Last week, I was talking to a friend whose sons happen to love falafel. She was telling me how her boys recently went to their favourite restaurant in Golders Green to eat a load of them. As they sat outside munching, they spotted a car slow down in the road. Suddenly, the driver unfurled a Palestinian flag, screamed “dirty Jews!” and drove off.
In fact, neither my friend nor her sons are Jewish — it just so happens they like this particular falafel joint. But as she told me this awful story, I realised — with a profound sadness — that I was completely unsurprised. Because it’s happening to Jews all the time.
It’s completely shattering to think how the grimy tendrils of anti-Jewish hatred have spread over so many aspects of life in the UK, whether it’s being spat at or accosted in the street or any of the countless other acts of abuse.
For example, many in the Jewish community send their children to Jewish schools, and I think it’d break your hearts to see the precautions they have to take.
Of course, loads of other schools have security these days (that’s depressing enough) but none I know of need barbed wire and immediate armed response teams and regular terrorism drills — that’s what it’s like in nearly every Jewish school in London. It’s equally true when Jews go to pray. London synagogues teem with security inside and out — a necessity to protect the lives of the worshippers inside.
To be clear, I absolutely believe that the vast majority of the people in my wonderful city (and this country) are appalled by anti-Jewish racism.
But this is the tragic reality of being Jewish in London in 2022. Not in some far off time or place, but right now and right here; in the greatest, most cosmopolitan city in the world.
It feels all the more agonising this week because Thursday is Holocaust Memorial Day. It’s the time of year when I reflect on the life of my beloved grandfather (whose family were killed in Treblinka extermination camp) and the other dwindling numbers of survivors. His message and theirs has always been this: those who forget their history are doomed to repeat it.
We all have to stand up to every instance of cruelty, big or small, because the descent into human depravity never begins with grand acts of violence, it starts with murmured insults and grows from there. It’s the subtle way horror gets going — not with a bang or people screaming hate in broad daylight, with whispered comments everybody else tolerates.
But we must also remember this: when people of goodwill stand together, evil can be stopped.
In other news...
Many of the royal family are involved with Holocaust related charities and do excellent work with them (the Prince of Wales, for example, has recently commissioned seven portraits of survivors), but the Duchess of Cambridge is something truly special.
I spent an hour or two with her last year, when she was speaking to Holocaust survivors in Windermere. The time she spent listening, and hearing, was the real deal. When commentators talk about her emotional intelligence saving the royal brand, they aren’t kidding.
Basically, Kate’s a one-woman argument for the monarchy — or, at the very least, for a sort of glorious Kate-ocracy.
I’m still waiting on a date from the Palace for them to give me my MBE (maybe they’re a bit nervous about meeting me, poor things, and need extra time to psych themselves up). But when I finally get it, I’m hoping that Kate will be the one to stick it on. Well, her or Princess Anne. Maybe they can do it together?
Have you noticed a rise in anti-semitism? Let us know in the comments below.