I have often wondered about my British brethrens’ thoughts and allegiances towards the State of Israel; my own personal thoughts are probably just as complex. All my 78 years I have lived in Britain. In my younger days I went through the experience of sleeping under a table while German bombs rained down night after night. Having come through all that one could not help being patriotic and thankful to my country.
Along with many British Jews, I grew up with the young Princess Elizabeth and later when she became Queen and therefore I have always felt that my allegiance firstly was to the Royal Family as a British subject. In later years when the State of Israel became a reality I fought with my emotions trying to decide what was more important to me. Although an avid Zionist, I tried to put it into perspective and as a Jew, let’s be honest, Judaism is a religion and not a national identity. To put it bluntly I love Israel but I must put my Britishness first. However, when discussing this with my Rabbi he used the hypothetical question that if Britain ever went to war against Israel would I have fired on my fellow Jews? The strange answer to that is, and I cannot find a real reason for this, is that then I would have supported Israel. Now you can see the turmoil my mind is in.
It is heartening to know that many non-Jewish British politicians strongly support the Israeli cause, one of the most notable being Tony Blair, who I believe genuinely cares for the State. This proves that one can support Britain and still care about Israel at the same time. It therefore saddens me that many British Jews that I know are quite indifferent to the State of Israel. Some British Jews seem to think that we are different in many ways from the average Israeli, maybe because Israelis speak Hebrew, which most British Jews can read but not speak. It is a shame that many British Jews do not learn to understand Hebrew as a modern language, myself included. So when coming into connection with an Israeli, the Israeli can appear to be just as if from any foreign country and of course British Jews have had a much softer life without fear of oppression and annihilation which the average Israeli has a much stronger outlook to life and in a way this has made us different. Although quite willing to give charity when asked, maybe to ease their conscience, many British Jews change their minds once they have paid a visit. They do start taking a different view particularly when they have visited Jerusalem and stand before the Western Wall, realising that this is the centre of Judaism and a place for their personal emotions to flow which might not have happened anywhere else.
Thank God there are many thousands of British Jews who do care. Many have made Aliyah and are living there very happily and it’s lovely to see the amount of Jewish people who have their sons’ barmitzvah in Jerusalem. Every Orthodox synagogue says a prayer for the safety of the State of Israel along with the prayer for the Royal Family and at most simchas a toast to the President of the State of Israel is said. Thank God that when we read our Haggadahs, British Jews will always finish with Next Year in Jerusalem. I only hope that in the future more and more will follow those words.