World, it seems like whatever Jewish people do, whatever contributions we make to the societies in which we live, however much we keep our heads down and try to contribute only positives without making a fuss, it is never enough to stem the hatred, it is never enough for you.
Blake Ezra , August 9, 2014
Blake Ezra is a London based writer on Middle Eastern Politics and the Jewish World.
Dear world, I’m writing to you from a place of despair and confusion. When I say ‘world’, I don’t simply mean the planet upon which we all live but I address personally whoever is reading this. As a Jewish person, I have a question for you. It’s a genuine question to which I can’t find a suitable answer through my own thoughts… What do you want from us?
I’m writing from London, where only yesterday a black Islamic flag was flown from an estate in Tower Hamlets, and a passer-by was shouted at by a group of Muslim youths, “Fuck off Jew, you’re not welcome here.” In the past month, in the supposedly liberated and forward thinking capital of England, a Swastika has been daubed onto a Jewish home, protestors have carried placards with slogans such as ‘Hitler Was Right’, and an independent arts venue has imposed sanctions upon an apolitical Jewish Film Festival.
In Scotland, a property sales consultant called Richard Ladd, a professional suit-wearing gentleman who deals with the public each day, tweeted “Shut up you ugly Jewish c***. If only Hitler was still around to sort you out” to a Jewish footballer. In France, rioters have looted and burned Jewish shops, and attacked synagogues. In Germany, two Jewish people were attacked only for being Jewish, and an Imam in Berlin told his congregants, “Count the Jews and kill them to the very last one.” In Belgium, a café has displayed a sign banning Jews from entering, and four people were indiscriminately murdered on the street outside the Jewish Museum in Brussels. Flags of Hamas and Hezbollah, both of whom call for death to Jews, have been flown in cities including Sydney and Vancouver. The cover of Newsweek Magazine recently featured the headline ‘Why Europe’s Jews Are Fleeing Once Again’. World, shockingly I really could go on for much longer, but hopefully you get the picture…
I don’t feel safe as a Jewish person in my own city at this moment in time, and this is a sentiment shared by many of my co-religionists, regardless of their levels of religious observance or political affiliations – it is solely due to the religion into which they were born. It is truly difficult to believe I’m writing such a post, condemning the most vicious forms of racism with masses of people in numerous countries genuinely calling for death to Jews, whilst using a military situation in the Middle East as their excuse to make these ferocious desires appear somewhat justifiable. Perhaps Lord Rabbi Sacks, a respected thinker and former Chief Rabbi of the UK, summed it up better than I could in the British House of Lords last week: “My Lords forgive me, if I say that I did not expect 120 years after the Dreyfus Case and 70 year after the Holocaust, that the cry of ‘Death to the Jews’ would be heard again in the streets of France and Germany.”
World, what do you want from us? I’m not asking in order to be prosaic, in order to write for writing’s sake. I’m asking because I genuinely don’t know. Trust me, as I sit here fearing for what my city may become in the next five or ten years, I’m really trying to answer the question, but I can’t. There is a passage in the Passover service read by Jewish people every year; it lists the gifts that God has given to us. After each one we say “Dayenu”, which in modern vernacular means, “This would have been enough for us.” World, it seems like whatever Jewish people do, whatever contributions we make to the societies in which we live, however much we keep our heads down and try to contribute only positives without making a fuss, it is never enough to stem the hatred, it is never enough for you.
The Jewish people have never constituted a large proportion of the population of this planet, yet have given humanity so much. Jewish people who have helped shape our world include Gabriel Lippmann, Nobel Prize Winner for Physics in 1908 for inventing colour photography, Albert Einstein with his theory of relativity, and Jonas Salk who invented the first vaccine for polio. What about Levi Strauss, who’s probably creditable for the trousers you’re wearing right now, Ephraim Hertzano who invented the game of Rummikub, or Nat Rothschild and Moses Montefiore who helped Britain become ‘Great’. What about any of the 193 Jewish Nobel Prize winners across the fields of Medicine, Economics, Literature and Peace?