Jewish and Muslim leaders join forces to 'show solidarity' on Mitzvah Day

Leaders of the Jewish and Muslim communities came together in a show of unity in north London on Sunday.

At an event to mark Mitzvah Day, an annual day of faith-based social action and charity work, Muslims joined Jews who were making and delivering food parcels in Finchley.

Imam Ibrahim Mogra said he felt it was important to attend the event, held at a Jewish centre, due to the heightened tension between communities since the Israel-Hamas war flared up on 7 October.

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The former assistant secretary general of the Muslim Council of Britain told Sky News: "There is a lot of pain, many people are suffering and are very, very angry, and it's important for us to remember at this point that this is not between Muslims and Jews, this is between Israel, an occupying force, and Palestine which is the occupied party in this case.

"So we need to have solidarity between ourselves as communities."

He was there to support Rabbi Josh Levy, the co-CEO of Progressive Judaism. He expressed concern for the rise in both antisemitism and Islamophobia since the conflict began.

Mr Levy said: "I think everyone is living in a very fractious society, we're also living with personal grief with anguish at the scenes we're seeing from Israel-Palestine.

"So I think for a lot of us it's really important that we have those moments where we can stand together, can be reminded of our shared humanity and that there's so much more that we have in common.

He added that such events remind us "that we need to work together in the society we're building together".

After thousands of pro-Palestinian demonstrators took to the streets of cities and towns around Britain on Saturday, demanding UK politicians call for a ceasefire, Rabbi Levy said: "Most of us would like to see a situation in which peace can be restored to that area.

"Obviously it's a very complex situation, the grief is not exclusive to one side or to the other, and it's really important we remember that one of the things that unites us is our grief and the other thing that unites us is our desire to see a peaceful solution to this."

He added: "This isn't the time to reduce ourselves to slogans, it isn't the time we look for simple solutions, because there are no simple solutions to this. This is a complex operation, I think our politicians need to be thoughtful and deliberate in the way they speak about this."

But Ibrahim Mogra said he does support those MPs who are calling for a ceasefire. "I believe that we need a ceasefire and we need it now, and there has to be another way of resolving this."

"What other alternative do we have? Do we just continue to watch babies, women, children, the elderly just being bombed every single day?"

But he said MPs should not be made to feel unsafe.

"I think it's very wrong to intimidate anyone, including our politicians" he said.

"They all have taken their positions regarding the situation, it's very disappointing that the vast majority of them voted against a ceasefire, but that's politics and that's democracy."

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On Saturday, demonstrators gathered in the constituency of the Labour leader to call on him to support a ceasefire.

Visiting a synagogue to mark Mitzvah Day, Sir Keir Starmer addressed the concerns of those within his party who would like him to go further than his current position, which is to back a humanitarian pause.

He told Sky News: "I think everybody in the party is concerned to do everything they can to alleviate the suffering we're seeing in Israel and Gaza so in that sense there's great unity"

Extra security at the Cenotaph

But a rise in incidents of antisemitism meant there was heightened security at the Cenotaph as crowds gathered to honour the service of Jews in the British armed forces.

The annual event, held by the Association of Jewish Ex-Servicemen and Women, commemorates sacrifice in conflicts over many decades.

But the war in the Middle East brought greater significance to this year's service.

In a speech ahead of the event, the Chief Rabbi Ephraim Mirvis said: "Today we mark the anniversary, the dambusters raid is 80 years. Since that time, the 70th anniversary of the end of military operations in Korea, and the 80th anniversary of the Warsaw ghetto uprising and isn't it so sad and tragic that 80 years on we're experiencing a global rise in anti-semitism, including here in the UK."

Sisters Laura and Elaine Simons attend the event every year to honour their late father and grandfather, who both served with the armed forces.

They travelled from Manchester to be at the cenotaph but had been concerned about security.

"We've talked about it and thought 'are we going to be safe?'," they told Sky News.

"But actually we feel very safe, and it's really important to stand up and be counted. We have a cousin in Israel who lost her grandson two days ago in Gaza so it's even more important that we're here today."