Ziek Gelkoff
Living it up in London

Happy Hanukah – Celebration of Light

© Blake Ezra Photography Ltd. 2022

What better time to write this blog than Hanukah

We, the Jewish people, have seen the hardest two months since the holocaust. Most of us didn’t live through the holocaust and therefore these were really the hardest two months in many of our lifetimes.

Having done a Jewish wedding within a week of the 7/10 Massacre has been a surreal experience. Our shared experience that ‘no one gives a damn but ourselves’ came into sharp focus at this event. Many of the suppliers are not Jewish, some on our own team, are not Jewish. Spending a whole work day in a Green room and trying to keep up the jolly atmosphere we always nurture on our events is not easy when your entire social feed doesn’t stop blinging with newly discovered horror stories and gory details only just being uncovered.

Many in our team, completely oblivious to what happened, for them it was just another headline in their weekly news feed. We on the other hand, all have family and friends who have been directly impacted- we have been directly impacted!

We didn’t stop crying for weeks.

Joining a UK wide Jewish safety briefing on my phone between sets, hosting a wedding of about 200 Jewish people at a plush central London hotel, surrounded with guests from the gulf states in the hotel. The head spins with thoughts, anguish, pride.

Our band singing ‘Od Yavo Shalom Aleinu’ seems absurd, yet simultaneously seems like a complete defiance to the exploding antisemitism all around us. Couldn’t be prouder, couldn’t be sadder, couldn’t be more certain of our place in the world, our Jewish identity.

A few weeks in, angry mobs across the globe smashing Jewish shop fronts, burning Israeli flags, chasing Jews to lynch. Not a word from Amnesty or the UN on the atrocities that happened to our people, our woman and babies. The Jewish world in a state of shock, in a state of unity, we are alone, again.

And yet we still hold Simchas and weddings. After all the Mitzvah to celebrate life and hope is greater than the need to dwell in our past. In fact, Israelis seemed to have gone wild with this and many marriages have been pushed forward and surprise engagements announced. The Facebook groups flooded with images of young Israeli couples in their IDF uniform, proposing marriage in the most patriotic settings.

Our industry has been split in half. The suppliers who openly support Israel vs the ones who remain silent. Suppliers attacking each-other for taking sides or not taking any sides at all. I imagine it must be difficult for a non-Jew, how should they know what to say? Being exposed to channels like the BBC and Sky. Of course we still go back to the original question- why haven’t they said anything in the first few days, when the 7/10 massacre was still at the centre of news reports. Suppliers who have had the majority of their income made in the Jewish events industry, why haven’t they message us? Why haven’t they posted on their social media pages their sympathy for our people of that Black Saturday two months ago?

Antisemitism, has come alive in its full monstrous form. There is no denying it now. Many in this world, still, choose to think the worst of us, assume we are the villain when given the option, assume there is some Jewish conspiracy. Where evidence is provided to prove our innocence, it is brushed off as propaganda, while the other side offers no evidence at all. A clear example of this was the bombing of the hospital, where the blame was put on Israel with no evidence to back it. To this day no one has offered evidence to counter the IDF evidence, and yet, the anti Israeli mob is certain it was an Israeli rocket that hit the hospital and killed 100’s. While in actual fact, the hospital wasn’t even hit and those hundreds have been revised down to 12. All evidence to this day is pointing of course at a stray missile shot by another terrorist group.

But today is a day of Chag, that is holiday in Hebrew. Today is the first candle of Hanukah and it means more to me today than any other year ever. Hanukah is the celebration of light against darkness, it is also the celebration of freedom. Our freedom to be Jewish inwardly and outwardly in Israel. ‘ .. להיות עם חופשי בארצינו..’ The words from Hatikvah (our Anthem, which translates into ‘the hope’). I would like to extend this wish beyond our Israeli borders; the freedom to be Jewish in other countries as well, without fear of prosecution, without fears of being targeted or lynched. Our aspirations were always peaceful, and we are happy to live in peace in the western world, we don’t ask to convert anyone or bring them into our religion, we just ask to live with dignity and be accepted as equals.

May this darkness we have experienced in the last weeks be overcome by light and peace. Our calendar is filled with Simchas, with happy occasions, we look forward not back, and always celebrate life.

Shalom and Chag Sameach

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© Blake Ezra Photography Ltd. 2022
© Blake Ezra Photography Ltd. 2022
About the Author
Ziek Gelkoff is an Israeli, he married into a Jewish English family and is the co founder of XS Showband, one of the UK's leading music bands today. He believes he has a unique stand point that includes both the Israeli and the English Jewish world view. The events industry is always a vibrant source of stories and culture and it would be great to share some of his experience and insight with other Jews, may they be Israeli, American or English.
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