This is a guest post by Rabbi Zvi Solomons
It is hard to be a Jew.
That will not be surprising to anyone Jewish. But this week it is very hard to be Jewish. Much harder than we would any of us want.
In the wake of the Paris murder by a violent Jihadist terrorist of four Jews out shopping before Shabbat, it is hard to be Jewish. Hard to wear our kippot, knowing that there are people who would like to put a hole where that kippa sits on our heads. Hard to be openly stating, “I am a Jew”.
Anyone who has been out shopping in Hendon or Golders Green on a Thursday or Friday in the last week, will have noticed the increased patrols. There are armed police about in those areas, protecting the shuls. And that makes it hard to be a Jew. We’re used to the barbed wire, walls and fences outside Jewish schools, the security aparatus, the cctv and the air-lock entrances. That’s part of our “normality”now. But here we have a serious threat and there is nothing we can do about it.
I have been prominent amongst those who have refused to be shaken by Paris. That is indeed what the terrorist jihadis wish us to feel – fear. They want Jews to run for cover, to hide and to be scared of them. I will not be terrified by the murder of four decent Jews by an inadequate who wanted to commit an “original” terror crime.
The fact that this comes in conjunction with a pair of surveys published by the so-called Campaign Against Antisemitism UK (CAAUK) has hit the headlines for almost a whole week. Who can have missed the pronouncements by the Home Secretary, the declarations by community machers? The survey seems to show that our neighbours – good, mostly native, Brits – are likely to subscribe to antisemitic tropes. A closer reading shows that the CAAUK were fishing for opportunities to justify yet another communal organization dedicated to dealing with hate of Jews. The questions of the YouGov survey commissioned by them, show that they did not even offer options to choose neutral or philosemitic answers. The poor people who were surveyed must have tried to find what they considered the least offensive – and many chose the nebulous “Jews tend to chase money” to agree with. Ask this question of any number of yidden on the Golders Green Road, joked a friend, and you’d get 95% agreeing with it.
So we have the very real threat of terror, which is what we face every time we enter a Jewish communal building, but which in the wake of Paris is considered higher today than last week. We have this survey, no survey. And we have the anti-Israel sentiment, much higher in the wake of Protective Edge and resulting in a measureable spike of anti-semitism last July and August.
Let us keep this in perspective. Wherever we go we will have problems. Israel has armed guards at the entrances of shopping centres. We have to take a security scan whenever we fly. This is because the Islamists are planning all kinds of attacks. And yes, they want to kill Jews. That just means that nothing has changed. This is not news. We already knew all of this.
We need to hold our heads up high and recognize that here in Britain we have a good life. It’s good to live in Reading, and there is no reason to fear more this week, than last. The only thing which has changed is that the threat is more visible. If we moved to Israel tomorrow we would risk being stabbed in Tel Aviv or mown down by a terrorist car-driver in Jerusalem. What, exactly, has changed?
Once we recognize this we can take a reasonable perspective on the events of the past week. We should not be complacent, but in reality we are living in a supportive society where it has never been easier to be a Jew. We can shop for kosher food at our local supermarkets, order deliveries from Jewish shops in London, fly to Israel for our holidays, come together to celebrate Shabbat at shul, and live a good Jewish life in Reading. The law protects us from slander and hate, and we are entitled to ask our employer to let us keep Shabbat and holidays. We must be aware that there is a low-level antisemitism abroad in society; but this is hardly the atmosphere of the 1930s which we hear some harping on, in our own wider community. And while needing to combat that, and counter the very real security threat of extremist Islamism as the deadly menace it has always been, we have no reason to panic.
Things did not change with the HyperCacher murders. They are merely, more clearly and obviously, the same as they have always been.
Rabbi Zvi Solomons