Where’s Tha Cloth Cap?

Mention Yorkshire to cognoscenti and expect a reference to Ilka Moor Bah Tat.
Let me explain.
Ilkley Moor is on Leeds’s doorstep. A most unexpected place to do any courting. The ballad portrays an unfolding romance in a bleak Jane Eyre like settings. Our bare-headed heroine, Mary- Jane, catches her death of cold. Follows is a Chad Gadya food chain with a cannibalistic outcome. All because the lass was daft enough to go on Moors without precautions.

Back in Leeds, our Jewish lives had a similar sense of the pre-ordained. There was only one way to go. Mr Shiffer’s way. I have spent many a year honing my descriptive powers. My business, as a shrink, is to describe what makes people tick and folk interact. In the autumn of my years, on describing Mr Shiffer, I realize I am a shoddy lay-man. The essence of Shiffer was his piercing, mesmerizing blue eyes. They expressed every emotion, including joy. The joy he shared when he, yet again, got his way. No matter what, no matter how Shiffer dominated, decided, and delegated. The poultry shop owner ran the roost. Only one cock crowed in the Leeds Jewry.

The Leeds air was filthy, the city breathed the poison billowing from the Lowry factory chimney stack. Again, like Shiffer, this was a force beyond control. Like Shiffer, it was a necessary evil never to be questioned. ‘Where’s there’s muck there’s money,’ excused every lung disease known to mankind.

In Leeds, we were not captives, we were participants in something that we had no control. We had a minor escape and permanent reminder of the Exodus that is central in our beliefs. Supporting Leeds United is an experience of a  never-ending, weekly incident-filled saga. The Jews of Leeds were Marching On Together to something that was bound to come but never quite did. They were searching for the promised land where they belonged in the glory that was rightly theirs.

And what has that to do with today? Far more than I care to admit.

Let’s reverse the order. Many of the Jews of Leeds found their promised land- Israel. Here we are, and nothing has changed.

Bibi is a less likeable and probably bigger rogue than old man Shiffer. Netanyahu’s way is the only way. The political factories are belching out poisonous rubbish mollified by meaningless deceiving slogans. ‘Where there is muck’ is now ‘Where there is Israeli.’ ‘There is money,’ is now ‘There is ingenuity.’ And they are both self-serving Shifferesque lies. We played the Corona worse than the ‘failed state,’ Palestine. Israel’s health system is hopelessly understaffed and backwards by many a standard. The IT infrastructure is on par with Jordan’s and way behind Romania’s. Our education system is a disgrace; political fiefdoms producing pupils trapped in ignorance destined to be sectoral cannon fodder.

And we all sing our version of Ilkla Moor.


In this version, it is not about not having a hat. It is all about not having a trial. One worm devours a party, one party devours the Knesset, the Knesset devours the high Court. The Angel Of Death watches patiently in Teheran.

All that is missing is the ever-present cloth cap.

About the Author
Born in Leeds in 1944, Michael Benjamin is a retired Psychiatrist and medical auditor, co-founder of Oranit, aspiring author and inveterate cynic.
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