Diary of a Nobody
Many people have written in asking me to put my thoughts into blog form. So I’m restarting my blog of 2006, which I ran for three years. Then it was called ‘Irene Lancaster’s Diary’. Now it’s subtitled ‘Diary of a Nobody’.
I’m posting all three previous diaries, starting August 10th.
I thought you might be interested in my diary for today, Sunday August 10th, from Broughton Park, Salford UK, the fastest-growing Jewish community in Europe, but probably not for much longer.
I’m not a macher in the Jewish community, i.e. I’m not the Chief Rabbi (thank you so much for your article in the Daily Telegraph this week – unfortunately, The Times banned Eli Wiesel, Nobel Peace Laureate, from publishing his), nor do I have anything to do with the lay leadership of this country (the Board of Deputies), in fact I don’t know anyone who does.
I’m not rich, powerful, or famous.
But my worst sin is — to cap it all I’m comparatively religious, i.e. Orthodox — believe in our religion, support own Holy Trinity of Torah Israel, am Israel and Eretz Israel (Jewish teaching, Jewish people and Jewish country). In addition, I’m sorry to boast — and you can put it down to me now having dual nationality – i.e. for being an Israeli as well (whisper it not in Gath – actually you’d better not whisper it in Gath, for your own sake), but for my sins, I know a fair bit about other religions, i.e. Christianity, Islam, Buddhism, Hindusim, Sikhism (for starters), which I’ve taught at various times in my life and in various venues, from primary school to university level.
I’ve also written a book about Abraham ibn Ezra, the Jewish equivalent of St. Augustine, or Ibn Rushd (Averroes) – take your pick – and am currently translating another book of Jewish interest, about the greatest rabbi I’ve ever met, whose name is Shear Yashuv Cohen, the Chief Rabbi of Haifa (Emeritus) and his personal story, which is inextricably bound up with the story of the Jewish people, Jewish teaching and the Jewish land (Israel), including Jewish law, interfaith relations, the IDF, women and society, spirituality, the inner self, and myriad other subjects of interest.
Before that I’d translated a number of Holocaust autobiographies by survivors from Poland, as well as articles sent me to translate by all the major academic institutions in Israel, and other bodies, such as the Haifa Tourist Board, JNF, etc etc.
And before that I lectured in Hebrew and Jewish history (including philosophy, mysticism, literature and other facets of culture) at universities in this country.
So, having introduced myself somewhat, let me tell you what happened today, Sunday August 10th. I woke up early as usual, and switched on the radio, to make sure that Medinat Israel (the State of Israel) was still standing, and that my daughter and grand-kids were OK. Ditto regarding all my great friends in Haifa and Jerusalem, especially the Chief Rabbi of Haifa and his wife, with whom I’m liaising on this book translation.
The BBC was its normal biased self at 6.00 am. By this I mean that even though we now have Iraq, Sudan, Syria, Nigeria, Pakistan, Egypt, Iran, Burma and the Ukraine, Hamas, Hezbollah, ISIS etc etc, they still homed in on my country, the size of Wales, which is being bombarded with rockets greater than the barrage that Britain had to put up with in the Blitz (according to Jonathan Sacks).
Then at 7.00 I heard that Rowan Williams was speaking on Radio 4’s Sunday Programme about South Sudan, on behalf of Christian Aid, so I listened and was interested that he spoke positively about Sudanese settlements. And wondered why it’s OK for the Sudanese to have settlements, but not us, the Children of Israel.
Then the rather unintelligent Archbishop of Westminster said that the only thing wrong with ISIS is that it is a religion based on territory. But would he say the same about Tibet, for instance, because the Dalai Lama certainly does? No, territory isn’t what it’s all about – that’s only part of the problem – the rest are ideas you can find in the Koran and the Hadith, if you care to look, about far older and wiser religions than Islam, such as Judaism and Christianity, and exactly what Islam wants to do about these.
I’d better not put these in writing, because the only religion you are allowed to criticize in writing (and any other way, including through incitement) in today’s UK is Judaism. And I might like to write more of these diairies in the future, so why risk jail?
So then I wondered why Israel hadn’t been mentioned on the BBC’s Sunday Programme, so downloaded the previous Sunday’s Sunday, on August 3rd, and heard Rowan again on Sudan. And also Jews from Hampstead I’d never heard of criticizing Israel and being nice about Gaza. And the Board of Deputies spokesman saying that he is very pleased at his links with the Muslim Council of Britain (oy veh).
Then I got onto the West Yorkshire Police and said that in my expert opinion George Galloway’s latest rant against Judaism (sorry I mean Israel ) was an incitement to anti-Semitism, and therefore actionable in law, and they agreed, and said that a senior detective was ‘looking into it.’
I then received an e-mail from the nephew of the Chief Rabbi of Haifa in New York, with slight editings of the latest chapter I’ve translated, which made me laugh – my mistakes I mean.
Then I listened to The World at One, and at long last heard some sane Jews, from Manchester of course, tell it how it really is. And a remarkably sane rabbi stating on air that in 20 years there would be none of us left in the UK and that he personally would be ending his days in Israel. And his view was echoed by all the Jews interviewed on that programme. Quite remarkable, but that’s Manchester Jewry for you!
At 3.00 my friend came round and we studied Psalms together, as we do every week. We’re on Psalm 39, if it’s of interest. She reminded me of the midrash that Balaam, Job and Jethro were all advisors to Pharaoh. Balaam was like Hamas, and advocated our destruction. Job was silent, and was punished by suffering (like Pope Pius, but he didn’t suffer – he’s already been beatified!) And Jethro didn’t want to get involved, so left the room (the Churches, media, government etc etc?)
This all goes to show, as we agreed, that there really isn’t anything new under the sun, and it’s all happened before. Progress is a myth. Things go in cycles.
At 3.15, I popped round to the synagogue for the wedding of my rabbi’s daughter to someone from London. It was beautifully simple, with lovely singing, and the ancient tones of the Aramaic Ketubah read clearly by the Junior Rabbi, so that everyone could understand.
And my rabbi broke down talking about Jerusalem, and how the groom has to break the glass in memory of the Temple – destroyed!
And then I came back and phoned to my Haifan friend who is currently in London (formerly from Harrow). And she said she couldn’t believe how Ruritanian our Jewish community now is, with our Jewish institutions behaving as if we were in a bygone era when everyone loved us because we never won wars, or defended ourselves.
And she ended by saying that a mutual friend, also originally from London, but now living in Haifa, had just telephoned to ask if it is safe for former English Jews to come and visit in England, because she had heard George Galloway’s rant, part of which stated that Britain does not want Israeli tourists here, because it is a barbaric country (Israel, I mean), and that she as a Jew felt a lot safer in war-torn Israel than in good old England, the home of pro-Muslim fanaticism. She wants to come here en route to Italy, but is afraid that she might be arrested and clamped in jail, care of George Galloway.
My friend didn’t know what to tell her!
And now this evening, I’ll be running our Broughton Park Jewish Christian Dialogue Group as usual. We’ve done it every fortnight for 6 years, rain or shine. Tonight we’re supposed to be looking at the 18th-century Hasidim, a jolly group of people who thought that loving your neighbour and forcing yourself to be happy throughout would win the day – but they found out the hard way that this was not the view of their Christian neighbours who massacred them – so many of those who survived emigrated to Israel, encouraged by their own leader, the Baal Shem Tov, and his opponent, the very stern Vilna Gaon of Lithuania, 96% of whose co-religionists were massacred by Lithuanians during the Holocaust, even though Jews had preceded Christianity in that country by a number of centuries!
But both these Torah giants knew the truth: that there is no place for Jews in Europe any more.
Do send on my thoughts to your friends.