Manchester - a gateway to northern England with new El Al flights

Known as the place where soccer began in 1888 with the creation of the first national league of paid players, Manchester hopes to attract Israelis who might be keen on the sport.

By
June 15, 2019 11:58
Manchester - a gateway to northern England with new El Al flights

Manchester street art . (photo credit: HAGAY HACOHEN)

 
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We are greeted at the airport by an IDF soldier in civilian clothes presenting his soccer skills in front of a neat table loaded with English tea and pastries. The soldier won a competition held by PZM. The Mako site, named after the IDF acronym for the duration of service, is a news portal aimed for young Israelis in service. Soldiers were asked to video themselves kicking around a soccer ball; some of those displaying the most impressive feats were chosen to participate in the first direct El-Al flight from Tel-Aviv to Manchester in twenty years.

Known as the place where soccer began in 1888 with the creation of the first national league of paid players, Manchester hopes to attract Israelis who might be keen on the sport, as well as anyone interested in the rich cultural legacy and natural beauty of the north of England.
Famous as the first industrial city on Earth, Manchester also boasts a large Jewish community, a thriving cultural life and a legacy of fighting for workers' and women’s rights. Soccer was then played by workers, and the league was created to provide talents with a way to play the game and be paid for it, since before that they had to keep their factory jobs to make a living.


During the flight, we were served a unique cocktail created by the Jasper Johns Bar in Tel Aviv. Served in flowery tea cups made from fine china, the concoction was made from cold tea, strong gin and a dash of mango puree. The charming bartenders who served the passengers were flown to Manchester in gratitude for inventing such a refreshing take on English drinks.


People come to Manchester for education, music or work, and then fall in love with the city and remain, this reporter was told. Jewish-British writer Howard Jacobson lives in Manchester, which was voted a UNESCO City of Literature in 2017 and is home to Chetham’s Library, the oldest free public reference library in the UK. It is also the place where Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels worked together.


The National Football museum is in Manchester, but the city also has an established summer Jazz festival and can satisfy even the most worldly foodie with roughly 500 bars and 30 ethnic cuisines.


Bands like The Smiths and Oasis placed it at the heart of British music along with Liverpool, only a short distance away, which is the hometown of The Beatles.




Manchester and Liverpool have an intimate relationship as they both aided each other, with the first manufacturing the goods shipped by the second. Inside Chetham’s Library, one may observe massive cotton balls carved in stone on the ceiling, a nod to the vital role cotton and industry played in the growth of Manchester.


Part of the North Atlantic slave trade, goods made in Manchester were shipped via Liverpool to West Africa and sold for human slaves. These Africans were transported to the New World; the ships loaded with sugar and cotton, then sailed back to England.


During the American Civil War, Manchester workers refused to process Confederate cotton, an act of disobedience for which they were rewarded with a monument of Abraham Lincoln in 1919.


In 2007, Liverpool opened the International Slavery Museum. It is impressive and humbling to experience how modern British people are able to discuss, and confront, such painful issues with honesty and grace.


MANCHESTER WAS ALSO the stomping grounds of Emmeline Pankhurst, who devoted her life to the cause of allowing women the right to vote. She led women to assault police officers, break windows and – if in prison – go on lengthy hunger-strikes. A 2018 statue of her, created by Hazel Reeves, was erected in Manchester with her slogan “Deeds, not Words,” The Guardian reported.


The noted Left-leaning newspaper has a deep history linking it to Manchester, as well as to Zionist history. British reporter, editor and later owner of The Guardian Charles Prestwick Scott was a friend of Chaim Weizmann when he lived in Manchester.


Inventor of the “Weizmann Organism” – a 1916 chemical that allowed the British to produce fuels, rubber and cordite from starch – Weizmann contributed massively to British efforts to win the Great War. The 1917 Balfour Declaration likely originated in discussions held in the drawing rooms of Manchester.


The Museum of Liverpool has a Jewish legacy trail, clearly marked by a Menorah icon that allows you to enjoy various artifacts connected to Jewish legacy, with its main exhibit being the reconstructed façade of Galkoff’s kosher butchery shop.


Originally from Sieradz in central Poland, Percy Galkoff came to England in 1905 and opened a butcher’s shop. The lovely façade and a visual presentation of oral histories about the role the shop held in the lives of patrons is a charming example of how recent history can be cherished.


Manchester offers a variety of kosher dining options, from Brackmans Coffee Shop to JS Restaurant.


Visitors who don’t keep kosher will have a hard time deciding where to go. This reporter recommends Mamucium, which offers a fantastic cocktail honoring Pankhurst and keeps cotton plants nearby as a nod to the history of the city. Bearing the Latin name given to the city by the Romans [it means “a breast-shaped hill”] the restaurant offers a high-end exploration of local produce and culinary traditions in a fine, elegant style right down to serving cake on Royal Crown Derby ceramics.

Pankhurst cocktail / Hagay Hacohen


The other restaurant this reporter suggests, Dishoom, is a heaven for anyone keen on the culinary traditions of the British Raj. The décor borrows heavily from the Masonic tradition of the Rising Star Lodge of West India, bringing to mind The Mother Lodge, by Rudyard Kipling.


Describing the unique Masonic culture in British-ruled India, the poet of the empire brings to life “Saul the Aden Jew” and “Amir Singh the Sikh,” while describing the unique tolerance the lodge offered members.


The food in Dishoom is a modern take on the culinary legacy of Bombay’s Farsi-Indian food. If naan, curry, chicken tikka and jackfruit biryani make your mouth water, this is the place for you.


SCIENCE LOVERS – or those traveling with children who are keen on technology – would greatly enjoy the Manchester Science and Industry Museum where one can view Manchester Baby, the first electronic stored-program computer on Earth, which ran its first program in 1948. Israel built its first computer, WEIZAC, in 1955, only seven years after Manchester.


Children will enjoy a range of age-appropriate activities as their parents might listen to recordings of professional actors reading historical descriptions of a worker’s life in the Industrial age. The symbol for Manchester is the working bee, and one can also meet it again at the museum.


No soccer fan should miss out on a guided tour of the city of Manchester Stadium, home of the Manchester City team. Built in 2002, it can seat 55,000 people and is a local source of pride.


The tour grants entry to the space reserved for those who purchase Hospitality tickets. In addition to actually being in the presence of the players as they descend to the field, the tickets include unlimited drinks, food and a terrific view of the actual match.


The tour continues to where players recover from injuries during the match. The large black-and-white photo on the wall facing them as they must confront their pain and make the decision of playing or not is of Bert Trautmann.


Trautmann played as a goalkeeper for Manchester City from 1949 to 1964 – but before he played for the team, he was a Nazi paratrooper. He was eventually sent to the Western Front, where he was captured by the British and shipped to Lancashire as a prisoner of war.


He opted to remain in Britain after the war ended and shone as a soccer talent, earning a place in Manchester City in 1949.


The decision to hire a former Nazi soldier to play in a post-war Manchester soccer team led to massive protests at the time. Yet Trautmann won the fans over, and entered Manchester City’s myth when he chose to play despite a serious injury in the 1956 FA Cup Final. His performance won the game for his team at the cost of what later proved to be a broken neck. The grinning image of Trautmann at his moment of triumph and sacrifice is meant to drive home to the current players the larger ethos of the team they play for.


Written in large, bold letters above the players is a line from the 2017 poem by Tony Walsh “This is the place.” The line is, “Some are born here, some drawn here but we all call it home.”


The poem was written as a response to the 2017 Manchester Arena suicide bombing, which claimed the lives of 22 people after a show by American singer Ariana Grande. The terrorist was Manchester-born British-Muslim Salman Ramadan Abedi, ISIS claimed responsibility for the attack.


THOSE WHO ENJOY water-sports, long walks in nature or have children who were delighted by the 2018 film Peter Rabbit will be wise to use their time in Manchester to explore the Lake District.


Famous in part by the series of children’s books penned by Beatrix Potter and in part because of its sheer beauty, the Lake District is to Englishness what Monument Valley is to Americana. It is both a real physical landscape and an icon for a particular culture in one moment in time.


Potter did a lot to immortalize and protect the land by ensuring in her will that only minor changes could be made to the properties she owned. As we took in the sight of plump lambs and sheep grazing, we were dryly informed that all the animals we are currently seeing will eventually be eaten.


If, in Manchester, English manners are exemplified by buses displaying “Sorry” before informing one they are “out of service,” the Lake District is so fantastically English as to make one a little anxious, fearing perhaps the grass will prove painted green in the early hours of the morning and the waters combed for plastic garbage at night by divers.


In Israel, nature is often asked to host so many people that even on hikes and on mountains, one rubs shoulders with other people or must unwillingly listen to their conversations – so the silence at the Lake District is astonishing. Nobody shouts or blasts a car-horn – in the few cases when our driver had to pull back or wait for others to pass ahead, it was done with a smile and a wave.


If one grew up reading Potter, or has children, it would be a very good idea to visit her home. Children will be rewarded by seeing the various characters she wrote about carefully hidden below the adult level of vision, and their parents will be astonished to learn Potter kept a diary in a code she invented that was only deciphered after her death. The code, which she invented when she was 14 years old, served her throughout her life and was eventually broken by Leslie Linder. What might have originated as a need to keep a secret from her parents should they discover the journal became a way to express her views freely.


ONWARDS TO Liverpool, which produced the band that shook the Earth, The Beatles.
 
If you are alive on Earth, you have heard a Beatles song from one of their many albums. From 1964’s A Hard Day’s Night to 1969’s Yellow Submarine and, after their breakup, the 1971 album Imagine by John Lennon, their talents shaped modernity.


Liverpool honors the Beatles, and rightly so. The Beatles Story would make any Beatles fan want to spend a day in it, as it’s a fantastic in-depth and sensitive exhibition about the band. Encompassing their childhoods, the Liverpool musical scene of their day, how they shaped the world and what they each did later.


It is this element in the museum – which shows how each Beatles member had his own life before the band and kept on being a creator after the band broke up – that this reporter found most appealing.


Those visiting Liverpool to watch a match played by current UFE champion Liverpool FC or to attend a conference will be wise to consider a visit to the Tate Liverpool, where the diaries of Keith Herring are already sold at the souvenir shop in preparation for an upcoming June 14 show of his works to be shown until November.


Those keen on modern architecture might enjoy a visit to the first sky-scraper ever built in England, the Royal Liver Building.
 
The Liver Building Liverpool / Hagay Hacohen
 
Opened in 1911, the iconic structure features the two mythical Liver birds representing the city looking in opposite direction – local legend has it that should they look at one another, they’ll fly away to mate and the city will be destroyed. The clocks that adorn it are the largest in the UK – yes, bigger than Big Ben. Visitors are shown a brief film that tells the story of both the building and the city of Liverpool itself.


 And in the spirit of telling things as they were, don’t leave out the story of Carl Bernard Bartels. Born in Germany, Bartels designed the Liver Birds on top of the building, and was rewarded for his efforts by being deported from the UK during the Great War.


This reporter suggests ending your tour of Liverpool with a stop at Quay Confectionery at the Albert Dock for a slice of fudge or Kendal Mint Cake.


Those with whom this reporter conversed with often expressed their great sense of local pride. True, London is worth visiting and Scotland has some beautiful natural parks, yet if one enjoys soccer, the beauty of lakes and hills, has a passion for the Beatles or just looking for a relaxed holiday in a new destination, the north of England is a fantastic choice for many.


ONE CLOSING note regarding British values of perhaps shocking tolerance: in one of the finer eating spots in Manchester, this reporter witnessed a large wall-size photographic art with Greek Mythological hero Perseus raising the severed head of none other than British Prime Minister Theresa May.


When American comedian Kathy Griffin attempted to employ a similar image in 2017 – holding a fake-severed head of US President Donald Trump – her career nearly crumbled and she began receiving death threats.


What is unpardonable in American cultural discourse, and might land an Israeli person in jail or serve him a hefty fine by the court, is taken with great tolerance by the English.


One, it seems, can peacefully dine in England under a brutal satirical image mocking the mighty and the good because it is accepted over there that satire is the refuge of the weak and a way for them to express their rage without shattering society. That, too, is an English experience worth having.
 
The writer was a guest of El Al as well as all the other restaurants, museums and companies mentioned, among them Marketing Manchester and Andy Parkinson.

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