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With a focus on exhibitors from northern Israel and in dedication to the strength of communities that were under attack and whose residents were uprooted during the Lebanon war in the summer, Israel Expo, the UK's largest Jewish community event, was set to open Sunday at Brent Town Hall in northwest London.
Organized by the Zionist Federation (ZF) of the UK and Ireland, the annual showcase of Israeli goods and products, subtitled "From Israel with Love," offers an opportunity for the UK Jewish community to actively and openly support Israel as well as to purchase a diverse range of Israeli goods from Israeli wines, jewellery, art, Judaica and crafts.
This year promises to be the most diverse and dynamic yet, with over 150 Israeli exhibitors.
Exhibitors this year include Orli Chen Sasson from Hadera and Neta Lidor from Nahariya. Sasson, who will showcase her unique enamel and brass jewellery, opened her home to 10 strangers who were forced to flee their homes during the war, as did Maya Cohen who will be exhibiting her handmade glass frames. Lidor, a bag manufacturer, continued working as the Katyusha rockets fell.
Alan Aziz, director of the Zionist Federation, said: "The ZF feels that it is very important to support the communities of northern Israel in a pro-active and positive manner. The whole of Israel has shown immense strength and resilience, ensuring their lives continue with as much normality as possible. We want to support Israeli trade to help ensure it continues to prosper."
Federation Chairman Andrew Balcombe said he was delighted to report that Israel Expo was a complete sell-out, with even a waiting list for booths. "It will offer a wide range of Israeli products with an emphasis on traders from northern Israel so people in the UK can help support the fractured economy there. It is the most exciting and the largest Israel-oriented event in the UK with live entertainment, an Israeli shuk area, a 'Buy Property in Israel' exhibition and a focus on aliya and tourism.
"It is a terrific opportunity for the UK public to support Israel and, contrary to the image portrayed in the British media, see first hand the creativity, energy and indomitable spirit of the real Israel," he added.
A range of products from innovative organizations will also be on display. Among these is Peace Oil, an initiative of registered UK Charities Advisory Trust. Peace Oil is produced in Israel by Jews, Arabs, Druse and Beduin, all working together.
The olives used in the making of the oil are grown in the foothills of the Carmel Mountains and are pressed within hours of picking, to produce this prize-winning extra virgin olive oil. Peace Oil encourages cooperation between communities and by helping to market their produce it hopes to bring economic prosperity to such enterprises, encouraging others to follow their example.
Profits from oil are used to support peace and reconciliation work in the Middle East.
"The ZF is delighted that Peace Oil will be joining us at this year's expo, just one example of the extensive range of exhibitors," Aziz said.
"Peace Oil is an exemplary model of an organization that is pro-actively supporting the path to peace in a practical way, particularly poignant at a time when it is even more important to support Israel's vibrant trade."