TOP figures from a national Jewish group have visited a Bradford Islamic School to help build links with the Muslim community.

The president and vice president of the Board of Deputies of British Jews were given a tour of Eternal Light School in Little Horton yesterday as part of a two day trip to Bradford.

During the visit they spoke with pupils about the similarities between the two religions and the importance of faith, as well as discussing issues such as the Israel/Palestine conflict and Zionism.

The visit to the school had been arranged by PC Firzana Ahmed, a safer schools officer who works with a number of Bradford schools.

Head teacher Yusuf Collector showed president Jonathan Arkush and vice president Marie Van Der Zyl around the independent boys school, which has pupils from around West Yorkshire.

During the tour they saw work and projects the pupils have done in the local community, as well as displays on what the school does to teach British values and a topic about Anne Frank and the Holocaust.

The Board of Deputies is a democratically elected body representing the British Jewish community. When Mr Arkush became president 18 months ago, one of his main priorities was to increase engagement between Jews and Muslims.

After the tour the group spoke to a number of pupils, inviting them to ask any questions about the Jewish faith they might have.

He said: “Our community, like the Muslim community, suffers from misunderstandings and sometimes outright hostility.

“We wanted to come out and meet more members of the Muslim community. Many of you may never have met a Jew in person before.”

He said he was a Zionist, explaining that he “supports the Jewish aspiration to have land of our own.”

He added: “I’m proud to say I’m a Zionist, I don’t regard it as a term of abuse.

“However, I understand that my point of view is almost certainly different than yours will be. The important thing is we respect each other’s sincerely held views, even if we disagree.”

Pupils were told that not all Jews were Zionists.

He said that often the language people used about Jews or Muslims could “take the humanity away from other people.”

The pupils heard about the similarities between the two religions, including a routine of daily prayers and the belief that food should be Kosher or Halal.

He said that in an increasingly secular society, a lot of people “don’t get” faith and people whose lives were regulated by their faith.

When asked if he though one side was to blame in the conflict between Israelis and Palestinians, he said: “I don’t think it is possible to apportion blame. It is two parties fighting for a piece of land that they both have a claim to.

“I don’t think it is possible to say one side has a more genuine claim than the other.”

He feels a two state solution would be the ultimate answer to the conflict.

The day before the school visit, the board had visited Bradford MPs Naz Shah and Imran Hussain, and after leaving the school they met with the Council of Mosques and the Muslim Women’s Council.