Things are not quite as they were in der heim, nor, for that matter, in the villages, settlements and outposts our ancient forebears spent Bereshis meandering through. As we approach Chanukah and a gender-neutral Santa Cohen collects gelt to be delivered to worthy recipients, it is time to consider the ultimate present the community – and the world – needs: peace in Israel and the Middle East.
Ironically, the shambolic Brexit imbroglio might point the way: when I took an 112 year old Henry Allingham back to his original primary school in Stoke Newington, where he was interviewed by the School Council – each at least 100 years younger than him – he told me the “Common Market” as he called it, had saved the world from future wars. As a founder member of the RAF and veteran of World War Two, he should have known! Henry – who was born in Clapton – became the oldest man in the world for a month, before passing away aged 113.
As a Zionist, I support Israel’s right to exist in peace within secure borders, but understand the need for a peace settlement. Statehood, isn’t what it was: despite xenophobic attitudes in some quarters, most countries that prosper, do so in unison, co-operation – even some times, federation – with others.
The European Union has helped to keep the peace for more than seventy years, a similar Middle East Union could do so in Israel and the Palestinian territory. Before any peace settlement can be achieved, economic progress must be made and trust rekindled, following decades of bitterness and hatred. The way to do this is through economic co-operation, informal, initially, then properly structured in the same way as the nascent Common Market developed after World War Two.
Two alumni from my old school, Orange Hill, in Edgware could help with this: Sir Ronald Cohen (who I don’t know) who supports economic co-operation and development between the communities and Mark Tucker, currently Chairman of HSBC (who I do know), could both help work towards sensible economic co-operation which, after some time, could lead to meaningful negotiations.
A two state solution within a Common Market would produce enormous economic benefits throughout the region as well as eventually leading to a lasting peace. Keynes may have said: “In the long run, we’re all dead” but in the short run we need to create hope for a peaceful future, where mutual respect replaces suspicion and despair and meaningful co-operation brings an end to hatred.
That’s a Chanukah prospect more appetising than traditional doughnuts, one which would put Chanukah gelt and other resources to their ultimate best use: creating greater prosperity for all.