LONDON – At least 5,500 Zionists joined Israel’s UK Ambassador Daniel Taub and his family at a celebratory concert to mark Israel’s 65th Birthday at the Wembley Arena on Tuesday night.

Ignoring two very small demonstrations outside the world-famous soccer stadium, many of the younger guests danced and sang along with the popular French-based musical group Alabina, led by Ishtar.

About a dozen followers of Neturei Karta stood alongside about 20 protesters from a pro-Palestinian group called “In mind,” who attempted to shout hostile slogans at those arriving at the venue, but they were kept away by at least as many police officers, some of whom were faintly bemused by the odd mix of demonstrators.

Songwriter Ivri Lider performed at the concert, accompanied by Israel’s Youth Aliyah Ensemble. While the ensemble’s string section has yet to match the abilities of the other sections of the nine-piece group, its trumpet player excelled in the large hanger-style arena, enabling Lider to start the concert in style.

Taub praised the British Zionist Federation as being one of Israel’s “strategic assets” and made a special reference to the federation’s promotion of Israel’s scientific achievements at a recent series of highly successful events in the UK.

Concern was expressed at the lastminute withdrawal of The X Factor’s 2008 winner Alexandra Burke from the concert lineup. The British star, who regularly performed at Jewish weddings and bar mitzvas before finding international fame with her cover of Leonard Cohen’s “Hallelujah,” had not given the event organizers any reason for not appearing, though one source suggested rather than her succumbing to a boycott call, her current TV filming schedule was probably the cause.

Replacing Burke, highly popular homegrown Jewish X Factor contestant Stacey Solomon performed and included a polished rendition of “It’s a wonderful world,” which drew appreciation from all age ranges at Wembley.

Another UK television talent-contest winner, the almost unbelievably well-choreographed gymnasts known as “Spellbound,” had many in the audience gasping at their athletic dancing skills and showed why they richly deserved the title as best performers on Britain’s Got Talent two years ago.

However, the loudest reception was inevitably reserved for Ishtar and her stunning vocal range, matched only by her lively performance across differing musical styles.

Alabina helped raise the cacophony of music, but when Chico and his Gipsy Kings band joined them on the stage, many in the audience stood, danced or swayed to their music, while those of an older generation struggled to protect their more delicate hearing.

Jewish Leadership Council chief executive Jeremy Newmark later told The Jerusalem Post that the concert had been a “spectacular and enjoyable” way to start marking Israel’s 65th year, though he reminded all that the Jewish community and its friends will be required to demonstrate its support for Israel on June 2, when there will be a large march for Israel through London’s West End.

Please LIKE our Facebook page - it makes us stronger