Take all measures to protect public from Iran, urges Chief Rabbi

Sir Ephraim Mirvis spoke at a demonstration in Richmond Terrace, opposite Downing Street, calling for the release of hostages held in Gaza.

The Empty Seder Table installation
The Empty Seder Table installation (Lucy North/PA)

The Chief Rabbi has said “all measures should be taken” to protect the public from Iran – which he labelled the head of a “monstrous being” – as he attended a demonstration calling for the release of hostages in Gaza.

Sir Ephraim Mirvis addressed hundreds of people on Wednesday in Richmond Terrace, opposite Downing Street, where a Seder table surrounded by 133 empty chairs had been laid.

Each seat represented a remaining hostage and every chair – including two high chairs for children – had a poster attached bearing the face of a person still in captivity.

An image of Shlomo Mantzur hanging from a chair
An image of Shlomo Mantzur hanging from a chair (Lucy North/PA)

After addressing the crowd, Sir Ephraim told the PA news agency: “As we face Downing Street, together with people right around the world, we are crying out to world leaders, please do whatever you can.

“And we ourselves will never tire, we will never remain silent until every single one of the hostages will be back home safely.”

Asked if he supported calls for the Government to proscribe Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) as a terrorist organisation in the UK, he told PA: “What happened last Saturday night focuses our attention all the more on the extent to which Hamas is just one tentacle of a monstrous being, the head of which is Iran, and all of our civilisation is being threatened right now.

“And therefore, all measures should be taken in order to ensure the safety of all of our populations.”

A parliamentary researcher to former immigration minister Robert Jenrick supported calls for the IRGC to be banned in the UK.

Campaigners at Richmond Terrace in Westminster
Campaigners at Richmond Terrace in Westminster (Lucy North/PA)

Dov Forman, who was at the demonstration, told PA: “It’s time to say… that we need to proscribe the IRGC, and yes, the Government want to maintain diplomatic ties, but it doesn’t make sense to me why you wouldn’t proscribe a terror organisation.”

Asked about calls for Israel to show restraint in its response to Iran, the 20-year-old said: “I think it’s sort of unfair to say that a country has to show restraint against that.

“I don’t think the United Kingdom would have done and I think we need to stand firm like Winston Churchill did during the Second World War, and we can’t be appeasers and we have to go strong against this and say that we won’t accept terror.”

The Empty Seder Table installation is a “poignant reminder of the individuals who remain separated from their families this Passover”, the UK Hostages & Missing Families Forum said.

The festival of Passover, which celebrates the freedom of Jewish people from slavery, begins at sundown on April 22.

Shai Shojat, the nephew of hostage Michel Nisenbaum – who disappeared on October 7 in Israel as he was on his way to pick up his granddaughter to take her to her mother – also spoke at the event.

The 44-year-old, who has lived in the UK for more than 20 years, said the family were informed after Mr Nisenbaum’s disappearance that he was likely to have been taken hostage as his car was found burnt on the road.

Describing his uncle as “more like a big brother to me”, Mr Shojat told PA: “Passover is the festival of freedom… but how can you celebrate freedom when there are 133 hostages?

“They don’t have freedom. How can we celebrate freedom?”