Monday 22 December 2014


At Christmas we’re meant to think of others, but I’m going to spoil all that by writing about myself.

During the war in Gaza earlier this year I felt something that I never wish to feel again. If you don’t sympathise with me I will understand. Wittering about my own woes appears magnificently egocentric and selfish, when compared to those endured by the suffering masses involved in that terrifying conflict.

I’m always fearful of writing about Israel, as in the past I’ve managed to simultaneously upset my family and my Irish friends. Both essential pillars that support my life, they exist on differing extremities.

Hence this piece does not invite Middle Eastern debate. The last thing I need is to become embroiled as arbiter between those two much-loved factions.

This is about something I felt, which nobody else can deny.

Along with everyone else on the planet, I have the right to feel safe, yet this year I have on rare but significant occasions felt less than that.

I have not suffered anti-Semitism any more than usual.
I have not been threatened by physical violence.
Those that I love have not been put at risk.

In the past, I’ve had to deal with all of the above, simply for being Jewish, yet each I managed and moved on, chin raised defiantly to my future.

However, as that terrible war raged in Gaza, I walked the streets of Galway under Palestinian flags, wondering for the first time if, as a Jew, I might ever become excluded from that uniquely Irish compassion and humanity which first caused me to fall in love with this country.

Until now I’d always imagined that Ireland’s passionate support for the Palestinian cause was the natural product of this nation’s victim mentality: a people who had won their hard-fought independence were now identifying with another struggling against an oppressor.

In Irish newspapers, TV and social media I encountered justified anger and outrage over the killing. Yet with a third of Lebanon’s population comprised of Syrian refugees; with DRC witnessing slaughter and massacre on a regular basis; with so much vile warfare around the world, why were the Irish focused solely on this particular conflict?

So powerful was your anti-Israeli venom and vitriol, I wondered if maybe there was something deeper afoot. Could it be that, despite modern secular Irish liberality, the tiniest smidgeon of religious indoctrination about ‘Christ Killers’ was contributing subliminally to such loathing?

While the violence wrought by the IDF was appalling to contemplate, I wondered how long it might be before this Irish anger turned from Israel towards Jew.

Criticism of Israeli government policy is not anti-Semitic, but I felt increasingly scared as I realised that some Irish people had not far to go before they were eaten with hatred.

Jewish people would be foolish not to learn from our history. We’ve have been burned out of Irish cities in the past, just as we have been burned from our homes the world over.

Throughout my London childhood my father told me:

“We are guests in this country. One day we might have to move somewhere else.”

His own father had left northern Europe a few years before Hitler tried to eradicate Jewry from the planet. I was born only 15 years after the end of the Second World War, so the horror of the Final Solution was fresh in the psyches of the world’s Jewish population.

As the war in Gaza intensified, some of my Irish friends and some of my family took up extreme positions, seeing little but absolutes. 

Everyone was suddenly an expert on the Middle East. Nobody could watch the destruction of Gaza without feeling intense pain, but when I dared to state out loud the evident truth that the entire situation is complicated, some Irish ears heard different words.

What they heard was a Jew saying that massacre was a justifiable option.

How could those so close to me think I’d changed overnight?

On the day that my friend's nephew was killed by Hamas fighters coming out of a tunnel, I thought I might lose my mind. Galwegians were yelling at me, as if I were a murderer.

They refused to talk about the conflict. They did not want to listen to me. They no longer asked for my opinion. They didn’t care how I felt or what I thought. They simply assumed my beliefs because I’m a Jew.

I’m a seeker of peace who refuses to see absolutes where none exist. My fathers words were ringing in my ears.

The more aggressive the Israeli government becomes, the less I like it, yet the more I require Israel to exist. The more antagonistic the Irish become towards Israel, the less safe I feel here as a Jew. Israel is the only country where Jews need never fear discrimination, but I want to live in the West of Ireland, not Israel.

More importantly, I’d never allow my safety to come at the expense of another person’s. Still, as a Jew, life quickly feels unsafe when friends refuse to talk to you.

People separate racism and anti-Semitism, but they are one and the same. As an atheist I would not have survived the Nazi gas chambers, and as a human being I am proud of my Jewish identify, my cultural traditions and a unique sense of belonging.

So however bizarre it might sound, this Christmas this atheist is praying for peace in the Holy Land. 

We need a miracle to stop a 3rd Intifada breaking out in East Jerusalem and the West Bank. 

Atheists are notoriously poor at performing miracles, so I pray to your God; to yours and yours; to the universe; to nature; to anything out there that might bring peace.

I pray we stop seeking absolutes and try to listen. I pray for peace in the Holy Land.

Enjoy a Happy Christmas, a splendid Hanukkah and I wish you all shalom, peace.

©Charlie Adley

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