in Israel.


18th Apr 2011: Israeli Ambassador to the United Kingdom Visits Coleraine Borough Council

MAYOR of Coleraine, Councillor Norman Hillis last week welcomed the Israeli Ambassador to the United Kingdom, His Excellency Ron Prosor to Cloonavin. His Excellency visited Coleraine Borough Council on Wednesday 13th April 2011, as part of a brief tour of Northern Ireland, jointly arranged by the Israeli Embassy and the Northern Ireland Friends of Israel.

Upon arrival at Cloonavin, His Excellency enjoyed a private reception with Mayor Hillis and a group of Coleraine Borough Council’s Elected Members, before addressing invited guests in the Bann Gallery. During his speech, His Excellency outlined Israel’s ongoing quest for peace and the current situation in the Middle East.

Mayor of Coleraine, Councillors Norman Hillis extended a warm welcome to His Excellency Ron Prosor, he commented; “I was delighted that His Excellency had chosen to visit Coleraine Borough Council during his very brief visit to Northern Ireland. I greatly enjoyed meeting with him and hearing his thoughts on the situation in the Middle East.”

(CBC  News, from the website of Coleraine Borough Council)


Jerusalem centenarian

Mazal tov! Congratulations to Jerusalem resident, Marga Carlebach, who recently celebrated her hundredth birthday. Marga was the wife of  the late Rabbi Alexander Carlebach, who served the Belfast Jewish community in the 1950s and 60s. Marga partied with her two children, Belfast-educated Susan and Tirza, and was surrounded by grandchildren and great-grandchildren at the festivities. Few ex Belfast Israelis visit Jerusalem without stopping by to enjoy Marga’s company.


Reflecting on Ulster’s proud Jewish heritage

Belfast businessman Gerald Steinberg spoke to Allan Preston of the Newsletter about the  history of  the Jewish community of Northern Ireland. Gerald, NIFI’s president and vice chairman of the community, recalled the glory days of the congregation and its long connection with the land and state of  Israel. The community today numbers less than 80 people and struggles to get the minyan, or quorum of ten men, required for synagogue services. Gerald is one of the few members of the community who left Belfast actually to return to his native city. As a Northern Irish Jew, presiding over NIFI expresses both sides of his identity, he explained.


Christian Friends of Israel NI Rep sets out his stall

Ivor in Israel

Ivor McClinton, the NI representative of Christian Friends of Israel, has explained what brought him to his position. Ivor writes:

Attending the Feast of Tabernacles in Jerusalem in September/October 2007, our first visit to the Land, Eretz Yisrael, was a life changing experience for my wife and me and we went back again in 2008. We started to have opportunities to share about Israel in church and to have speakers including an Arab pastor from Nazareth. We showed a DVD that the Northern Ireland Friends of Israel made available called “The Case for Israel”. In April 2010 I was privileged to attend the first ever Christian leadership seminar at the International School for Holocaust Studies at Yad Vashem in Jerusalem. Twenty-three Christian leaders from eight countries attended. The week long seminar addressed a number of issues related to the Holocaust and included talks by renowned academic, Prof. Robert Wistrich.

I had arrived in Jerusalem prior to the start of the seminar and took the opportunity to visit CFI HQ in Jerusalem where I met several staff including Ray Sanders, Executive/International Director. It was great to see the work that goes on there. CFI UK has an excellent set of resources and a weekly email report that is a digest of what is going on in regard to Israel. Do take a look at our website and please contact me if you would like to be on the mailing list.

I am privileged to be the representative in Northern Ireland of CFI and look forward to meeting  supporters from Northern Ireland in the future.


Ariel wows Belfast audiences.






Photo: J Cohen

Israeli pianist, child prodigy, Ariel Lanyi, wowed Belfast audiences with his versatility and skill. Aged 13, Ariel, visiting Belfast as part of the Jewish community’s Jews Schmooze cultural programme, performed jazz and classical music to entranced audiences of schoolchildren and adults. Ariel starred alongside Slovak guitarist Andreas Varady (also aged 13),  in local jazz drummer’s Dave Lyttle’s composition Chronicles, which was performed at Belfast synagogue. Ariel also went solo at the Ulster Museum for a recital of classical music. Ariel Lanyi was born in Jerusalem and has been playing piano since the age of five.  He studies at the Jerusalem Academy of Music and Dance and has performed throughout Israel and in many countries including USA, France & Italy.  Ariel has also appeared on television documentaries both in Israel and British television, including ITV’s ‘Superhuman Genius’.

Speaking after the performance of Chronicles, Belfast Jewish community’s  Gerald Steinberg (who is also president of NIFI)  thanked the artists and audience for their support and  said “That has just blew my mind away and I expect everyone in this synagogue tonight, has never experienced anything quite like it.” Ariel and Andreas were brought to Belfast by Jews Schmooze, the cultural arm of the Belfast Jewish community. The programme “Sounds Familiar”  is funded by Peace III, administered by Belfast City Council.


Deputy Israeli Ambassador to Ireland visits Church leaders in Belfast

Deputy Israeli Ambassador to Ireland, Ms Ruth Zack, visited Church of Ireland House in Belfast recently, where she met with the Bishop of Connor’s Commissary, Archdeacon Stephen McBride.

Archdeacon Stephen McBride and Canon John Mann present a Connor plate to Deputy Israeli Ambassador to Ireland, Ms Ruth Zack
Archdeacon Stephen McBride and Canon John Mann present a Connor plate to Deputy Israeli Ambassador to Ireland, Ms Ruth Zack

The Dublin-based Deputy ambassador was in Belfast to meet with a number of Church leaders, including Roman Catholic Bishop Noel Trainor and the Presbyterian Moderator the Rev Dr Norman Hamilton. On the previous evening, she addressed leading members of the Northern Ireland Friends of Israel and spoke alongside visiting scholar of international law, Solon Solomon, who was in Northern Ireland as guest of the Law department of Queen’s University Belfast.


Israel’s Case in Coleraine

Gregory Campbell MP speaking at NIFI event in Coleraine











Photo P. Chapman




Is there a case for the world’s only Jewish state? The Case for Israel was put in Coleraine on 23 February when NIFI staged a film screening and discussion. Amongst the speakers were local MP Gregory Campbell and Steven Jaffe, co chair of NI Friends of Israel. Over 50 attended from Coleraine and neighbouring towns. The discussion was facilitated by Dr James Wilson, who ably organised the event, and the deputy mayor Sam Cole, gave the vote of thanks. Steven told the Coleraine Times, “I am delighted to have been invited to Coleraine to put Israel’s case. Israel’s case is not that its perfect. I acknowledge that it has lots of faults, but Israel is unique to the region for maintaining a Parliamentary democracy, freedom of the press and an independent judiciary. Our aim is to put Israel’s case fairly to the people of Northern Ireland and to increase understanding between the people of both countries”.


NIFI at Westminster

Northern Ireland Friends of Israel took part in this year’s lobby of Westminster, organised by Christian Friends of Israel and the Zionist Federation, which brings together Christians and Jews from throughout the UK. Colin Nevin from Bangor came to London specially to attend the lobby and London-based NIFI co chair Steven Jaffe also took part. NIFI met with 8 MPs on the day, from all political parties sitting in the house, including Lady Sylvia Hermon (Independent Unionist), Naomi Long (Alliance), Alasdair McDonnell (SDLP) and the following members of the DUP, Nigel Dodds, Jim Shannon, Gregory Campbell, Ian Paisley Junior and Sammy Wilson. It was the largest lobby ever, Nigel Dodds and Jim Shannon spoke at the Committee Room meeting. According to Lady Sylvia Hermon it was one of the largest gatherings in a Committee Room she has ever seen.


Israeli Ambassador to Irish Republic visits Northern Ireland.



The newly appointed Israeli Ambassador to the Republic of Ireland, HE Boaz Modai, attended last month’s Holocaust Memorial event at Craigavon.

Here the Ambassador is welcomed by the Mayor of Craigavon, Stephen Moutray MLA.

Stephen said on the evening of the event: “Tonight I felt humbled to take part in the Holocaust Memorial Day Commemoration in Craigavon Civic Centre. It was a great honour to have Boaz Modai, Israel’s Ambassador to the Republic of Ireland, as special guest along with Junior Minister Robin Newton”.

For the victims of Genocide: “We will remember them.”

Anti-Semitism condemned by North Belfast MP









Nigel Dodds MP has spoken out against anti-Semitism in a recent Parliamentary debate. The North Belfast MP condemned anti-Jewish racism whether it came  from the right or the left. In particular, he singled out pro Hamas activities in Northern Ireland despite that organisation’s call for the destruction of Israel and, by extension, the death of Jews everywhere.  People who associate with Hamas and remain silent about the anti-Semitic nature of its ideology and programme, risked associating themselves with Jew-hatred. Nigel pointed to the dangers of school twinnings between local schools and Gazan schools through the Hamas ministry of education. He also condemned trade unionists from Northern Ireland who criticise Israel in the most extreme terms without a single reference to Hamas.

Nigel followed his speech by signing the Book of Commemoration at Westminster for  Holocaust Memorial Day


easy Jet – No Way!

easy Jet’s  in flight magazine includes a “no way!” comment for each of their destinations: for Belfast, the December issue says:

Ireland’s Mary McAleese is not the only state president to have been born in Belfast. Chaim Herzog, sixth president of Israel, from 1983 to 1993, was born at Clifton Park Avenue and was the son of a Belfast rabbi.

All true of course, thanks to easy Jet for publicising the proud fact to hundreds of thousands of travellers.


From Belfast to Rimon Village, Israel – support for Special Needs






Rimon Village will be a centre for adults with learning Disability.  It is
to be in the town of Kfar Saba,in Israel. 60 people are on the waiting list
to live there or in satellite accomodation in the environs.The Mayor has
gifted a plot  and architectural plans are drawn up.

Meaningful Work will be in the cafe,making crafts in a workshop and visiting the elderly and sick in hospital.

There will be  the 1st
bookless Synagogue in the world and a Rabbi on site.

If you wish to join the Irish Friends of Rimon please contact me via
e-mail.Our aim is to do one  fundraising event annually while having
a bit of a laugh. All donations are welcome too!

Sarah Angel:sarah@lentilsoup.f9



An Important part of our story – Harry Towb and the Jews of Belfast




The late actor Harry Towb, chose to begin and end his TV documentary on the Jews of Belfast – in Israel. “Its an important part of our story, its an important part of almost any Jewish story”, Harry said. You can watch this documentary, first aired in the 1980s, on youtube by clicking the link below. Included at part 4 is an interview with Chaim Herzog, the Belfast-born President of Israel.



The Word in the Wilderness – with Desi and Heather Maxwell 





The Hebrew word for wilderness is MiDBaR. The rabbis point to the last three consonants, D-B-R which make the Hebrew word for speech or word. So in Hebraic thought the ‘MiDBaR’ was the place God took Israel to hear the ‘DaBaR’  – the word in the wilderness.

In October past Ballymena-born Desi and Heather Maxwell led an ‘Xplorations‘ study tour into the Judean wilderness for five days. What an experience!  Our guide was a trained naturalist, called Michael Even-Esh, who lives in the Golan, but has spent a lot of time in the wilderness. The silence was striking and the scenery quite astounding. What a learning experience to read Psalm 121 about the Lord being the shade and shelter to his people under the wilderness sun. Time seemed to stand still as we walked the ancient road that Ruth and Naomi would have travelled. It was particularly moving to then walk part of the route that the scapegoat was led on Yom Kippur. The Biblical account of the Day of Atonement came to life as we stood under the sun looking back to Jerusalem and ahead to the path snaking through the Judean wilderness.  There was not a tourist shop in sight!  However, on ocassions like this text, land and people all intermeshed and there seemed to be no sense of past, present or future.
Xplorations is a teaching ministry committed to renewing minds by restoring a deep sense of the Jewish roots of Christianity. (www.xplorations.org)
Lord Trimble and Israel
The former First Minister of Northern Ireland and Nobel Prize winner is one of Israel’s leading advocates. Lord Trimble co-founded an International Friends of Israel initiative earlier this year with other political figures including the former Prime Minister of Spain, Jose Maria Aznar and former US ambassador to the United Nations, John Bolton. This global effort aims to “counter the growing efforts to delegitimise the State of Israel’s right to live in peace within safe and defensible borders”. Lord Trimble authored an influential pamphlet which highlighted the differences between the Northern Ireland and Middle East peace processes.
Grand Reunion in Belfast aids NIFI
They came from England, North America, Australasia and of course Israel. Former members of the Belfast Jewish community gathered in their native city for a nostalgic reunion, which took in Sabbath services at Belfast synagogue, an evening’s entertainment at the community centre, and solemn memorial prayers for loved ones at the Jewish cemetery. Over 100 people attended the Reunion.
One attendee now living in the USA described it as “a bitter sweet occasion: seeing the synagogue full, noisy, filled with laughter, and yet knowing the community currently has so few members”.  An emotional high point was the singing of “Hatikva” at the end of the weekend’s events, by the attendees. Lindsay, who lives in Israel, having made aliyah from Belfast in the late 70s, said: “in singing the Hatikva, Israel and Belfast became one and my life in Israel, with all that entails, was suddenly profoundly contextualised within my Belfast roots”. Hatikva means The Hope and is Israel’s national anthem. NIFI’s co chair, Terry McCorran, addressed the gathering and was received with warm applause.
STOP PRESS:  The Jewish Belfast Reunion committee has made an extremely generous donation to NIFI. The committee says: “We were delighted to welcome NIFI Co chair, Terry McCorran, to our weekend, to learn more about NIFI and in particular to make a donation. There was an overall feeling of warmth and pride experienced by all who took part in our Reunion, to be Northern Irish Jews with a strong connection with Israel. Terry’s address was most welcome and reached many hearts”. NIFI is extremely proud of this gesture of support from the Reunion committee.
Paula speaks at School
Israeli living in Belfast: Paula Tabakin was invited to speak to Sixth Formers at Lagan College Belfast, on her personal experiences of growing up in Israel. Paula spoke of her day to day life as a schoolgirl living in Israel. At 14 she first had to put on a Gas mask at the time of the Gulf War when Saddam was firing scuds into Israel. She also spoke of her experiences as a conscript in the Israeli army. The previous week a Palestinian speaker had also addressed the school. The events were organised by the school chaplaincy department to raise pupils’ awareness of day to day life amidst the Middle East conflict. There was a lively question and answer session.
Belfast-based historian uncovers “Operation Embarass”
So much for the state of Israel being the creature of “British Imperialism.”
Queen’s University historian, Prof Keith Jeffrey, has uncovered the lengths the British Government went to stop Holocaust survivors reaching pre-state Israel. Between 1946 and a month before the establishment of Israel in May 1948, the British waged “Operation Embarass” to intimidate Holocaust survivors and ensure they “actually suffer unpleasant consequences” if they dared seek to emigrate .  For instance, British Government agents attacked five ships at Italian ports, destroying one, to strike fear in potential immigrants. The attacks were claimed by a group called “Defenders of Arab Palestine” – in fact they were carried out by  British spies.  These and other stories of espionage can be found in Professor Jeffery’s fascinating new book, MI6. The History of the Secret Intelligence Service.

Diane Dodds MEP applauds Israeli democracy
Northern Ireland MEP Diane Dodds has asked the European Parliament to acknowledge Israeli democracy in action. She made the following remarks in a recent debate:

Mr President, I am deeply disturbed by the content and tone of some of the contributions to this debate today. As direct talks between Israel and the Palestinian Authority make a faltering start, I would urge this House to be cautious in its remarks, at a time of great sensitivity in the Middle East.
From the experience of my own constituency of Northern Ireland, I can testify to the fragility of such talks. Outside interference is often counter-productive and destabilising to progress. This is made all the more acute by the indiscriminate attack last week which killed four Israeli citizens. I am sure Members will join in condemning that attack, and indeed in commending Israel for its commitment to the talks.
Mrs Dodds pointed to recent events at the Israeli parliament, which “exemplify Israeli democracy in action and responsiveness to reasonable and measured criticism”.
NIFI takes Israel’s case to the North West

NIFI Co chair Steven Jaffe visited Derry/ Londonderry and met with a cross section of political representatives and church leaders.
London-based Steven, who also represents the Jewish community of Northern Ireland on the Board of Deputies, met with the Mayor, Colum Eastwood, two MPs (Mark Durkan and Gregory Campbell), the speaker of the Northern Ireland Assembly William Hay, and Derry City Councillors. By Steven’s reckoning, it was the first time a representative of a Jewish organisation had visited the city to meet civic leaders since 1965.
The visit was organised by Londonderry man and NIFI supporter Marc McCorkell. Steven met with Israel supporters from the North West and was guest of Dean William Morton at St Columb’s Cathedral for a discussion with local clergymen.
Steven says: “This was an important first step in putting Israel’s case reasonably and fairly in Derry/ Londonderry. The absence of dialogue and discussion between the Jewish community in the UK and Ireland and the city over several decades has not benefitted either. The result is a discourse on Israel and the Middle East which is too often skewered and one sided.  I was delighted to be able to put the case for inclusivity and dialogue and to argue that Israel’s case should also be hear
NIFI meets with clergymen at St Columb’s Cathedral
With SDLP Councillors Brenda Stevenson and Gerard Driver at the Guildhall










It was inevitable – but did it have to be the Israelis!
The Belfast Telegraph this week reported the news many football fans have dreaded – the arrival  to our shores of the Vuvuzela, the South African musical instrument which made the 2010 World Cup an audible challenge this summer.

It happened at the Milk Cup – and the culprits came from Israel.
The boys from Hapoel Haifa celebrated their first win in the competition with a sight not seen since Joshua brought down the walls of Jericho. Following their 2-0 victory over Plymouth Argyle, at Anderson Park in Coleraine, they reached for their Vuvuzela’s and blew their own trumpets.

Also taking part in the competion are a team from the southern city of Be’er Sheva. For the background to the Israeli teams taking part this year click the following link to the Ballymoney Times:

NIFI gifts aid cross community soccer

Money raised from NIFI’s football shirt auction has been donated to cross community football schemes in Northern Ireland and Israel.

Here NIFI President, Gerald Steinberg, the one in the suit, shows off his footballing skills as he presents a cheque for £500 to Integrated Schools’ soccer. In Israel a similar amount was donated to World Cup soccer camps bringing together Jewish and Arab children which are run by Soccer for Peace.

NIFI co chair Terry McCorran said: “We are absolutely delighted to be supporting excellent initiatives which bring together young people through a shared love of soccer”. Our auction was supported by leading Premiership clubs in England, Scotland, Northern Ireland and Israel and by the Northern Ireland and Israel international teams. Ace Keith Gillespie and Man U star Ryan Giggs also donated signed shirts and a four figure sum was raised.
For more info please click here:







Israel celebrated at Stormont

Jeffrey Donaldson MP with outgoing Israeli ambassador in Dublin Zion Evrony and wife Rita

Jeffrey Donaldson MP hosted a celebration at Stormont  for Israel’s 62nd anniversary organised by the International Christian Embassy for Jerusalem. Mr Donaldson told  the 200-strong gathering that he had visited Sderot on the border with  Gaza. He had seen for himself how the Israeli people of Sderot were forced to live in shelters because of missile fire from Gaza and  had been shown the remains of thousands of rockets fired at Israeli civilians. Mr Donaldson said: “It is the right of Israel to defend herself from rocket attacks and terrorist assaults”. In his address Zion Evrony, the Israel Ambassador to Ireland, who leaves his post in August, spoke about the situation in the Middle East. Guests were entertained with Israeli music, the Shalom dance team and by violinist Serguei Popov. (Photo Joe Cohen). .


Learning about the Shoah

Ivor and fellow Christians in Israel to learn about the Shoah

Bangor resident and representative of Christian Friends of Israel in Northern Ireland, Ivor McClinton recently attended an intensive educational programme at Yad Vashem, Israel’s Holocaust memorial and museum in Jerusalem. The German Branch of the International Christian Embassy Jerusalem made a generous donation to sponsor the first-ever Christian Leadership Seminar, which was held on 10-17 April 2010. This sponsorship enabled 23 Christian leaders to take part in a week of specialized educational seminars and attend the national Yom HaShoah (Day of the Shoah, the day when Israel remembers the Shoah/holocaust) commemoration.
The senior pastors and ministry leaders who attended were from eight countries, including Finland, Germany, Canada and the USA. There were two people from Ireland — Ivor from the north and the editor of a Catholic newspaper from Dublin. The course involved lectures, dialogue with respected scholars, personal testimonies from Holocaust survivors and learning about anti-Semitism and contemporary Israel. Ivor also learnt about Christian responses to the Holocaust and to anti-Semitism.
Ivor is determined to pass on the knowledge and ideas he gleaned from the course to fellow Christians in Northern Ireland and to wider audiences as well.


Israel in the media

Belfast Telegraph letter page readers will not be surprised to learn that leading NIFI supporter Colin Nevin is mad about…..Israel. In a full page feature in the County Down Spectator, Colin explains why he would be ‘mad not to be mad’ about Israel! The Bangor chef explains his long connection and love for the land having lived and worked there amongst Jews and Arabs for nearly a decade.
Another NIFI stalwart, Stephen Cargin, was on the airwaves recently. The senior policeman took part in an hour long interview on the Revelation Christian TV channel and spoke very bravely and movingly on the many challenges he has faced in his professional and personal life. Stephen also spoke with great enthusiasm about his work with NIFI and his support and prayers for Israel. Stephen said his experience as a frontline police commander in Northern Ireland is that dialogue was the only way forward and that he wanted to support positive engagement with all those seeking a just and permanent peace between Jews and Arabs.

A 19 year old terror victim remembered lovingly in Belfast

Marsha Gladstone (r.): visitor to Belfast

Marsha Gladstone, mother of 19 year old Yoni Jesner, was in Belfast recently to tell a mother’s story about the tragic loss of a son.
Marsha was speaking at the annual lunch of Belfast WIZO. She told an audience of over 60 people about the impact of the killing of Yoni  on her family. Yoni was a British holiday maker who was blown up boarding a bus in Israel – one of six murdered on that particular day and one of over a thousand Jews murdered during the second intifada. She also spoke of the amazing work of the Yoni Jesner foundation which supports Jewish educational initiatives.
Marsha also spoke about meeting the Palestinian mother whose young daughter secured life because of an organ transplant from her dead son.
Marsha received a standing ovation for her courage. We very much hope she will come back to Belfast to tell Yoni’s story to a wider audience.

The Dreams of Jews and Arabs: Northern Irish scholars investigate the Middle East
Two academics from the University of Ulster have published companion studies on the history of conflict in the Middle East. Robert McNamara, a lecturer in 20th century history, has written on The Dream of Arabia, about the Hashemite dynasty which governs Jordan. His colleague, emiritus professor TG Fraser’s book marks the 90th anniversary of the San Remo conference, a little remembered but vitally important milestone towards a Jewish state. Fraser’s book is entitled: Chaim Weizmann: The Zionist Dream. Weizmann became the first president of the State of Israel.  Both books have come out this month and are published by Haus Publishing, priced £12.99 each.

Charitable Giving
Big congratulations are due to Kehillat Shalom, Community of Peace, a Christian congregation based in Donaghadee, which continues to raise substantial sums for Israeli charities. In the run up to Passover the community donated almost $1,000 to two charities providing food and welfare to Israelis living below the poverty line. Community leader Jim Clint  lived in Israel for nearly a decade. The chosen charities include Yad Ezra v’Shulamit, based in Jerusalem, which distributed over 10,000 food parcels to Israel’s neediest families during the Passover festival and relies on a network of over 500 volunteers across the country to distribute the food to where it is needed most.


From Russia with love – Serguei Popov in concert in Belfast

Serguei Popov, a Georgian-born classically trained violinist, who has played at the Bolshoi and Kirov theatres in Russia, performed a Concert in Belfast on the theme of “A Long Way Home“,  in support of Ezra Aliyah – a charity which assists Jews from the Former Soviet Union who wish to emigrate to Israel.

The Concert was  packed  and Serguei  gave a truly brilliant performance.  He played, spoke of his life and ministry and then played again while the audience watched a short power point presentation, which showed him and his family  re-enacting the true story of a violinist whom the Nazis kept alive to play for their pleasure while they took his wife and children to the gas chambers.  He said the man was simply a violinist much like him and had a family much like his.  Serguei was given permission by the Jewish Authorities to make the short film in Monthausen Concentration Camp, Austria. (Photo Joe Cohen)


Anti-Semitism slammed in Belfast

Anthony Julius with MP Nigel Dodds and Lord Bew at NIFI’s lecture

Photo: Joe Cohen
Over 280 people attended NIFI’s lecture on anti-Semitism and Israel by leading academic and lawyer Anthony Julius.
Anthony spent the afternoon at Stormont as the guest of government minister Robin Newton discussing some of the concerns of the Jewish community in the UK with leading MLAs.
In his evening address, to a packed audience, Anthony set out the history of Jew hatred in the UK and said that today the Jewish community is as likely to come under attack from the extreme left as the extreme right. He pointed out that after the fall of Communism in Eastern Europe the hard left had alligned itself with militant Islam because it had lost its international sponsors,  lacked popular support, and its previous strategies for attaining Socialism were in tatters.
Anthony identified different forms of anti-Semitism and explained that England had served as a laboratory and starting base for each of them.  The meeting was chaired by Lord Bew of Queen’s University.
You can catch Anthony on Sunday Sequence, Radio Ulster on Sunday 21 March, 8.30am.

Where else to be on St Pat’s day but Tel Aviv!
Wear green, be Irish and join the party! Molly Bloom’s pub on Ha-Yarkon street near the US embassy in Tel Aviv will be painting the Hebrew city green in honour of Ireland’s patron saint. Live Irish music and quality Irish beer. The pub’s owners tells us the party starts at 4pm on 17 March – why the late start? For details www.molly-blooms.com.

One Voice in Belfast
On 8th March, the organisation OneVoice  visited Queen’s University Belfast for a presentation and Q&A session with students, staff and visitors. OneVoice’s trained Youth Leaders, Rinal Sader a Palestinian from Ramallah and Dekel Canetti an Israeli from Jerusalem, spoke about their experiences of living through the realities of the conflict on the ground and their motivation for working within their respective societies towards ending it as soon as possible.
The event followed an afternoon meeting at  Stormont, where Dekel and Rinal got the chance to discuss peace-building and conflict resolution with MLAs from across Northern Ireland’s political and religious spectrum. The MLAs expressed solidarity and support with the work that OneVoice is engaged with, and were keen to explain some of the successes- as well as the frustrations- that were experienced in Northern Ireland, on the long road that lead to the historic agreement in the province.
At Queens University, there was a similar atmosphere of support and interest, with many keen to share their own experiences. The audience, comprised mainly of students and young people.The Youth Leaders described fully the situation on the ground from a grassroots perspective, and spoke about how an overall resolution to the conflict will bring relief to the situation in Gaza and that negotiating with and engaging all parties involved in this conflict is what is going to bring a breakthrough.


Israel awareness in the North West

Last weekend (March 5-7), Mike Fryer, director of Christians for Zion, based in Wales, brought scores of people in Coleraine, Londonderry and Donegal,  into a greater understanding of Israel and the Jewish people, both Biblically and politically.

Having established that there has been a continual Jewish presence in the land of Israel for over 4000 years, Mike then presented evidence both historical and political, of the struggle that the Jewish people have had over the centuries to survive. Unveiling the attitudes and teachings through the years that have propagated anti-semitic mind sets towards the Jewish people, he challenged  all to re-evaluate the biased reports we hear regarding Israel’s situation against the facts he presented. Using film interviews with Israelis, factual reports of the plight of Israeli Jews and Arabs who want to live in peace and work together, he presented a picture we do not see on our televisions or hear on our radios.

Mike plans to be back in the very near future, to build on his teaching and to urge support for Israel to achieve peace.

Over 300 gather for Israel
The first national Conference of the International Christian Embassy Jerusalem (ICEJ) Irish Branch was held  over the weekend of 15th to 17th January 2010.
The ice and snow which had affected much of the Country during the previous weeks proved incapable of deterring over 150 residential delegates and 170 day visitors to the Conference, who came from every corner of Ireland, North and South.
In his opening remarks, the ICEJ Irish Director, Brian Silvester, noted people had travelled long distances in order to join the Conference to pray and learn about Israel.

Brian explained: “it is important that Christians from the North and South of Ireland  should come together to pray for Israel, the apple of God’s eye” – for their own sakes as well as for the people of Israel.  Brian pointed out that in Psalm 122 verse 6 we are instructed to pray for the peace of Jerusalem.  Brian told conference delegates: “For it is only  when true peace comes to Jerusalem  that the earth will experience true peace, and the Messiah will reign”.
Speakers came from Israel and overseas as well as from the Israeli Embassy in Dublin.
A session on the Holocaust was concluded by a speech from Counsellor Ruth Zakh of the Embassy who said that her “heart was really warmed by the love that she felt.” This was followed by a spontaneous apology on behalf of the delegates for the attitude and antagonism of many Irish politicians and the media towards Israel.
Brian Silvester reports: “The feedback has been great and I am delighted to say there is tremendous demand for another conference next year. We’re beginning to prepare for that already!”

School trip – from Israel to Belfast

Two leading practitioners of integrated education in Israel are visiting Belfast to swap notes with their Northern Ireland counterparts.
The principals of the Arab and Jewish integrated Max Rayne Hand in Hand school in Jerusalem are on a four day visit to meet, learn with and compare experiences with the heads of an integrated primary school in Northern Ireland.
Ala Khatib and Dalia Peretz have been brought to Belfast by Dr Claire McGlynn of the Queen’s University School of Education. She hopes the visit will lead to new insights into  how integrated education is conceived and practiced both in Israel and in Northern Ireland, which will benefit policy makers and educationalists in both countries.

British minister David Miliband visits the Jerusalem Hand in Hand school

The investigation is the product of on-going research collaberation between Queen’s and the Hebrew University of Jerusalem.






Parliament lobby

On 20 January, Colin Nevin from Bangor represented Northern Ireland at the Westminster lobby for Israel organised by Christian Friends of Israel and the Zionist Federation in London. One of over 250 lobbyists from all parts of the UK, Colin met with his local MP, Lady Sylvia Hermon, to discuss concerns including the Iranian nuclear threat. North Belfast MP Nigel Dodds met with NIFI co chair Steven Jaffe and attended the packed standing-room only meeting  at Committee Room 14, combining MPs from all parties and the lobbyists, to show his support. This is the first time Northern Ireland has been represented at this annual lobbying event for Israel and therefore it marks an important step forward in getting Israel’s case across at Westminster.

Ha-cochav shel ha-County Down

Listen to the Star of the County Down sung  in Hebrew and in English – Newtownards singer, songwriter and guitarist Ricky Warwick performed in Haifa and Kiryat Shemona earlier this year and in this clip he joins Israeli singer Izhar Ashdot in a powerful rendition of the folk song  (link is to Forza TV, Channel Glentoran – the video shows Ricky and Izhar perform live and Glentoran fans enjoying their visit to Israel, prior to the European match against Maccabi Haifa).
You can also listen here to Ehud Banai’s Hebrew translation of the County Down ballad  – with the placenames changed to Israel

Paula represents Northern Ireland at Israel gathering in Amsterdam

Paula Tabakin, an Israeli living in Northern Ireland, took part in a gathering in Amsterdam of young friends of Israel from across Europe. The conference met to discuss Israel’s “brand” as a nation and how political issues and problems are not the only stories in town. Israel has one of the fastest growing start up hi tech economies in the world, leading the way in clean tech and solar power as well as water desalination. Its universities are at the cutting edge of medical, technical and agricultural advances which are being used around the world. If you are interested in attending the next conference for young supporters, which is being held in Paris, please contact Paula via our website.

A date for your diary

Anglo-Israeli musician Daphna Sadeh is playing in Belfast on the evening of Thursday 28 January. It is the latest event promoted by the Jews Shmooze initiative, the cultural arm of the Belfast Jewish community. Over 2,000 people attended a play at Belfast synagogue promoted jointly by Jews Shmooze and the Belfast festival at Queen’s and performed and produced by Kabosh theatre company.
The January concert features Daphna Sadeh and the Voyagers sextet, performing beautiful music rooted in mizrachi or Middle Eastern Jewish style, owing a lot to Arabic music, fused with jazz.
It promises to be a great musical experience. For more about Daphna and a chance to listen to her music click the link to her website: www.daphnasadeh.com
For more information about the concert and tickets please contact the Ulster Museum.

Diane Dodds makes statement on Israel at EU Parliament – Dec 15 2009
Diane Dodds spoke out forcefully for Israel’s right to security for its citizens in a debate at the European Parliament:

NIFI making news in Israel

NIFI has been praised as a “Friend Indeed” in the magazine of ESRA, the English Speaking Residents Association of Israel. The Association aims to culturally enrich the lives of the English speaking community in Israel, by helping integration of recent immigrants into Israeli society and providing opportunities for voluntary work. Belfast-born Barbara Black, now Barbara Abraham and living in Israel, contributed a two page article for the magazine’s Diaspora section, detailing NIFI’s aims and our activities so far.  The article is illustrated by a photograph of the NIFI football team holding aloft our banner: “Shalom. Northern Ireland Friends of Israel.” ESRA’s magazine is read in over 20,000 homes in Israel.
It is pleasing indeed that our message is getting across to the people of Israel: they have friends in Northern Ireland.

Londonderry, inspired in Israel.
An English Jewish singer songwriter who has never set foot in Northern Ireland, launches his debut single this week entitled Londonderry, which he says he was inspired to write on his gap year in Israel. Gideon Conn, Manchester-based accoustic hip hop artist, was in Israel with left wing youth group Habonim, “all my mates went on a political rally and I stayed behind to write the song” he says. “I called it Londonderry because it rhymes with necessary” he explains, a novel explanation for the significance of the Maiden City’s name.

Gideon, who happens to be first cousin to NIFI co chairman Steven Jaffe, would love to perform the song on the City’s walls.
Londonderry is available for download from iTunes

Helping with enquiries

Northern Ireland Friends of Israel made presentations to a delegation of senior Israeli policemen who were in Belfast to train on cross-community policing issues.
The delegation included 9 senior officers from various police departments in Israel. They worked with officers from the Police Service of Northern Ireland to learn about recent policing reforms in Ulster.
Senior PSNI officer, Stephen Cargin, who was part of the NIFI group who met the Israeli policemen, said: “This was a great opportunity to share experiences of policing in divided societies and how to engage positively with minority groups. I very much hope this initiative will be developed even further between our two forces.”
The police visit to Belfast was organised by the Abraham fund, which seeks to improve relations between Israel’s Jewish and Arab communities, and the British Council.

Minister’s vote of confidence
NIFI Co Chair Terry McCorran has returned from a 5 day Trade Union Friends of Israel delegation to Israel. One of many highlights of the trip for Terry, who was on the delegation in a personal capacity, was meeting Government minister Isaac Herzog, the son of Belfast-born Chaim Herzog, sixth president of Israel, and the grandson of Rabbi Isaac Herzog, who held his first position in Belfast. Here Terry presents the minister with the Belfast coat of arms. The Minister was very interested in NIFI and greatly welcomed our work. He confided that he would very much like to visit Belfast one day and see the place where his father was born. To read Terry’s comments on his trip click onto the link to the Trade Union Friends of Israel website:
Terry McCorran

Equal Opportunities
Northern Ireland’s leading international development consultancy, NI-CO, has secured a 1 million Euro contract to advise a major project in Israel. The Belfast-based not for profit organisation will advise the Equal Employment Commission in Israel, founded in 2008, to combat discrimination in the Israeli workplace. NI-CO will be supported by the Equality Commission of Northern Ireland and will work in partnership with the Ministry of Industry, Trade and Labour in Israel. The project will have a particular focus on protecting the employment position of three sectors in Israeli society; women, the Arab community and strictly Orthodox Jews.


Let’s speak Hebrew – in Belfast!

Shalom and welcome to Northern Ireland to Itamar Handelman-Smith, an Israeli writer and journalist now living in Belfast. Itamar is giving private lessons in Hebrew, at all levels, from beginners to advance. Itamar can also act as a guide to the vibrant and diverse culture of Israel. He is UK correspondent of Ha’ir Magazine, which is part of the famous Ha’aretz Media group in Israel. Itamar would also be very happy to teach groups, on demand. To contact Itamar email him at itamar.handelman@gmail.com

From Belfast to Jerusalem
John Trew overlooks Jerusalam
“Affordable, exciting, edgy, sophisticated and utterly unique.”  That’s the view of Israel as a holiday destination  by award-winning travel writer John Trew. John’s account of his visit to Jerusalem is featured in November’s edition of Northern Ireland Travel News – free from most travel agents or 50p from the shops. But beware, picking up John’s article may cost you a lot more as its hard to believe many will put it down without resolving  to pay Israel a visit. John describes the unforgettable experience of being blindfolded on the way into Jerusalem so that his first view of the Holy city was from the Mount of Olives, overlooking the Temple mount. He freely acknowledges his mind used to wander during Bible classes back in Sydenham half a century ago, but John claims Jerusalem as “the single most historically fascinating city I have ever enjoyed in a lifetime’s travel.” Bearing in mind there are few places he hasn’t visited as a professional travel journalist this is praise indeed. Flights to Israel, just started with easyjet, from under £200 rtn!


Support from far and wide

NIFI has no offices, no staff costs and no expense accounts! We rely on the dedicated support of  those who attend our meetings or otherwise support our cause. For example, Eon Lewis, lives thousands of miles away in Canada. However, he grew up in North Belfast and his late parents, Kenny and Sadie, were stalwarts of the Belfast Jewish community. On hearing about NIFI, Eon was only too happy to help us and as a printer and designer he has provided us with businesscards and letterheads, all free of charge. We would like to thank Eon for his tremendous support and to thank everyone, from near and far, who give practical support to NIFI, ensuring it goes from strength to strength.

NIFI in Coleraine

Photos: Copyright Paul Chapman

Israel’s ambassador to the Irish Republic, Zion Evrony, visited Coleraine on Thursday October 8 as guest of Northern Ireland Friends of Israel. The ambassador was welcomed to Coleraine by the mayor, Sandy Gilkinson, at the borough offices. Over 160 attended the meeting which followed, at the Lodge Hotel Coleraine.
They came from Donegal, Tyrone, Londonderry/ Derry city and county, north Antrim as well as the Coleraine area. The audience included Israelis living in Northern Ireland, representatives of the Belfast Jewish community, church members from all denominations, academics, businessmen and trade unionists and members of the public.
The local MP, Gregory Campbell, voiced his support for Israel.
The ambassador spoke on Israel’s Quest for Peace. Iranian-born, HE Zion Evrony, described the nuclear threat from Teheran as a serious one for Israel, the entire region and beyond. The audience was entertained to Israeli songs by local singers and a lively question and answer session ensued.
NIFI co chair Terry McCorran said: “When we held our first events in Belfast we were bowled over by the numbers of people who came down from the North West to be with us. We decided the least we could do was hold our next meeting here. This is NIFI’s first step into the North West but with this level of committed and enthusiastic support we will be holding more events here soon.”

Mayor Coleraine

Welcome to Coleraine! The Mayor, Sandy Gilkinson, meets HE Zion Evrony and wife Rita.

This Med Coast Is-Raeli Magniv.

Travel Journalist John Trew (right) with Dr Karen Trew behind, pictured at an Israeli wine promotion (they are both teetotal!) in a Tel Aviv Restaurant with their new Israeli friends,from far left, Benjamin-Gad Ninnayi , Director of Hosting Operations, Israel Ministry of Tourism, Zvika Abramovich, tour escor/driver, and Irit Doron, regarded as Israel's best tour guide. If any NIFI members are thinking of organising any group visit to Israel, John Trew will pass on their contact information.

Travel Journalist John Trew (right) with Dr Karen Trew behind, pictured at an Israeli wine promotion (they are both teetotal!) in a Tel Aviv Restaurant with their new Israeli friends,from far left, Benjamin-Gad Ninnayi , Director of Hosting Operations, Israel Ministry of Tourism, Zvika Abramovich, tour escor/driver, and Irit Doron, regarded as one of Israel’s best tour guides.

Israel’s Mediterranean coast features prominently in this month’s Northern Ireland Travel News (Oct 2009), thanks to award-winning travel writer John Trew. John explains why Tel Aviv is his kind of city, with magnificent beaches, incredible nightlife and cultural vitality. He also visited the Bahai temple in Haifa and the Arab quarter of Acco. In fact everything John saw was “Magniv” – Israeli street slang for “stickin’ out”. John says he and his wife Karen “felt much safer in Israel (where street crime and misbehaviour is rare) than in any other country we’ve visited in years”. Next up, John will be writing about the second stage of his Israel trip, to the Holy City of Jerusalem. NI Travel News costs 50p at newsagents and is free from many travel agents.
If any NIFI supporters are organising tours to Israel John will be pleased to send you the contact details of tour guides etc
The Case for Israel in Bangor

Bangor West Presbyterian church kindly hosted a screening of the feature documentary, The Case for Israel. The film, presented by leading American lawyer Alan Dershowitz, is a vigorous defence of Israel – for its basic right to exist, to protect its citizens from terrorism, and to defend its borders from enemies who wish to destroy it.
Local organiser and NIFI supporter, Ivor McClinton, introduced the film  and Bangor-man, Colin Nevin, spoke of his experiences of living and working in Israel for over ten years. The event was attended by church members, members of neighbouring congregations and from the Kehillat Shalom fellowship in Donaghadee.
NIFI co chair, Terry McCorran, also spoke. He said “we were delighted by the turnout and by the obvious warm and wholehearted support for Israel of the people attending”.
The photographs show a presentation to Rev David Bailie, on behalf of the church, of a Tallit, a traditional Jewish prayer shawl. The shawl is to be displayed in the church as a reminder  to “pray for the Peace of Jerusalem”.
The following day the church participated in the International Day of Prayer for Jerusalem, which involved over 200,000 churches this year from 175 nations, including Northern Ireland (see http://www.daytopray.com)
Bangor is the first venue for showing the powerful Dershowitz film, setting out Israel’s case, which will be screened by NIFI at various centres across Northern Ireland.

First all Ireland Israel conference – by ICEJ
The Irish branch of the International Christian Embassy of Jerusalem is proud to announce its first ever all-Ireland conference, on 15-17 January, with keynote speakers coming from Israel and USA.
The conference reflects the growth of ICEJ in Ireland, which is a non denominational grouping for all Christians who share a love and concern for Israel, and has its international hq  in Jerusalem.
There are options for both residential and day visits to the conference. For more information please go on to the ICEJ website www.icej.ie.
Congratulations to Diane Dodds MEP
diane dodds

NIFI extends warm congratulations to Diane Dodds MEP who has been appointed to the European Parliament’s Delegation to Israel. Mrs Dodds is the first Northern Ireland representative ever to be appointed to the body. Diane says she is looking forward to working towards “developing closer links between Northern Ireland and Israel” and working closely with the various Israel-related groups in the parliament. She regards it as a moral as well as a political obligation on the part of the EU to support Israel as the most democratic country in the Middle East. NIFI wishes Diane every success in her important new position and is confident that her appointment will contribute enormously towards strengthening the many connections between  the peoples of Israel and Northern Ireland.
Yochai’s amazing new family!
Sep 29, 09

Yochai is one lucky boy – he has recently been adopted by Kehilat Shalom in Northern Ireland, whose esteemed members love Israel and the Jewish people and seek to help its most vulnerable children.
Kehilat Shalom’s generous donation will help provide Yochai with a new Kangaroo Feeding Machine so that the food he eats gets digested properly.  As he continues to grow and realize his potential, his million-dollar smile is dedicated to all his new family members!
Says the charity Aleh: May they be blessed with a sweet new year filled with goodness, prosperity, and peace!
Join Aleh’s Adopt-a-Child Program, and make a real difference in the life of a severely disabled child in Israel today!

Don’t miss out: Visit the Land of Israel!
Did you know there are more pilgrim tours per head to Israel from Northern Ireland than from any other part of the UK? Here experienced teacher and tour leader Desi Maxwell shares his thoughts on his many visits to Israel.

Desi is a teacher of the Bible who believes its possible for Christians of all denominations to reach a deeper understanding of the biblical text by appreciating its Jewish background. This regard for the Jewish origins of the Christian faith leads Desi to visit Israel as often as he can,  where he leads tour groups from Northern Ireland and elsewhere.  Desi’s teaching on “Jesus in his world” has proven inspirational and challenging to Christian groups in NI, and his DVD on the subject was shot in Israel.
Desi writes: “Ever since reading about Yeshua (Jesus), the Torah-observant Jew opening eyes, instructing minds and igniting  fires in the hearts of his disciples by teaching through  TaNaK, (Torah, Neviim and Ketuvim),  I have been excited and want to share the richness of the Hebrew Scripture and mind.  Moreover, the four written gospels are complemented by the so-called  ‘fifth gospel’, namely the land of Israel itself.  To walk in the wilderness, sit in the Galilean hills, climb the southern steps of the Temple Mount, stand in David’s city or gather in the synagogue at Gamla, are all experiences that give us a ‘feel’ for the context of the Scriptures.

For more information on Desi’s teaching go to www.xplorations.co.uk
Political Correctness kills!
According to Belfast-born writer Martin Sieff, political correctness kills in the Middle East.
Martin Sieff
Martin, who grew up in North Belfast and attended Belfast Royal Academy was formerly a foreign correspondent for the Washington Post and is a pulitzer prize nominee. His latest book, The Politically Incorrect Guide to the Middle East, is bound to have Palestine Solidarity campaigners and Friends of Israel activists reaching for more than a glass of water.
Martin believes the west will regret the day when the current crop of dictators who govern the Arab states are toppled. He believes attempts to impose democracy on the likes of Syria, Libya and Saudi Arabia are doomed to failure and will result in even worse despotic rule. He dates Islamic radicalism to no earlier than the Iranian revolution in 1979 and heaps scorn on the idea that suicide bombers are motivated by a sense of hopelesness.
Its Martin’s belief that the best basis for any form of stability in the region is a strong Saudi Arabia – we wonder what readers of this website will make of that assessment.
Martin has no time for the boycott Israel brigade and points out that Israel remains by far the most democratic nation in the Middle East. He attributes much of the opposition Israel faces to anti-Americanism rather than love of the Palestinian people. He points to the total whitewashing of Hamas’s rule in Gaza as an example of how so called Palestinian supporters care little for democracy and equality in Palestine.
politically incorrect
There is certainly plenty to discuss from Martin’s thought provoking and cogently written book – available from Amazon!
Israeli razmatazz in Belfast!
Flag team
The Israeli American football teams were in Belfast in September for an 11 nation international tournament. Playing the non contact version of the game, known as Flag football, the Israeli women’s team came third in the competition and qualify for the world championships in Canada in 2010. The men’s team was not so successful but both teams thoroughly enjoyed the Belfast trip and were incredibly appreciative to those who cheered them on. NIFI made presentations to the teams and co chair Terry McCorran said: “I have to say I was overwhelmed by the warmth of the teams and coaching staff. The point was to make them feel welcome, in fact they made us feel part of them. It was a pleasure to join them”. The Israelis obtained permission not to play their games on Shabbat, the Jewish sabbath, and therefore faced a crowded fixture list on the other  days of the competition.
Outside team picture, flag footballDennis Coppel

Magnificent donation
The Donaghadee-based Christian community Kehilat Shalom (Community of Peace) has made another magnificent donation to an Israeli charity. They have donated $500 to Aleh, which is Israel’s largest network of residential facilities for children with severe physical and cognitive disabilities. This gift will contribute towards the cost of specialist feeding equipment for a severely disabled boy called Yochai. The congregation’s Hebrew instructor, Jim Clint, whose wife Nauszika incidentally gave birth to a boy called Jonathan Israel this weekend, said it was a privilege for his community to support this charitable cause in Israel. Kol ha Kavod, a very well done to the community, and a mazal tov, warmest congratulations, to the Clint family!
Hebrew Language Study
During July (2009) James McKeown, formerly of the Belfast Bible college,  joined an international group of students to learn Hebrew at the Summer Ulpan (language school) in Haifa University. James reports:
“A more diverse group of students would be difficult to find: the participants came from 33 countries and their ages ranged from 18-62! However, we all had the same desire – to read, speak and understand the Hebrew language. Classes were held each morning 8.30 – 1.00 and, except for the beginners, tuition was entirely in Hebrew.
“Learning a foreign language is always challenging but the professional teaching and guidance offered in Haifa University provided an excellent, supportive environment that made it a pleasure and a privilege to learn.”
Not everyone can go to Haifa to learn Hebrew and so James is organising local Hebrew workshops in Northern Ireland with a special focus on Biblical Hebrew. They will be held on two evenings each month beginning in September.  For details please visit James McKeown’s website: www.hebrewworkshops.com

Dr James McKeown:

Dr James McKeown: “Learning Hebrew needn’t be difficult”

Its good to be able to thank NIFI supporters for their help. Valerie Corbett is one of Northern Ireland’s leading calligraphers, who accepts commissions from around the world, and has provided her services to NIFI free of charge. Valerie’s website http://bridal-calligraphy-by-valerie.freeservers.com/photo.html includes a simple and moving tribute to Tali Hatuel, a young Israeli mother, who together with her four daughters and unborn son, were deliberately murdered in a terrorist attack. This incident is sadly forgotten by most of us, but not by Valerie. Valerie says: “I think of the Hatuels often, beautiful Tali and her little girls. I want people to see their faces”.
Derry-born artist Martin Doran explains his “homecoming” to Israel and its influence on his work.
Martin Doran
BA Fine Art – Goldsmiths College, London UK
Martin Doran
I was born in Derry City, N.Ireland. I have lived in different parts of the world but always returned to Ireland for rest and recovery with dear family and close friends.
I now live in Kent, but return often to paint the rugged ancient landscapes of the north-west, scenes that were imprinted in my visual memory from childhood. Works begun en plein air are often subject to the sudden changes of Atlantic weather fronts… rising  winds and rain can lend their own drama to the painting process!
I first visited Israel in 1984.
Although this was a time of much turbulence in the land, upon my arrival in Israel I experienced the feeling that I had “come home”.
During that visit I stayed with a cross-section of the population from Eilat to the Lebanese border, and that deep sense of home-coming only grew in intensity as the trip progressed.
Several years later I was fortunate to return and stay in Jerusalem for an extended period; working with the terminally ill at the St. Louis – French Hospital, and then to initiate and coordinate Project Ezra with Bridges for Peace, assisting incoming Russian immigrants fleeing persecution and at last able to leave the Former Soviet Union.
My Israeli “home-comings” are precious to me and still season my life and work. Jerusalem remains close to my heart and I pray for her peace daily.
My work is based upon notes & sketches made on site, experience and memory, prayers, hopes and aspirations….
…“next year in Jerusalem”
Oseh Shalom bimromav, hu ya’aseh Shalom, aleynu v’al kol Yisrael, v’imru Amen.
May He Who makes peace in high places make peace for us all and for all Israel, and let us say Amen.
Farewell to great actor Harry Towb

“Israel’s an important part of our story. An important part of practically every Jewish story”. Larne-born actor Harry Towb died last month in London. He was one of a number of talented artists produced by Northern Ireland’s small Jewish community. In a tribute, BBC Northern Ireland broadcast a documentary he presented in the 1980s, called Odd Men In, profiling the Jewish community here. Harry went to Israel for the programme where he interviewed Belfast Jews who had made aliyah (emigrated to Israel). He also got to interview the then president of Israel, Chaim Herzog. Harry tracked down veterans of the refugee farm in Millisle Co Down who came to NI in the 1930s to escape Nazi persecution. Some of them made their homes after the war in Kibbutz Lavi in the Galilee – where they ploughed the land “the Irish way” they had been taught by agricultural instructors at Millisle.

The late actor Harry Towb

The late actor Harry Towb

The Sala-Manca Group At The International Symposium Of Electronic Art, Belfast

The Sala Manca Group, a group of independent Jerusalem-based artists, presented a keynote speech at the International Symposium of Electronic Art held in Belfast in August. Addressing an audience of electronic art industry professionals, the Sala Manca Group considered the question of “What’s Hidden behind the Pastoral Responses, Strategies and Actions in a Conflicted Land(scape)”. The event took place at the Waterfront Hall, Belfast.

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Kehilat Shalom (Community of Peace) in Donaghadee has very generously donated $500 to Israeli charity Yad Ezra, which provides hot meals to hundreds of Israeli children and others living below the poverty line.
The Christian community, formed in 2007, and which attracts about 40 people to its regular services in Donaghadee, has raised over £4,000 for various Israeli causes, including assisting two Russian teenagers to make aliyah (emigrate to Israel).
Teacher of Hebrew for the community is NIFI supporter Jim Clint, who lived in Israel for most of the 1990s, first as a kibbutz worker in the Jordan valley, and then on the staff of  Beit Immanuel hostel in Tel Aviv. Jim’s Hungarian wife Nauszika is of Jewish descent on her father’s side.
Jim says: “I believe Yad Ezra is a very worthwhile cause as it gets food on the tables of those a lot less well off than us”. The community was delighted to receive the following reply from the charity:

Dear Kehilat Shalom,
Please accept our sincere gratitude for your generous contribution to Yad Ezra VeShulamit. The knowledge that there are kindhearted individuals like you supporting our work provides us with the strength and confidence to continue with our important task of easing the suffering of impoverished Israelis.

You are invited to visit us whenever you are in Israel, especially on Thursdays when we package and distribute food baskets for needy.
In the merit of this great mitzvah, may you and your loved ones be blessed with all the blessings in the Torah.
Gratefully yours,
Ariel Lurie, Chairman
The International Christian Embassy of Jerusalem, Irish branch, held their “Meet the People Tour” to Israel in March, where they visited many of the projects the organisation has supported during the year. Tour leader, Brian Silvester, took the tour to see the Christian desk at the Yad Vashem Holocaust memorial centre in Jerusalem, a project for Holocaust survivors in the Golan and a day service for disabled people in the Jezreel valley. They also paid a solidarity visit to an Arab Christian pastor in the Bethlehem area who has been firebombed and shot at for his support for an accommodation between the Arab community and the Jewish claim to the land of Israel.
logo milk cup
The annual Milk Cup football tournament saw three Israeli youth teams participate this year as well as a Palestinian team making its debut. Results were mixed with the much fancied Israel under 19 squad failing to make a major impression in the elite competition. Junior teams from Maccabi Haifa and Tel Aviv also took part, with NIFI supporters from the north west coming out to cheer on the youngsters, as well as the Football Academy of Jerusalem, made up of boys from the Palestinian Territories.
Milk Cup
Irish league champions Glentoran FC fly to Israel on a plane filled mostly with Jews emigrating to Israel with the help of Nefesh b’Nefesh, an organisation dedicated to assisting Jews who want to start new lives in their historic homeland, and the Jewish Agency. Glentoran played Maccabi Haifa in a UEFA Champions League qualifier.  Over 800 Jewish people from the UK will move to Israel this year with the help of Nefesh b’Nefesh.

Glentoran fly with Nefesh b' Nefesh

Glentoran fly with Nefesh b’ Nefesh