Monica Porter
London-based journalist and author

Making aliyah…a bit?

I’ve been thinking more and more lately about how great it would be to emigrate to Israel. Make aliyah. You see, I even know the right expression. It’s true, I’m not Jewish, but is that really such a problem? After all, my heart is in the right place. And I’ve been writing for the Jewish Chronicle for decades. That should count for something.

So why, I hear you ask, would a self-confessed shiksa like me choose to abandon the undoubted utopia that is suburban north London to start a new life in the Holy Land, rife though it is with endless conflict? Oy, how much time have you got?

Setting aside the obvious benefits – namely that the sun shines a lot and I do love a healthy tan and swimming in the Med, I hear the houmous is the best, and the country is chock-full of cool Israeli men like the chaps in that exciting TV series, Fauda – I have some more sober reasons too.

Chief amongst these is dismay at the West’s spinelessness in the face of the threat from radical Islam, to the point where I haven’t much respect anymore for our liberal democracies (and their largely craven and hypocritical media). In rickety times like these, when the world needs a clear message – that the enlightened countries of the West will never let barbarism prevail – we need more robust leadership. What finally put me off our hopeless former prime minister, Theresa May, for good, was her refusal to offer a safe haven to Asia Bibi, the Christian woman under threat of death in her native Pakistan…for fear of a backlash from our own Muslim population. How gutless is that?

Is it any wonder I have been asking myself: so… if not here, then where else would I like to live? And the question always brings me back to Israel. In today’s messed-up world, it’s one country I can really respect. A country with cojones.

And then there’s all that intriguing history. I’ve really got into the Old Testament lately. This was triggered by watching that 1985 film King David, with Richard Gere in the title role, wearing an unconvincing shaggy wig. No Oscar-winner, as movies go, but I could finally fit all those great biblical figures together – Samuel, Saul, David, Solomon, etc. Of course I should have known it all before, but as a Catholic child, I attended Catechism classes and mainly had the New Testament rammed down my throat. Nowadays I’m rusty on that too, having lapsed when I was 10.

Anyway, you’ve got to admire the way King David smote the Philistines. And the Ammonites and the Aramites, the Moabites and the Edomites (you see, I’m learning). My goodness, back then the Jews really knew how to smite, just as, since the founding of Israel, they have carried on defeating their enemies. But they can’t do it without statehood. Without a strong and confident Jewish nation there is only persecution, pogroms, and the Holocaust. Why can’t the world see that?

I was last in Israel long ago — way too long. It was in 1992, when my mother and I attended her ceremony at Yad Vashem. She was named a Righteous Among the Nations for rescuing Jewish friends from deportation in Budapest in 1944. Please note: my mother was a Holocaust heroine! Mega brownie points, which surely will be taken into account should I apply to make aliyah.

And here’s a final basis for my relocation to the land of milk and honey: I had one set of Jewish ancestors, albeit on my father’s side. My maiden name was Halasz, and the Halasz family (previously the Fischers) were bona fide Ashkenazi Jews, and while it’s true that my father converted to Protestantism as a teenager in the Hungary of the 1930s, that was for understandable self-preservation reasons.

So, as I am in fact (sort of) half-Jewish, maybe I could live in Israel for just six months of each year. That’s not asking too much, is it? Next year in Jerusalem! Please?

About the Author
Monica Porter was born in Budapest and emigrated with her family to the US after the 1956 Revolution. Living in London since 1970, she is a freelance journalist who has contributed to countless British newspapers and magazines and written several books - her latest, about youngsters involved in anti-Nazi resistance in wartime Europe - will be published in April 2020.