It was because I was Jewish that growing up in London, I had to get used to occasional low-level antisemitism — from schoolboys of the local non-Jewish high school shouting abuse, to the salesman in a well known Oxford Street shop telling me with pride that he heard that the longer a Jew’s sidelocks, the richer they were.
Despite this, the UK is a fantastic place to be Jewish. Being an Orthodox Jew, I proudly wore my kippah in the places I worked, including in Parliament. I would never have imagined that six years after concluding my job advocating for Israel in the Houses of Parliament, the very walls I looked at whilst discussing Israel over tea with parliamentarians on the terraces would be lit up in the Blue and White of Israel’s flag as a result of the brutal, heinous and evil murders of 1,400 of her own citizens by the terrorist hands of Hamas, all because they were Jewish.
With King Charles issuing an unprecedented statement condemning “the barbaric acts of terrorism in Israel” and both Prime Minister Rishi Sunak and Sir Keir Starmer unequivocally condemning Hamas and being extremely supportive in our time of sorrow, UK Jewry has a lot to be thankful for.
However, these past two weeks have also shown us who are not our friends. With antisemitic incidents increasing by 1,353 percent since Hamas launched their terror on Israel and hundreds of thousands attending Pro-Palestinian rallies across the country openly supporting Hamas and the murder of Jews, there is genuine cause for worry. Many British Jews just don’t feel safe anymore.
My decision to leave the UK in 2017 and to emigrate to Israel—my spiritual homeland—was simple. Immediately in Israel, I felt something I’ve never felt before—I felt safe. I could walk the streets without a worry because I was Jewish. So, every year on 16th October I celebrate the anniversary of the day that I made ‘aliyah’ and moved from London to Israel.
Last week, I was in no mood to celebrate. I spent the anniversary in prayer for my country and for the estimated 210 hostages still being held captive in Gaza by Hamas.
50 Years After the Yom Kippur War, Israel Was Again Caught Off Guard
On that fateful morning of Saturday 7th October, I was giving my two-and-a-half-year-old daughter breakfast at 6:30am in our apartment in Ra’anana, about 20 miles north of Tel Aviv, when we heard the siren. Running out to our stairwell, our next-door neighbour Chana shared the news that 300 rockets had just landed in Israel from the Gaza Strip. Sitting on the stairs, holding on tightly to our eight-month-old son, I had two concurrent thoughts.
What would the world look like when he is eighteen, the age of conscription to the Israeli army? Will he still have to be defending Israel’s borders whilst deadly rockets indiscriminately land from those who want us dead, simply because we’re Jewish?
My mind then went to our wonderful elderly neighbour, Chana. It suddenly dawned on me that it was exactly 50 years ago that Chana’s husband was murdered as an Israeli soldier in the Yom Kippur War in 1973. I was shaking as I held my son, the future of the Jewish State, in my arms whilst hearing the pain of fifty years of grief, relaying the news of history repeating itself. Little did we know the harrowing details of what was unfolding.
Two weeks ago, for the first time in six years, my sense of safety in Israel changed. Every time I’ve needed to leave my apartment to go on the two-minute walk to my local supermarket, I’ve been petrified. Would the siren go off again and I would have to run for cover? With terrorists still on the loose, would I be safe?
A Fight for Israel is a Fight for Humanity
Sitting in the bomb shelter of my local synagogue a week ago on Saturday, I shuddered when we read the Biblical verse of Genesis 3:9, “God called to Man, ‘Where are you?’” Every decent and moral human being should stand up and condemn Hamas as evil terrorists and be on the right side of history. The refusal of the BBC and others to do so plays into Hamas’ warped and deadly narrative. Not only is this Israel’s war on Hamas; this is humanity’s war against Hamas. The soul and survival of our very nation and the world is at stake.
When my children are old enough to ask why this war happened, I will reply “Because we’re Jewish.” When they ask why Israel was able to defeat Hamas, I will reply “Because humanity stood with Israel to defeat evil.”
Many have asked me if I am considering leaving Israel at this worrying time. My answer has been unequivocal. We are going nowhere—this is our home and there is nowhere else we would rather be.