04 July 2008 World ORT joins Salute to Israel parade in London Volunteers, lay leaders and staff from World ORT and British ORT joined the United Kingdom’s first Salute to Israel parade and rally in London last week. Carrying banners and wearing World ORT T-shirts, the group joined some 4,000 representatives of other Jewish communal organisations in a rally from central Londons famous Ritz Hotel to Trafalgar Square. At Trafalgar Square an estimated 40,000 people gathered for an afternoon of music, dancing and camaraderie to celebrate what the British Governments Education Minister, Ed Balls, described as one of the most momentous events of the 20th Century, the formation of the State of Israel. Although modelled on the annual Salute to Israel parade in New York, the British event is seen as controversial by some because of the strength of anti-Israel groups in Europe. But British ORT Vice-President Mark Mishon said the importance of the event went beyond the public show of support for the Jewish State. It put unity into community! Mr Mishon said. It was an extremely impressive, well organised event which showed the Jewish community at its best. It was important that World ORT and British ORT supporters and professionals were seen to be there walking shoulder to shoulder with other communal organisations waving our flags with pride. Mr Balls affirmed the British Governments support for the State of Israel and praised the people of Sderot, who for years have been subjected to rocket attacks from the Gaza Strip. Among them are students at Shaar HaNegev High School, one of more than 30 campuses participating in World ORTs Kadima Mada (Science Journey) programme to raise the level of science and technology education in Israel. We admire their courage and their determination to live their lives, to finish their schooling and to go on and fulfil their dreams, he told the crowd. It was the Chief Rabbi [Sir Jonathan Sacks] who said, If you want to defend a nation then you need an army but if you want to defend a civilisation then you need schools. Israels Diaspora Affairs Minister Isaac Herzog also addressed the rally, announcing that his Government had agreed to a deal with Hezbollah for the release of Israeli hostages Ehud Goldwasser and Eldad Regev. World ORT has supported the efforts of their comrade, Tomer Weinberg, who narrowly survived the Hezbollah attack in which Ehud and Eldad were kidnapped, to educate Jews around the world about their plight and to commemorate those killed with educational programmes in their name. World ORT Director General Robert Singer said: Events like this are the culmination of ongoing very strong relations between the State of Israel and worldwide Jewry. Who would imagine only 61 years ago that 40,000 Jews and supporters of the State of Israel would march in the heart of London a few blocks away from the seat of the British Government that was then ruling the historic Jewish homeland Messages of support from Bill Clinton, Michael Douglas, Ashton Kutcher, Ben Stiller and Billy Crystal were relayed on huge screens on either side of the stage where a wide variety of Israeli musical acts performed. In his address, Israeli Ambassador Ron Prosor said: This is an inspirational occasion. You have come together in your thousands to show your pride, your support and your love for the State of Israel. That support that love is not a one-way street. On the day that the Jewish community of Great Britain stands tall, stands proud, and salutes Israel Israel salutes the Jewish community. Today we make a statement. We say, together in celebration, that the Jewish people are one people. We say, together in celebration, that Israel is our beating heart.