Thursday, 26 October 2017

Falling over a reminiscence: lost friendship and lost youth

The war probably had something to do with it. We never really settled back into kibbutz life after the Six Day War. The “we” were Tzvi, Avraham and myself. We had all made aliyah from Europe at different times.
Tzvi was from Austria, Avraham from Poland and I was from England.

We decided to leave the kibbutz and study together at university. We thought we would form a good team. 
Tzvi had rich family and he said they would help.

Mike joined our group later. He was an ex-member of our kibbutz and also from Austria.
He had come back from the war with a grey streak in his hair. 
We teased him a bit about it. Said it would help him with the women. He was not much of a Casanova.

Avraham had also had some trouble in the war.
While helping to evacuate wounded from the battle for Jerusalem, he felt faint and passed out. He had been hit by shrapnel. 
In hospital they removed the shrapnel and he was given a clean bill of health.

Our communal university plans never materialized. 
I decided to go back to Europe. Tzvi married an Israeli girl and stayed on the kibbutz. Avraham went to live with his mother in Tel Aviv.
Mike went to university on his own .

I had been in Amsterdam for six months when I received a phone call.
Avraham was dead. He had died in his sleep. 
They performed an autopsy and concluded that a piece of shrapnel had been missed. Eventually it had started to move, entered his blood stream and killed him.

Every now and then I think of Avraham. Halev boche besheket.
Am I just mourning him or am I also mourning lost friendship and lost youth?

Wednesday, 25 October 2017

The First Kibbutz: Degania

The pioneers of the New Yishuv worked from dawn to dusk. It was daily, back-breaking, physical labour. To survive there was a rigid work ethic. Not much time for folk songs and dancing the hora.
The following historical story is an excerpt from my cousin Beni's blog post, "The Ploughman". It is about this work ethic.

“In October or November 1911 a number of plough teams were ploughing a field. The field was the longest field in the country; it stretched for one kilometer close to the south bank of the river Jordan. It was part of an experimental land allotment allocated to thirteen people who had formed a collective settlement called Degania.
The horse drawn ploughs were turning perfectly straight furrows in the soil. Work had started shortly after dawn and continued with a short break for a simple lunch till dusk.
One of the ploughmen was a newcomer to Degania. In those days there were no reception committees and people wandered in and out almost at will. They stayed as long as they worked or were asked to leave.
Earlier the same year the Degania settlers had harvested their first crop of wheat. The yield was good and it left them with a small profit. Had the crop failed the group would have disbanded and the collective settlement later called the kibbutz may have never come into being.
Late in the afternoon the newcomer reined in his horse, pulled out a leather tobacco pouch, took a pinch of tobacco and rolled a cigarette. He lit the cigarette and smoked it, then returned to his work.
Unknown to him he had broken a cardinal rule, a basic tenet of the group’s work ethic and the unscheduled break had been seen by everyone in the field.
At the end of the day when everyone had gathered in the dining room for the evening meal the group was silent. There was no mention of the cigarette but the offender could sense the unspoken censure.
The next morning before dawn, while the members of the group were still sleeping, the newcomer gathered his belongings and left.”

Friday, 6 October 2017

The clock is ticking for the Jews of Amsterdam

Some 15 years ago in Amsterdam, observant Jews started to complain to the local government and police about verbal and physical harassment in predominantly migrant neighbourhoods.

The only Amsterdam politician who was truly shocked by this development was an ethnic Moroccan called Ahmed Marcouch. He proposed a number of concrete measures to combat the growing anti-Semitism from Muslims.
None of the proposed measures were carried out.

The police had their own method for solving the problem of anti-Jewish incidents. They did not try to apprehend or stop the perpetrators. They did nothing.
Instead, they told the Jews to cover up their ethnicity, or leave.
The Jews left. No Jews, no attacks on Jews, problem solved.

Nowadays, there is no public Jewish life in Amsterdam any more. Observant Jews have retreated to a few neighbourhoods in the south of the city. When they leave these small neighbourhoods they hide their heritage in public.

Seventy years after the end of the Holocaust, Amsterdam Jews are again hiding the fact that they are Jews. And few people care.
They are a liability. It costs money to protect their buildings and their very presence provokes the growing Muslim community.
However, the biggest problem with the Jews is that they support Israel.
Hatred of Israel is a binding factor between the regressive left, (many) Muslims and indigenous anti-Semites. It is not the size of the country that they hate, it is its very existence. For them, Zionism is the same as Nazism and Israel is even worse than ISIS.

In 2018 there are local elections. According to the prognoses, a majority of the vote will likely go to anti-Zionist parties.
What then for the Jews of Amsterdam, who support the state of Israel?  
Ominously, there have been recent verbal and physical attacks on pro-Israel demonstrators and the police have done nothing about them. Even though the attacks were filmed and they know the names of the perpetrators.

There is an arrangement for public participation at council meetings. Anybody can speak to the council for three minutes.
One of the pro-Israel demonstrators who had been physically attacked took advantage of this arrangement. The members of the party that is projected to be the biggest after the next elections, got up and left when he started to speak.

I remember an article in a national daily newspaper written by one of the leaders of an “anti-racist” platform. He wrote that Zionists were traitors and they should be tried for treason. Many on next year's new council in Amsterdam will agree with him.

The clock is ticking for the Jews of Amsterdam. They would do well to remember that the Dutch have a history of betraying Jews.