Those were the Days of Awe, when, as a well behaved youngster growing up in the sixties and later a pimply teenager of the seventies, our pride was measured in terms of three iconic principles, Spurs, the England football team and… Israel.
Nothing else mattered; England had won the World Cup, Spurs, the F. A. Cup and Israel? …well, they had just won The Six Day War! Now beating Germany at Wembley the year before by four goals to one, was actually far more impressive than destroying the whole of the Egyptian Air Force and all the Syrian and Jordanian ground forces is less time it took from one home game to the next, but nevertheless, we were so proud. Being an English Jewish kid, even in a regular state primary school, with parents who had never even contemplated taking their summer holidays anywhere other than the Iberian Peninsula or Bournemouth, even for someone like us, Moshe Dayan certainly rated up there with Bobby Charlton and Jimmy Greaves, (well maybe not Greavsie). Then came Mexico 1970. The English world champions disappointed but Israel managed to provide us with a decent consolation prize, a 0-0 draw against Italy! Oh to be English and Jewish, honestly, we couldn’t go wrong!
Then came the Days of Awe. Starting with Munich in 1972 and quickly followed by Yom Kippur 1973. This was then followed by a far, far worse tragedy, the England football team’s failure to make the World Cup Finals of 1974, the embarrassment of getting knocked out in the preliminary stage by……Poland? (yes frigginn’ Poland, do they even play football in Poland)? I didn’t know where to turn, was there a G-d? The Arabs nearly managed to wipe Israel of the face of the earth, and Tomechevski, the Polish goalkeeper, kept out every one of England’s fine goal bound efforts. The Days of Awe indeed.
Introspection, that decidedly Jewish cultural demeanor, the one where you blame yourself for absolutely everything, even the fact that your Mum was about to drive you into an early grave and your Dad, well he was too busy on the road selling wholesale to even know how you felt.
Israel nearly exploded and the Germans, yes the Germans, (no I couldn’t believe it either), won that 1974 World Cup, and Spurs? well they were a long way from past greatness. We certainly needed to repent on that Yom Kippur. Did that mean that the fact that I had always noshed behind my Dad’s back each year, that it was really all my fault? This year I had to fast. The security of Israel and any hope of Spurs reclaiming their rightful place as the only football team in North London, well, it all depended on 25 hours of no food.
Recently, I calculated that I have witnessed part, or all of seven different decades, (well only one year of the fifties), and those long dreary winters have been exchanged for the bright cool days of the Western Galilee and more recently, the beauty of San Diego. And yes, despite the uncomfortable necessity in having to defend things out loud that privately disgust me, the corrupt outgoing government, the recent wave of terror in Jerusalem, and the expansion of the BDS movement (especially in the provincial cities of England). I wondered where the kids growing up today in Elstree or Encino find that pride in Israel. Then comes along the Hyper Cacher, and once again the world proves beyond a shadow of a doubt, that ingrained need we have for the Jewish state, no matter whether we live in Brooklyn or Bat Yam.
And yes, I still pray to G-d each night that he will look to protect Israel and …. well just for once, ….let Spurs win the English Premier League!