As a Jew, the city where I grew up and have always lived feels less and less comfortable
I’ve always lived in London. I grew up near Baker Street and went to school in Camden. Even when I was at college in Kent, I lived in Islington and commuted. Five years ago I moved to Belsize Park and I’ve been here, the nicest place I’ve lived, ever since. I didn’t mean to stay — I was going to see the world, but my father died and my mother said she needed me to be close. She said it with a tremor in her voice, so I stayed.
London is in my heart and in my blood, but the wind has changed, like it did for Mary Poppins, and I think it’s going to blow me out of the city, all the way to Tel Aviv. (...)
There’s a train of thought among right-thinking people in London at the moment that Israel is culpable; that it is responsible for all the ills of the Palestinians, all the woes of the Middle East. If it weren’t for Israel, they say, the world would be a better place. If you go to a dinner party you can hear things that wouldn’t have sounded unfamiliar in 1930s Germany. They say they’re just ‘anti-Zionist’ but to be anti-Zionist is to be anti-Semitic. No one is anti- any other country. No one questions, say, Iran’s right to exist. (...)
If only those people who wish ill on Israel, on Jews, could know what it’s like to hear their hatred — to live in London and hear that Jews are the puppet-masters of the world, that Israel only helps in disaster zones to harvest organs. My father would have known. He spent time in the 1940s in Nazi concentration camps, because he was Jewish. His parents and sister were murdered for the same reason. My father would feel the same dread chill, and know — first-hand — where all this blame and hatred of Jews leads. If you think I exaggerate, then tell me; where do you think it leads? It may be only the first ugly murmur, from stupid people, but it won’t end there.
I’ve been to Tel Aviv four times in five years, and it seems to me a place of positive things: hope, investment in the future, strength and patience and humour. This is why I’m thinking of moving.
A large section of the city was designed by European émigrés who had studied at the Bauhaus in the 1930s. The lucky architects who managed to leave Germany in time, of course. The buildings are rarely more than three or four storeys and often have curved balconies. These are lovely streets to walk along, not least because of the exotic trees planted close together, casting cool shadows.read more