We All Know Shame
This is yet another ‘Letter from Israel’ – almost # 400, but I’ve added recipients, among whom are some of my brother’s and my school pals, all pretty well-educated Englishmen….
It’s Sukkot (Succoth) here in Israel, 7 days of more holiday-time (8 days in the Diaspora), celebrating the harvest, the Exodus, the homecoming. There are different interpretations.
All round Israel, Sukkoth have been built in gardens, on balconies and in public places, where the more traditional and/or religious families will eat and sometimes sleep with just a material wall and roof, supported by fonds/branches from4 specific trees. It’s a nice time here. Everyone seems to be in better moods. We rae even thinking of visiting the religious quarter of Jerusalem before the end of Sukkot to have a look at some of the very special constructions there.
Yesterday’s special edition of the Jerusalem Post featured articles on some of the peoples currently residing in Israel.
The Israeli Arabs (Palestinians) complain that they are being treated badly, unfairly – even mention apartheid. But they are not alone. Their claim to be ‘2nd-class citizens’ can be and is shared by many others, including Russian Jews, Moroccan Jews, Yemenis, Ethiopians etc. And then I read about the Druze community, and then the Bedouins. Both communities, not claiming to be Jews, but not wanting to be associated with the Muslims, have also lived here for hundreds of years.
The Bedouin were, and some still are, classic nomads, herdsmen, tending their camels, goats and sheep, wandering primarily in the Judaean and Negev deserts. (They are also in Sinai, but that’s not Israel, and so I leave those stories out of this). Many elders and their wives want to remain in their tents, alone with their herds, with the skies above their heads. But modern society is creeping up on them and their youngsters. And so they are also suffering from a real lack of support from the country. Suffice to say that the average village is likely still illegal, and has perhaps 1 paved road reaching it. Water comes kilometers through 1 plastic pipe, and tastes…of plastic. Need I say more.
Before I move one, a word about two almost-forgotten communities here in Israel. The first are the ‘guest-workers’, primarily from Nepal, Thailand and Philippines, many of whom now have children born in Israel.
And then the asylum-seekers. We have 40-50,000 of them, from Eritrea, Sudan, Congo etc. And again, already many babies born here. They primarily live in south Tel Aviv, but not in the ‘best of conditions’. We are not throwing them out, not sending them back. But we are certainly not processing them as fast as we would like. I must remind myself that Israel being a ‘State for the Jews’ is, under our special circumstances, understandable. But we are trying so hard to be fair to these non-Jewish communities. We want to and we shall make Israel their home.
But is this a new phenomenon? Aren’t most countries guilty of something similar? I have a file called ‘Archive’, which contains, among other stuff, the English newspapers from VE-Day and the same from 9/11. And I found a cutting from London’s Evening Standard. It’s the opinion column from June 23rd, 1940. I have attached it here, but, with the writing pretty small, have transcribed it as follows:
We love our country, all of us do. Some of us love her for her green fields and hedges; some for her fine cities. More still we love her for the gaiety and friendliness and hopes for the future, which are protected by her laws and encouraged by her liberties. We love her, too, for the good name which she bears among men of other nations. We love her most of all in her hour of peril, and we know that in that hour her tradition of freedom is a source of strength and her good name worth whole armies on our side.
The people of England should know what is happening in their country at this supreme moment in her history. We will state the fact first and prove it afterwards. The good repute which we have gained over centuries for humanity and an inveterate love of freedom is being wantonly and shamelessly besmirched.
As Hitlerism swept across Europe, a great company of peoples were driven along the roads of Germany, Austria, Czecho-Slovakia, Belgium, Holland and France. They were the weak, whose only crime was their race or the brave whose only crime was their defiance. Some stepped on our shores and drew a deep breath of freedom. They were ready to serve and work and fight for England, for England’s cause they believed was the cause of free men the World over.
What have we done with these, our friends? We have taken them from their jobs. We have forced some of them to close down their businesses. We have herded them into internment camps. We have left their families in dwelling houses in London, and sent husbands across the seas without a word being sent to their wives. We have sent one brother to Canada, and another to Australia; when will they meet again? We have wrenched sons from their mothers; there are scores in London today who know not in what Continent their sons will find shelter. Whom will they hate now – Hitler, who expelled them from Germany, or the ignorant brass-hat in Whitehall who expelled them from England? What will Europe say, the Europe that we wish to see rising in our cause? Europe will wonder whether this England is the same England which once gloried in her freedom.
It is folly. A brilliant chemist, perhaps the most brilliant in Vienna, a Jew, sought to escape. He was refused a passport by the Gestapo; in a foreign arms factory he would be too precious. But he did escape. He came to England. He has been locked up. Another committed suicide rather than face and English concentration camp. In Germany, Jewish doctors are commandeered to work; a placard was even hung in Antwerp for their return to “the fatherland.” We still keep many Jewish doctors behind barbed wire. We are locking up our friends, some of whom are skilled, all who are ready to work.
It is worse than folly. It is sabotage against our war effort. It is a damnable crime against the good name of England. We want to know: who is responsible? When will it stop? Members of Parliament who love England will make it their business today to find out. And until full amends are made for this outrage we would prefer Lord Halifax to spare us his homilies on “the meaning of freedom.”
My parents were both interned at that time. One of them – or perhaps both – made many pencil markings on the page.
They were eventually freed, of course, and amongst their first jobs, so I was told, were cook and butler to the Duke of Bedford. They were proud and happy to be British. I never did sit down and talk with them about how they were initially treated.
C’est la vie?