I was living in a sleepy countryside town in northwest England. I got on well with my neighbours, even though they told me they were voting for Brexit because they didn’t want any more immigrants.
“But I’m a granddaughter of immigrants.” I told them.
“Oh but you’re different. You’re our friend.”
Once, whilst sitting in a restaurant, a Chinese family walked in and everyone turned to stare at them as though they each had three heads and sixteen legs.
I worked at a school which I loved, but where most of the students and teachers had never met a Jew before. When I asked to take the high holy days off, my boss thought I was making them up and my headmaster didn’t give me permission until I wrote to him saying his delay in authorising my request was tantamount to discrimination.
One person even asked me, “Can Jews breathe on the Sabbath?”
I’d lived in my little village for quite a few years when Brexit was voted for by the majority, and soon Britain would be leaving Europe. I talked to, read and heard about many hundreds of thousands of people who were horrified at this decision, aware it had been made based on lies and an inherent racism the rural parts of Britain have not quite been able to rid themselves of yet. There was so much opposition to Brexit I was convinced the decision would be reversed – surely it had to be?
Yet British people are not renowned for their passionate temperament and coming out onto the streets to revolt. There was a lot of rumbling, murmuring, complaining, but that was all, and now Britain is anything but Great, and the British are suffering from this foolish decision that the government stuck by.
Three years ago, I moved to Israel. Here, I also live in the countryside, and funnily enough, it’s a similar place in that it’s surrounded with hills and forests and the most beautiful scenery. But the hills are higher and the forests larger and the rain much rarer and the sun much warmer.
Here, though, I do have a community of pluralistic, wonderful Jewish people who accept me and my son for whom we are and what we believe in, as well as lovely Arab friends in the villages and towns around us.
When Israelis tell me they want to move to another country, I tell them some of my stories as a Jew living in a minority. It’s important they understand what it can really be like.
Here I feel totally accepted and a part of my people. And I am so proud of that, too. I am proud of how, in the last three months, Jews and Arabs have left the comfort of their homes to shout in the streets how they will not accept a dictatorship, how they want democracy, equality for all, and for our people to finally honour the promises made in Israel’s Declaration of Independence in 1948.
The people of Israel are not sitting at home complaining about the government and not doing anything about it. They are doing everything they can, and will not stop until they succeed. Until we succeed, for I have always felt one of our people.
Except recently, that’s changed just a little. Too many times I have heard people tell me that I’m lucky, that my family are lucky, because if this country becomes a dictatorship or ends up with a civil war, I can just go back ‘home’. After all, I have a British passport. So what is stopping me?
I’ll tell you what’s stopping me. THIS is my home. I didn’t choose to uproot my whole life three years ago, leave my friends and my immediate family, only to return at the slightest hint of danger. In fact, the opposite. I moved here to make a difference to this country, as arrogant and naïve as that may sound. But even if it does, I can put my hand on my heart and say I am doing what I set out to do. I am fighting for peace and equality, going to conferences and peace circles and protests and demonstrations and you name it, I’m there. I will fight for democracy until we get it. And if we don’t, God forbid, then I will die fighting for it!
So just one small request to my fellow Israelis. Please don’t tell me I can ‘go home’. Please don’t tell me it’s easy for me; I can choose. Leaving here is not a choice for me. Only moving here was.
Now I am here, I will do everything in my power to make it a better home for all of us.