Tuesday, July 24, 2012

The BBC, Sport and History


As the London Olympics are due to start in a few days and the past couple of weeks have seen Israel involved in two controversial issues connected to this event, namely the refusal by the IOC to hold a one-minute’s silence in memory of the Israel athletes murdered in the Munich Games of 1972 and the BBC declining to name Jerusalem as Israel’s capital in the list of competing nations on its website, I have decided to rehash this piece that I found stashed away on my computer and which I originally wrote about 12 years ago and have updated.


Late one night in 1993, just after the signing of the Oslo Accords, I switched on my little transistor and tuned into the BBC World Service. I used to do this most evenings in the pre-Internet times to keep in touch with the latest football news. Before the sports reports, there was always a detailed world news programme which I normally half-listened to while waiting for the important stuff to come on. Being quite insular, I usually only paid attention if the Middle East was being spoken about. This time, however, a small item caught my ear as it involved not only the rather volatile area of the world in which I live, but also sport.

Somewhere towards the end of the news headlines, it was announced that the newly formed Palestinian Authority had been accepted by the International Olympic Committee and would be allowed to participate in future Olympic Games. This fact aroused my interest as I realised that later on in the programme there would have to be a full report of this headline. “What on earth,” I wondered “could they find to elaborate on this?” After all, the Palestinians’ international sporting record had not been too auspicious.

I proceeded to listen earnestly to the rest of the news, most of which must have been about the various parts of Yugoslavia bombing each other to smithereens. When, eventually, the newscaster reached the item that I had been waiting for, what was broadcast to the millions of listeners worldwide made my blood boil until I realised what its true implication was and what must have taken place prior to the airing of the programme.

So, before I let you in on what the newsreader said, I would like to go behind the scenes to an editing room in Broadcasting House almost twenty years ago. Realising that he was going to have to put together a piece on rather empty news item, a perturbed editor found an over-eager cub reporter (think of Jimmy Olsen, Superman fans) and sent him off on a mission to rustle up some information about Palestine and sport. He went off and sat down by his computer and got into some database. He began cross-referencing Palestine and the Olympic Games, but to no avail. I assume that he must have come across a little tidbit dated 1972, but decided that informing the world that Palestine holds the Olympic record in the massacring event wasn’t really relevant. So our intrepid reporter began feeding in other key words until he eventually came up with something that put the smile back on the face of his stressed out boss.

Anyway, the newsreader, after repeating the information given in the headline at the start of the programme, then went on to announce that the last time that the Palestinian national football team had taken part in the qualifying rounds of the World Cup was in 1938, when it lost to Egypt.  Well, dear readers, was this another example of the rewriting of history by the notoriously anti-Semitic BBC. Nope, not all. This is an indisputable fact that is borne out in all the record books and databases. However, what these sources of information neglect to tell us was that the Palestinian footballers of the time all bore Hebrew, Hebraised or eastern-European surnames. In other words, they were, in the words of Monty Python, Jews, Yids, Kikes, Red-Sea Pedestrians who were living under British rule in Mandatory Palestine. In one fell swoop, the BBC had managed to negate all the national aspirations of the Palestinian people. There has never been a Palestinian state in the land of Israel and the first “Palestinians” were actually Jews. Of course this all isn’t really important, as most of those listening did not have a proper grasp of history and, as far as they knew, the Palestinians losing to Egypt in the year before the outbreak of the Second World War, were Arabs whose descendants were to battle the Israelis in order to restore what was rightfully theirs. As these were pre-email days, I didn’t get around to writing an irate letter to the BBC, signed “pissed-off, Jerusalem”, so I had to content myself with turning this into an amusing anecdote to be told when the opportunity raised its head. Still, in these days of chaos, it doesn’t do any harm to laugh at the ignorance and prejudice of the supposed civilised world – even when they are directed against us.

Friday, May 25, 2012

The "Y" Word

I haven't blogged in ages. No excuses. Anyway to get myself into the mood, I am posting here an article that I wrote for the Fighting Cock website (needless to say it's a Spurs thing) about the use of the word Yids by Spurs fans. This followed some comments made on the Fighting Cock podcast about it. It sparked off many positive reaction on the site actually. Enjoy


Well, firstly, I suppose that I should present the credentials that make me qualified to pass judgement on the subject of whether or not it is permissible for Spurs fans to use the word “Yid” in reference to themselves or Spurs players. I am Jewish, not only through birth, but through practise as well and, in addition, I have been a Spurs fan for over 40 years. (I am old enough to have lived through a Tottenham championship year; albeit I was only 3 months old when Danny Blanchflower was awarded the trophy.)  I left England over 30 years ago to live in Israel, yet Spurs have been the one constant in my life. I have always managed to keep up with the goings on at White Hart Lane. For years this wasn’t so easy but the onset of the Internet and of satellite TV has meant that I rarely miss a game during the season and I get together with other long-suffering ex-pat fans to watch almost every week.
I have brought up two sons to suffer alongside me and I am proud of the fact that despite the fact that the past decade and a half have been rather barren for the mighty THFC, they resisted the temptation to support other more successful teams as Israeli kids are wont to do and that my youngest son who is now almost 16 has even influenced some of his mates to follow the Tottenham. My proudest moment was when I was able to take them to see Spurs when they came to Israel to play Hapoel Tel Aviv in the UEFA Cup a few years back. (I also have 2 girls, but I couldn’t persuade them to like football.) My American-born wife has learnt to be patient with my obsession. As she has put it on a number of occasions, if supporting Spurs is my worst vice, then she has got herself a pretty good deal.
I recall that my first encounter with anti-Semitism on a personal level came when I was about 9 or 10 years old. As one does at that age, I was playing in a pick-up football game in the local park with kids whom I didn’t know. I have to admit that I loved playing the game but being a bit of a chubby kid at the time (my mum assured me it was “puppy fat”), what I lacked in footballing prowess, I more than made up for in clumsy enthusiasm. And eventually I hacked another player down in a move that would have made Terry “the Meathook” Naylor proud.
As the kid fell, he exclaimed “You Jew!” I must have been fairly naïve at the time, and anyway the word “Jew” had not been preceded by an adjective such as “bloody” or “effing”, so it did not strike me that he was insulting me. My response was to turn around pleasantly and say simply “Oh, how did you know?” I was quite astonished as there were no outward signs of my Mosaic ancestry. This seemed to take the kid by surprise. “Oh are you?” he said quite embarrassed, “I’m sorry, I didn’t know.” It was if he had called me a bastard and I had turned round and admitted to my parents’ having borne me out of wedlock. I thought little of it and carried on charging around the pitch trying to make as much of a nuisance of myself as possible, which was my main football strategy at the time.
It was only later that it dawned on me that he was using the word, “Jew” as an insult. I knew all about anti-Semitism; my mother had been through the Holocaust before finding refuge in England after the war and my father and his family had managed to leave Germany in 1933 after the Nazis came to power. However, this was the first time I had heard the word that I had been brought up to be proud of used in a pejorative sense. The kid I had fouled probably had no idea what it meant, and as at that time we did not live in a neighbourhood where there was a large Jewish community, chances are that I was the first Red-Sea Pedestrian that he had met in his life. The boy had most probably picked it up from the Alf Garnetts who were bringing him up.
The word “Yid” I would hear used as an insult against me several years later when I was about 14. I went to a large Jewish school which was then situated in Camden Town, quite a rough area at the time in which very few Jews lived. To make life hard for my friends and me, and easy for the local yobbos, our uniforms were bright blue with a luminous yellow badge whilst all the other schools in the neighbourhood wore black blazers. We were spotted from a mile off making our way down to the station in our attempt to make it to the safety of North-West London and every week there incidents in which pupils from my school were insulted or attacked.
I knew the word as the Yiddish for Jew. I had a good working knowledge of the language as my Rumanian born grandmother would speak to me in Yiddish although I would reply in English. I was old enough to realise instantly that I was being insulted, but again I was a bit puzzled as to what could be so derogatory about a word which described a member of the faith that I was quite prepared to admit adhering to.
Perhaps because I didn’t get much of a chance to go to games during the hooligan-ridden ‘70’s, I wasn’t aware of Spurs’ supposed Jewish connections. I knew lots of Jewish people that supported them, but then again, most of the people that I knew were Jewish and I assumed that they were Spurs fans because they came from North London, and anyway I knew as many fans of the Team Whose Name Must Never Be Uttered and even a couple of Chelsea supporters who were Jewish.
I had to rely not only on highlights on the “Big Match” and “Match of the Day” for my football fix, but on the weekly reports of my mate, Brian who was a regular at Spurs matches. In this way I lived vicariously the life of a proper Spurs fan as he would regale me at school on Monday mornings with blow-by-blow (often literally) accounts of the goings-on on the terraces which were far more entertaining than what was happening on the pitch at the time. These were Spurs’ wilderness years during which they went down to the second division after having flirted with relegation for a number of seasons. The truth is that I can’t remember any tales about Spurs fans being singled out because of the team’s supposed “Jewish connections”. Perhaps it got lost in the general wave of hooliganism that was rampant at the time. Even so, today this seems strange to me as Brian himself was Jewish.
I only became aware of the anti-Semitic jibes against Spurs fans in the early 1980’s, after I had already moved to Israel. English football has always been popular here and the reports of rival fans making hissing sounds and singing songs about Auschwitz aroused much interest in the Israeli media for obvious reasons. What also became apparent at the same time was the fact that instead of lashing out against the accusation of their being “Jewish”, Spurs fans had reacted quite unexpectedly by embracing it.

The term, “Yid”, so long used in a derogatory way, suddenly became the name used by Spurs fans to denote not only themselves but the Spurs players as well. There were more Israeli flags being waved at White Hart Lane than at games of the Israeli national side (the Jewish state had been considerate enough, on its achieving independence in 1948, to choose blue and white for the colours of its flag.) My chest would well up with pride whenever I was asked by Israelis which team I supported. “Ah, the Jewish team,” they would say when I told them. All of sudden, the two main components of my own identity, which for so long had been kept separate, had been fused together. I was Jewish ergo I was a Spurs fan (or was it the other way round?)
I wasn’t even bothered when I heard the word “Yiddo” used against me in Israel. It was in 1984 in Ramat Gan near Tel Aviv, where the national stadium is situated. England had come out to play a friendly against the Israeli national side. My mates and I had brought Israeli flags to cheer on the local team and we got into a mock terrace battle with a couple of half-pissed non-Jewish England fans before the game (it was the 80’s after all and we probably regarded it as mandatory and anyway we had also had our own fill of the Demon Drink as well.) Eventually, we settled down and began chatting to the two blokes who, it turned out were working as volunteers on a kibbutz. We were having a friendly conversation when suddenly one of them noticed my Spurs scarf which I was wearing. “Oy,” he said, “You’re a Yid,” and began singing a song about my being “a poor little Yiddo.”  I was a bit perplexed as it was fairly obvious that I was Jewish, yet it was only the sight of my scarf that had caused him to start singing. His mate looked a trifle embarrassed and nudged him to get him to stop. The guy suddenly realised what he was doing, stopped and apologised. I told him not to worry about it. It was apparent that the jibe was directed against me as I was a Tottenham fan which, as he supported a rival team, he was entitled to do, rather than because I was Jewish, something that would have been unacceptable.
In spite of all this, I can fully understand the objections of the English Jewish community to the use of the words, “Yid” and “Yiddo.” I wonder if I were still living in England, whether this would bother me as much. However, it must be pointed out that even if all Spurs fans were to cease using the names to describe themselves, it is impossible to imagine that rival fans would stop using them as terms of abuse. What Spurs supporters have done in effect is to take the sting out these words. How can they be used as anti-Semitic jibes when tens of thousands of Gentiles are employing them regularly as the supreme accolade used to describe not only a loyal fan, but also a favourite player who has proved himself to the crowd? If anything, Spurs fans should be commended for deflecting the derogatory meaning of the words.
And before anyone brings up the example of the nefarious “N-word”, I feel that there is no basis here for comparison as for African-Americans, this term symbolizes the worst periods of their history. Many names have been invented to denote Jews, some of which are merely corruptions of the word “Jew”, as the ineffable “N-word” is merely a corruption of the word, “Negro.” But I don’t think that one particular word can be singled out as the most offensive. In fact, I would hazard a guess that “Zhid” and “Jude”, respectively the Russian and German words for Jew, evoke many more bitter memories than the word “Yid” does.
David Baddiel’s efforts to eradicate the use of the “Y-word” (as he calls it) by Spurs fans are both laughable and hypocritical. Baddiel has made a whole career out of the fact that he is Jewish. I don’t think that I have seen one appearance of his in which he does not mention his ethnicity at least once. In addition, for years, he has perpetuated the myth that Spurs are a Jewish club. (Just check out this clip on his “Fantasy Football”show from the mid-90’s -- http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bvf9gDExvng). More recently, he wrote and produced a mildly amusing comedy film called “The Infidel” in which he presents Jews in a stereotypical way (stemming from his own ignorance about Judaism.) The rather implausible plot involves a Muslim man who discovers he is Jewish. The point is that Baddiel makes the protagonist a Spurs fan, and the opening scene features the main character wearing a 1980’s Spurs shirt. Perhaps Baddiel was trying to suggest that even before the hero discovers his Jewish roots he was in possession of basic Jewish genetic traits, such as supporting Tottenham.     
 As long as someone as well-known as Baddiel and others continue to portray Spurs as a “Jewish” club, then the anti-Semitic insults hurled at its supporters will continue. The best thing to do in this case is precisely what Spurs fans have been doing for the past 30 years or so i.e. to turn the insult into a term of endearment. This renders harmless the shouts of “Yids!” by rival fans. Of course, it doesn’t deal with the more caustic chants referring to the Holocaust which emanate from the sick and pig-ignorant supporters who also sing songs about the tragedies at Munich and Hillsboro against Manchester United and Liverpool fans respectively.
Unfortunately, abusive chanting will always be part and parcel of football matches. One cannot expect every member of a crowd that can number between 30-50,000 to be on his or her best behaviour during a tense game and adhere strictly to the rules of political correctness. The only way to deal with it has to be to punish clubs whose fans are particularly abusive (this actually has been done in Israel where teams have had points deducted for racist chanting from their fans.) Spurs fans referring to themselves as “Yiddos” cannot be regarded in this category, even though it does make many members of the English Jewish community uncomfortable.      


 Well, firstly, I suppose that I should present the credentials that make me qualified to pass judgement on the subject of whether or not it is permissible for Spurs fans to use the word “Yid” in reference to themselves or Spurs players. I am Jewish, not only through birth, but through practise as well and, in addition, I have been a Spurs fan for over 40 years. (I am old enough to have lived through a Tottenham championship year; albeit I was only 3 months old when Danny Blanchflower was awarded the trophy.)  I left England over 30 years ago to live in Israel, yet Spurs have been the one constant in my life. I have always managed to keep up with the goings on at White Hart Lane. For years this wasn’t so easy but the onset of the Internet and of satellite TV has meant that I rarely miss a game during the season and I get together with other long-suffering ex-pat fans to watch almost every week.
I have brought up two sons to suffer alongside me and I am proud of the fact that despite the fact that the past decade and a half have been rather barren for the mighty THFC, they resisted the temptation to support other more successful teams as Israeli kids are wont to do and that my youngest son who is now almost 16 has even influenced some of his mates to follow the Tottenham. My proudest moment was when I was able to take them to see Spurs when they came to Israel to play Hapoel Tel Aviv in the UEFA Cup a few years back. (I also have 2 girls, but I couldn’t persuade them to like football.) My American-born wife has learnt to be patient with my obsession. As she has put it on a number of occasions, if supporting Spurs is my worst vice, then she has got herself a pretty good deal.
I recall that my first encounter with anti-Semitism on a personal level came when I was about 9 or 10 years old. As one does at that age, I was playing in a pick-up football game in the local park with kids whom I didn’t know. I have to admit that I loved playing the game but being a bit of a chubby kid at the time (my mum assured me it was “puppy fat”), what I lacked in footballing prowess, I more than made up for in clumsy enthusiasm. And eventually I hacked another player down in a move that would have made Terry “the Meathook” Naylor proud.
As the kid fell, he exclaimed “You Jew!” I must have been fairly naïve at the time, and anyway the word “Jew” had not been preceded by an adjective such as “bloody” or “effing”, so it did not strike me that he was insulting me. My response was to turn around pleasantly and say simply “Oh, how did you know?” I was quite astonished as there were no outward signs of my Mosaic ancestry. This seemed to take the kid by surprise. “Oh are you?” he said quite embarrassed, “I’m sorry, I didn’t know.” It was if he had called me a bastard and I had turned round and admitted to my parents’ having borne me out of wedlock. I thought little of it and carried on charging around the pitch trying to make as much of a nuisance of myself as possible, which was my main football strategy at the time.
It was only later that it dawned on me that he was using the word, “Jew” as an insult. I knew all about anti-Semitism; my mother had been through the Holocaust before finding refuge in England after the war and my father and his family had managed to leave Germany in 1933 after the Nazis came to power. However, this was the first time I had heard the word that I had been brought up to be proud of used in a pejorative sense. The kid I had fouled probably had no idea what it meant, and as at that time we did not live in a neighbourhood where there was a large Jewish community, chances are that I was the first Red-Sea Pedestrian that he had met in his life. The boy had most probably picked it up from the Alf Garnetts who were bringing him up.
The word “Yid” I would hear used as an insult against me several years later when I was about 14. I went to a large Jewish school which was then situated in Camden Town, quite a rough area at the time in which very few Jews lived. To make life hard for my friends and me, and easy for the local yobbos, our uniforms were bright blue with a luminous yellow badge whilst all the other schools in the neighbourhood wore black blazers. We were spotted from a mile off making our way down to the station in our attempt to make it to the safety of North-West London and every week there incidents in which pupils from my school were insulted or attacked.
I knew the word as the Yiddish for Jew. I had a good working knowledge of the language as my Rumanian born grandmother would speak to me in Yiddish although I would reply in English. I was old enough to realise instantly that I was being insulted, but again I was a bit puzzled as to what could be so derogatory about a word which described a member of the faith that I was quite prepared to admit adhering to.
Perhaps because I didn’t get much of a chance to go to games during the hooligan-ridden ‘70’s, I wasn’t aware of Spurs’ supposed Jewish connections. I knew lots of Jewish people that supported them, but then again, most of the people that I knew were Jewish and I assumed that they were Spurs fans because they came from North London, and anyway I knew as many fans of the Team Whose Name Must Never Be Uttered and even a couple of Chelsea supporters who were Jewish.
I had to rely not only on highlights on the “Big Match” and “Match of the Day” for my football fix, but on the weekly reports of my mate, Brian who was a regular at Spurs matches. In this way I lived vicariously the life of a proper Spurs fan as he would regale me at school on Monday mornings with blow-by-blow (often literally) accounts of the goings-on on the terraces which were far more entertaining than what was happening on the pitch at the time. These were Spurs’ wilderness years during which they went down to the second division after having flirted with relegation for a number of seasons. The truth is that I can’t remember any tales about Spurs fans being singled out because of the team’s supposed “Jewish connections”. Perhaps it got lost in the general wave of hooliganism that was rampant at the time. Even so, today this seems strange to me as Brian himself was Jewish.
I only became aware of the anti-Semitic jibes against Spurs fans in the early 1980’s, after I had already moved to Israel. English football has always been popular here and the reports of rival fans making hissing sounds and singing songs about Auschwitz aroused much interest in the Israeli media for obvious reasons. What also became apparent at the same time was the fact that instead of lashing out against the accusation of their being “Jewish”, Spurs fans had reacted quite unexpectedly by embracing it.

The term, “Yid”, so long used in a derogatory way, suddenly became the name used by Spurs fans to denote not only themselves but the Spurs players as well. There were more Israeli flags being waved at White Hart Lane than at games of the Israeli national side (the Jewish state had been considerate enough, on its achieving independence in 1948, to choose blue and white for the colours of its flag.) My chest would well up with pride whenever I was asked by Israelis which team I supported. “Ah, the Jewish team,” they would say when I told them. All of sudden, the two main components of my own identity, which for so long had been kept separate, had been fused together. I was Jewish ergo I was a Spurs fan (or was it the other way round?)
I wasn’t even bothered when I heard the word “Yiddo” used against me in Israel. It was in 1984 in Ramat Gan near Tel Aviv, where the national stadium is situated. England had come out to play a friendly against the Israeli national side. My mates and I had brought Israeli flags to cheer on the local team and we got into a mock terrace battle with a couple of half-pissed non-Jewish England fans before the game (it was the 80’s after all and we probably regarded it as mandatory and anyway we had also had our own fill of the Demon Drink as well.) Eventually, we settled down and began chatting to the two blokes who, it turned out were working as volunteers on a kibbutz. We were having a friendly conversation when suddenly one of them noticed my Spurs scarf which I was wearing. “Oy,” he said, “You’re a Yid,” and began singing a song about my being “a poor little Yiddo.”  I was a bit perplexed as it was fairly obvious that I was Jewish, yet it was only the sight of my scarf that had caused him to start singing. His mate looked a trifle embarrassed and nudged him to get him to stop. The guy suddenly realised what he was doing, stopped and apologised. I told him not to worry about it. It was apparent that the jibe was directed against me as I was a Tottenham fan which, as he supported a rival team, he was entitled to do, rather than because I was Jewish, something that would have been unacceptable.
In spite of all this, I can fully understand the objections of the English Jewish community to the use of the words, “Yid” and “Yiddo.” I wonder if I were still living in England, whether this would bother me as much. However, it must be pointed out that even if all Spurs fans were to cease using the names to describe themselves, it is impossible to imagine that rival fans would stop using them as terms of abuse. What Spurs supporters have done in effect is to take the sting out these words. How can they be used as anti-Semitic jibes when tens of thousands of Gentiles are employing them regularly as the supreme accolade used to describe not only a loyal fan, but also a favourite player who has proved himself to the crowd? If anything, Spurs fans should be commended for deflecting the derogatory meaning of the words.
And before anyone brings up the example of the nefarious “N-word”, I feel that there is no basis here for comparison as for African-Americans, this term symbolizes the worst periods of their history. Many names have been invented to denote Jews, some of which are merely corruptions of the word “Jew”, as the ineffable “N-word” is merely a corruption of the word, “Negro.” But I don’t think that one particular word can be singled out as the most offensive. In fact, I would hazard a guess that “Zhid” and “Jude”, respectively the Russian and German words for Jew, evoke many more bitter memories than the word “Yid” does.
David Baddiel’s efforts to eradicate the use of the “Y-word” (as he calls it) by Spurs fans are both laughable and hypocritical. Baddiel has made a whole career out of the fact that he is Jewish. I don’t think that I have seen one appearance of his in which he does not mention his ethnicity at least once. In addition, for years, he has perpetuated the myth that Spurs are a Jewish club. (Just check out this clip on his “Fantasy Football” show from the mid-90’s -- http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bvf9gDExvng). More recently, he wrote and produced a mildly amusing comedy film called “The Infidel” in which he presents Jews in a stereotypical way (stemming from his own ignorance about Judaism.) The rather implausible plot involves a Muslim man who discovers he is Jewish. The point is that Baddiel makes the protagonist a Spurs fan, and the opening scene features the main character wearing a 1980’s Spurs shirt. Perhaps Baddiel was trying to suggest that even before the hero discovers his Jewish roots he was in possession of basic Jewish genetic traits, such as supporting Tottenham.     
 As long as someone as well-known as Baddiel and others continue to portray Spurs as a “Jewish” club, then the anti-Semitic insults hurled at its supporters will continue. The best thing to do in this case is precisely what Spurs fans have been doing for the past 30 years or so i.e. to turn the insult into a term of endearment. This renders harmless the shouts of “Yids!” by rival fans. Of course, it doesn’t deal with the more caustic chants referring to the Holocaust which emanate from the sick and pig-ignorant supporters who also sing songs about the tragedies at Munich and Hillsboro against Manchester United and Liverpool fans respectively.
Unfortunately, abusive chanting will always be part and parcel of football matches. One cannot expect every member of a crowd that can number between 30-50,000 to be on his or her best behaviour during a tense game and adhere strictly to the rules of political correctness. The only way to deal with it has to be to punish clubs whose fans are particularly abusive (this actually has been done in Israel where teams have had points deducted for racist chanting from their fans.) Spurs fans referring to themselves as “Yiddos” cannot be regarded in this category, even though it does make many members of the English Jewish community uncomfortable.      


 






Sunday, August 14, 2011

Land of Hope and Glory vs. Land of Milk and Honey

The riots in the UK came at a very poignant time of the year for me as they started almost 32 years to the day of my arrival in Israel. Although I was more or less sure at the time that I was going to end up living in the country, I had no intention in the summer of 1979 of staying. Circumstances, however, (which I am not going to go into now) created the opportunity for me to start thinking about changing my plans and, at the tender age of 18, I decided to make my life here. This decision entailed my joining the army the next year, something to which I had never given any thought up till then.

I’ve never thought that the reason for my decision was due to my dissatisfaction with England. On the contrary, after over three decades in Israel, I do still feel very English although my Englishness is probably stuck in a time warp in the 1982, the last time I spent any significant amount of time there. I just simply wanted to come and live in Israel for reasons that I will list in another blog posting.

Over the years, I have to admit, I have rather idealised Blighty. Even though I have never regretted my decision to live in Israel, England for me always seemed to be a tranquil haven; a place where people queue up patiently, where one gets proper service in shops and government offices, where guns are not seen on streets and where military service is optional. Watching the news of the riots reminded me somewhat that things were far from ideal when I left the country.

My adolescent years were spent in the England of the 1970’s. This was a period punctuated by industrial strife (I remember the Three-day Week and the power blackouts caused by strikes) and the “Troubles” in Ireland which spread to mainland Britain in the form of bombings in the inner-cities. It was a time when racism was rife. There were few inter-racial couples and black players were non-existent in top-level football for most of the 70’s and the first few were only given the chance to prove themselves at the end of the decade as coaches genuinely believed that footballers of colour would not be able to make it in the professional game.

It was this atmosphere that spawned the Punk and New Wave music that we all listened to. For me the artist that provided much of the soundtrack to this era was Tom Robinson. The Tom Robinson Band came out with songs whose lyrics protested against the lack of equality in society and predicted/called for social upheaval and unrest. Tom Robinson himself was one of the few people in the public eye to openly declare his homosexuality. At that time, kiddies, there were no gay politicians, actors, sportsmen or singers. And at a time when gay people were being portrayed on TV as camp and effeminate, for instance, Mr. Humphries on the sit-com, “Are You Being Served?”, Tom Robinson came over as a normal bloke who just happened to be homosexual. 

TRB’s song “Winter of ‘79” seemed to me then to be an accurate prediction of the way Britain was headed.

All you kids that just sit and whine
You should have been there back in '79
You say we're giving you a real hard time
You boys are really breaking my heart
Spurs beat Arsenal, what a game
The blood was running in the drains
Intercity took the trains
And really took the place apart
That was the year Nan Harris died
And Charlie Jones committed suicide
The world we knew busted open wide
In the winter of '79

I'd been working on and off
A pint of beer was still ten bob
My brand new Bonneville got ripped off
I more or less give up trying
They stopped the Social in the spring
And quite a few communists got run in
And National Service come back in
In the winter of '79
When Marco's caff went up in flames
The Vambo boys took the blame
The SAS come and took our names
In the winter of '79

It was us poor bastards took the chop
When the tubes gone up and the buses stopped
The top people still come out on top
The government never resigned
The Carib Club got petrol bombed
The National Front was getting awful strong
They done in Dave and Dagenham Ron
In the winter of '79
When all the gay geezers got put inside
And coloured kids was getting crucified
A few fought back and a few folks died
In the winter of '79

Yes a few of us fought
And a few of us died
In the winter of '79

Reading the lyrics of this song without hearing the music doesn’t do it justice and I suggest that if you have never heard the song you go to YouTube and listen to it. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RR40vZQCXh0

Ironically enough, the winter of 1979 would find me in yeshiva in Kiryat Arba which is near Hebron, one of the biggest lunatic asylums in the Middle East. These were three formative months of my life that would shape the way I looked at the conflict in the Mid-East and caused me, for the first time, to question my adherence to Religious Zionism as it was being preached to us then. One of my friends had a TRB album on cassette and I think that listening to it helped me maintain my sanity in that hotbed of religious and nationalist fanaticism.

Perhaps as time passed, my memories of the ‘70’s became blurred. Britain did not descend into lawlessness. It weathered the Thatcher years which brought some type of economic stability at a price and progressed on to the “Cool Britannia” period of the ‘90’s and noughties presided over by Tony Blair and the Spice Girls. And from afar, I viewed the country with even more envy as my occasional visits and television programmes gave the impression that a calm, multi-cultural society was thriving over there.

Back in 2002, the wife and I took the kids for a holiday to England. This was our last family holiday there. The Second Intifada was in full swing. Terrorist attacks were a common occurrence and, like many Israelis, we were hesitant about going places as a family in the country. This trip was a welcome break from the troubles we were facing at home. As we sat on a bus in London, I remember discussing with my wife, the possibility of moving to England. I could find a job in Jewish education with little difficulty, we would be near my parents and the kids would be able to grow up in safety. I had been sucked in by the calm of a society that wasn’t facing the existential threats that we were facing every day in Israel at that time. It was a flight of fancy and didn’t last long. We both came to the conclusion that it wasn’t practical and wasn’t the right thing to do.

But the thought stuck in my head. As a parent, wasn’t I duty-bound to do everything I could to ensure the safety and well-being of my children? Was staying in Israel really the best idea? It would take three years and the terrorist bombings of the London transport system to prove that nowhere would ever be safe.

And now the riots there have shown that society is not as stable as it was previously assumed. It has taken thirty odd years for Tom Robinson’s visions of social upheaval to actually happen. Perhaps, it’s a touch ironic that the causes that he stood for then were not the impetus for the riots. What seems to have been the spark for them was greed. That’s all.

You could argue that Israelis aren’t much better. At the time of writing, tens of thousands of them are out on the streets demanding more. Yet their way is to pitch up tents in the centres of major cities in protest against the rise in the cost of living. Young people have found that they simply cannot afford the amenities of modern living with the rise in the cost of housing, higher education and basic food products. No one, as far as I know has complained that they cannot afford a plasma TV or a pair of designer sports shoes. Social justice has become the slogan of this protest which has crossed religious and ethnic lines. 

I have a feeling that Tom Robinson  would approve of this.





Tuesday, August 9, 2011

Turning a corner

As a teacher, I am often asked, especially at this time of year, how I keep myself occupied during the long summer holiday that I get. I generally detect a note of jealousy in the voice of the poser of the question who is one of those for whom July and August are work months. (I am not going to launch into a rant complaining about all the extra unpaid hours I put in during the school year which justify the long break. I’ll leave that to another blog.)  My answer lately is that I find enough stuff to keep busy although I must state that my major achievement this vacation so far, apart from giving a presentation on War Poetry at an English Teachers’ conference, ploughing my way through Tony Judt’s massive tome, “Postwar” and scuba diving in Eilat, has been getting Leyton Orient promoted to the Premiership in the Manager mode of FIFA 2010 (don’t ask – it would take too long to explain.)

Up to a few years ago, however, the answer to this question was far simpler. I would just reply, “Looking after my kids.” Ten days after high schools break up for the summer hols, primary schools and kindergartens cease functioning. I would have a week and a half break before the Fruit of my Loins would become my main concern. Day camp didn’t really solve the problem. It was only for two weeks and entailed my getting up early to get the kids ready and ferrying them there. Then I would get a few hours at home in which I could get things done till I had to make the return trip. If I was lucky then several parents in the area would get together and car pool so I would not have to go every day. 

When camp was over, I would have to find ways of amusing them that, preferably, didn’t cost too much money. The local swimming pool has always been our favourite haunt. Looking back on those years, I can’t remember complaining. I think that I actually enjoyed being with the kids.  It was tough on the wife on the occasions when I was called to do military reserve duty during the summer, but in general I was around for them.

Although for a number of years now my kids have not needed constant supervision, it has only been this summer when I have become aware of the quiet and the emptiness that has engulfed our flat. With daughter no. 1 in the army for most of the week and son no. 1 finishing off his year’s voluntary service before he gets drafted in November, only the twins are at home. However, due to their Scouting commitments they have been away for around three weeks this vacation. And when they have been at home, their friends have demanded more of their attention than I have (thankfully). I get to play the music I want and I don’t have to fight anyone off the computer (hence Leyton Orient’s surprise promotion to English football’s top tier.)
  
I suppose I have turned a major corner of parenthood; when your children cease to be accessories and become actual people in their own right. One thing that I have managed to do this summer is to get all of the videos that we made of the kids growing up converted to DVDs. For the first time in years, I got around to watching some of them.

It would be trite to say that I was amazed at how much the kids had changed (it would be more amazing if no change had taken place over the past 13-14 years,); what struck me most was how much I had had changed (and I was as bald then as I am now.) On the few occasions that I actually appeared on a video as I was, more often than not, the cameraman, the unmistakable smug expression of a new parent was apparent on my face. 

Okay, it’s unavoidable and, I suppose, well-deserved, but it still annoys the hell out of me when I see it on the faces of 20-something year olds today pushing their new-born around today in a buggy that cost the same as a second-hand car almost willing you to come and look at their progeny and compliment them on their good work. I mean, what does having a baby really prove, apart from the fact that your gonads work?

The smug smile should come after surviving the first 15-17 years of parenthood, yet the expression on the face of parents of stroppy adolescents is far from complacent.

At first, I must admit, I felt almost naked having to go places on my own after all the years that I had got used to having kids in tow wherever I went. They drew the fire away from me. If I met anyone, the questions would inevitably be about the sprogs. I never had to say anything concerning myself. But perhaps I ought to look at the positive side of it all. Now I have my life back and I should make a start on all the things that I’ve wanted to do for a long time. I’ll take up the saxophone, learn German, make a start on a doctorate, go on a scuba diving course – but in the meantime, I shall concentrate my efforts on another fruitless attempt at signing Wayne Rooney for Leyton Orient.    

Sunday, July 31, 2011

Losing my Religion; part one. An occasional series documenting my disaffection with organised religion.

It was a friend of mine whom I met at the gym the other day who brought to my attention the murder of Rabbi Abuhatzeira in Beer Sheva the night before. Apparently, someone came in while he was hosting guests for consultation at a yeshiva near his home and stabbed the 70-year old cleric to death. “How could this have happened?” my friend asked, “who would want to kill a rabbi?”

Surprisingly, I wasn’t surprised. I replied that it must have been someone who had been given some bad advice by the rabbi. Many of those that seek help from religious leaders are not altogether mentally stable and who knows what could happen if one of them should be given advice or an assurance by a rabbi that turned out not to solve a problem.

When I got home, I went to the Ha’aretz website (http://www.haaretz.com/news/national/thousands-attend-funeral-of-slain-kabbalah-rabbi-1.375954) and read up on the case. It seemed that I had guessed correctly. The alleged killer had said on being apprehended that Rabbi Abuhazeira “had failed to solve his marital problems.”

Ok, let me get one thing straight before I launch into my tirade; I am in no way justifying the murder of rabbis. However, in a way, I am quite surprised that this had not happened before.
In certain circles, rabbis have become ultimate authorities on every subject under the sun, regardless of whether or not they are qualified to pass judgment on them. They are ready to hand out advice on medical, financial, marital and even military matters in spite of the fact that they might lack the necessary background to do so.

Just after the first Gulf War, for instance, in 1991, I found myself invited to a Brit of ultra-orthodox friends of ours. The seating was separate and I knew no one there apart from the wife who wasn’t allowed to sit next to me (the harlot.) I had nothing to do but to eavesdrop on a conversation held amongst several yeshiva bochers sitting nearby. They were praising their rebbe for his foresight as he had told them not to shave off their beards contrary to the instructions of the Israeli military authorities. Before the war began, there was a serious chance that Iraq would launch missiles with non-conventional warheads at Israel. Gas masks had been handed out; however, these would be ineffective if the wearer had a beard which would prevent the mask from being hermetically sealed. For children who would have problems in keeping the masks on hooded masks were provided. When haredim announced that they would not shave off their beards in spite of the warnings of the military authorities, they too were given these hoods. This led to a shortage as the IDF had not taken into account that grown men would need these too. Some children had to go without.

As we all know now, the gas masks, luckily, were not needed. This happy coincidence seemed to give those yeshiva students’ rebbe guru status. He knew better than the generals and had prevented the Desecration of G-d’s name which would have been caused had these young men had to walk around bare-faced for a month. It must be pointed out that the judgment of this and other ultra-orthodox rabbis in this case was questionable. Halachically speaking, there is nothing wrong with shaving off a beard (it’s how it is shaved off that is the problem,) especially as people’s lives were at stake here. 

Haredi rabbis have a problem when it comes to their followers listening to secular authority which could detrimentally affect their own influence.  In this instance, the rabbis who instructed against the shaving off of beards were simply very fortunate that their uninformed advice did not cause a major tragedy.

Tragedies, however, have been known to be the result of bad rabbinical advice. When my wife gave birth to our second child, 19 years ago, she was placed in an obstetrics ward. The birth had gone off without any hitches, but there was simply no room in the maternity ward. She was in a room with women who were under supervision due to problems with their pregnancies. One ultra-orthodox woman was there pending her eighth or ninth child. She told my wife that after she had given birth to her last one, she was instructed by her doctor not to get pregnant again as this could endanger her life. She was even asked to sign a document attesting to this to prevent a malpractice suit. This instruction, which in itself carries much halachic weight, was not enough for her and she went to consult her rabbi who told her to ignore the doctor’s advice. Although I don’t know the outcome of this story, several years later, I recounted it to a colleague at work who told me that he personally knew of an identical story in which the woman, who had followed her rabbi’s advice contrary to what her doctor had ordered, died.

Yet, it is not always the rabbis’ fault. Many people turn to rabbis for advice under the naïve assumption that rabbis are, like the Pope, infallible. All professionals, in any field, who are called on to give guidance to the general public, have to choose their words very carefully in order that their advice should not be misconstrued as a fail-safe guarantee that everything will turn out fine in the end. As a teacher, I never tell a parent that if their son studies harder, he will definitely succeed in his matriculation exam. I know that there are too many variables affecting the eventual outcome. All I say is that if he doesn’t study, he will most likely fail.

Rabbis, however, especially those who dabble in Kabbalah such as the late Rabbi Abuhatzeira, are regarded as the supposed custodians of the Divine Truth and will be seen by their parishioners as incapable of being wrong. This means that when their advice doesn’t work, it can lead to a serious crisis of faith amongst those who consulted them. The rabbi may understand that his guidance will not guarantee absolute success and may even try to make that point clear. But the chances are that the consulter will not see this in the same light. He has gone to the rabbi in the belief that the holy man can work miracles; otherwise he would merely have turned to a marriage guidance counselor, a doctor, a lawyer or a financial advisor to help him with his troubles. These are all people who know their onions but are, of course, fallible.

The situation, at present, is not helped by the charlatans posing as rabbis and Kabbalists who claim to have miracle solutions and cures. They play to the poor and gullible, the weaker strata of society who are looking for their quick fix. How much damage these imposters have done is impossible to know. Now and again, stories of people who have been taken for a ride by them reach the press, but I assume that many, many more are kept hidden by the victims who still believe that the “rabbi” has some mystical power and bad things will befall them should they say anything.

The whole situation, in fact, can be summed up in a joke I once heard (well I assume it was a joke) about a rabbi who can help your wife give birth to a son. You go to him, pay him $100 and he blesses her. It’s okay though because if the blessing doesn’t work, you get your money back.


Sunday, June 26, 2011

Message bored -- How to cure yourself of an obsession in one easy step...

For those of you who know me, it will come as no surprise to read that the first words that I ever typed into a search engine were “Tottenham Hotspur.” (For those of you who said that you wouldn’t read any football blogs, please bear with me.) This was over 15 years ago and I was on a course learning how to use this new-fangled Internet thingy. I suppose everybody has their own main reasons for using the Internet. For some it’s to keep up with the news; for others, it’s to keep in touch with friends and family in far-flung places of the globe; for many it’s the easy access to diverse types of pornography (so I am told) and for me and many others like me, it’s to keep up with the goings-on in the world of football.

A few years later, after finally getting hooked up at home to the web (I seriously lagged behind most other people I knew in this respect), I immediately began to look for ways to keep in touch with the team that I had supported, man and boy, for around 3 decades. And, lo and behold, I was able to come across a plethora of fan sites. I was truly spoilt for choice. At first I signed up for an e-mail mailing list. Every day, I would find waiting in my in-box e-mails from Spurs fans. I joined in the conversations as well as I could, being 3,000 miles away from the nerve-centre. It was an exciting but cumbersome beginning.
Eventually, I upgraded and joined a messageboard. For eight years or so, I was an active member. It provided me with a virtual community that often confounded the wife who could not understand how I could spend so much time chatting with people whom I had never seen or had little chance of seeing, for that matter. And for most of that time, I was amazed at the ease with which the members of the MB connected with each other. People seemed always willing to lend a hand. Once I wrote that I was going to England for my father’s memorial service and I thought that I might have to arrive at Luton airport. I asked about the best way of getting to Stanmore and someone even offered to pick me up. (In the end I flew to Heathrow.) . It was, in addition, a font of knowledge for me. I learnt, for instance, what a “Prince Albert” is. (If you don’t know to what I am referring, you can google it for yourself, but I warn you; it is not for the faint of heart.)

The high point came when Spurs were drawn to play Hapoel Tel-Aviv in Israel in the UEFA Cup in November 2007. My dream had come true. I was going to see my team and my boys whom I had brainwashed into suffering along with me as Spurs fans would be coming with me. The other posters realised what this meant to me and wrote to me congratulating me on my luck. Even though the club was arranging tickets, a couple wrote to me asking if I would buy them tickets here where they would be cheaper. I had no hesitation in agreeing. I laid out the money and they wired me the payment. These were guys I had never met. Call me a mug if you like, but supporting the same team seemed to be the only connection that we needed. I met them before the game to give them the tickets.

I have to point out at this juncture that the team I support has a large Jewish following. This was due to the fact that it is based in North London where, at one time many Jews lived, and once was one of England’s most successful teams, a time which has sadly passed. Inevitably, there were many Jews who used the messageboard. Occasionally, we would send Private Messages (PMs) to each other and play Jewish geography. I discovered that one poster, one of the few women on the board, was the wife of a guy who had been a friend of mine from school. Another had been in a youth movement with my brother. Another came to live in Israel and came round to watch games with my mates and me several times. Sometimes, I would get PMs from board members telling me that they were coming to Israel and asking me if they could see Spurs games on telly here. I remember even giving one guy some advice as he was thinking of getting married in Israel.

For a while, everything seemed fine on the messageboard. The Jewish members seemed to be quite open about their beliefs and customs. We would wish each other seasons’ greetings before each festival. Most of the non-Jewish fans took a healthy interest in what was going on and would ask genuine questions about the religion which we were more than happy to answer. When we weren’t moaning about the overpaid underachievers who wore the sacred white shirt of our beloved team, the discussion would tend to turn to politics not only the British domestic kind, but international politics as well with the Israel/Palestine issue being a very emotive one. Despite this, however, I felt at the time that it was possible to have a civilised discussion about the Middle East. Posters would get more worked up about the debate as to which of the strikers should be the first choice for the team than the fate of the Palestinians and Israelis in that volatile region. I had very interesting off-board exchanges of emails with posters who had swallowed the Palestinian narrative hook, line and sinker. We agreed to disagree and left it at that without any unnecessary name-calling. Our love of the same football team was the main reason why we were spending our time on the messageboard.

But then things started turning ugly. I began to notice snide remarks which could have been interpreted as anti-Semitic. For around 25 years, Spurs have had Jewish owners and chairmen. During that time, the team underachieved, failing to live up to the high expectations of its supporters. The successful teams in the Premiership splashed out big money in transfers and salaries to entice top players to join them. There were accusations that Spurs’s owners were being stingy and when you read comments like “Levy doesn’t like parting with his money”, it is hard not to feel a tad paranoid.

I recall one day coming home and switching on the computer and logging on to the messageboard and finding a PM waiting for me from one of the other Jewish members. Had I seen so-and-so’s post, he asked and did I think it was anti-Semitic? A discussion thread on an MB will be displayed at the top of the “page” if someone has commented on it most recently. I had to trail through a couple of pages, waiting impatiently for them to load in order to find the thread in question. As a teacher, I don’t have constant computer access during the day, so I would usually only check up on the more recent threads when I got home. I found the comment in question. It was something about Israel, I think. I carefully worded a reply and posted it. It was not the first time that I had been PMed by Jewish posters who were concerned about some anti-Jewish comment or other. I think that they saw me as the most knowledgeable Jewish member of the MB and living in Israel gave my opinions extra veracity. I didn’t really relish this role. My logging on to the MB was supposed to be a way of escaping the realities of life in the Middle East.

The final straw came on the day of the ill-fated Gaza Flotilla last year. I had done my best to follow the news during the day as the events unfolded. The first reports had described an unprovoked attack on peace activists in which Israeli commandos had killed twenty of them. Eventually it became apparent that the truth was far more complex and that nine people had been killed after attacking the commandos who had abseiled onto the ship. But the fact that the Palestinian side had rushed to the press first being unfettered by censorship obligations meant that more damage had been done to Israel’s already tarnished reputation.

I got home feeling emotionally exhausted and sat down by my PC. I just wanted to escape the events of the day and instinctively guided the cursor towards the icon on the toolbar which would log me in to the messageboard. But then I stopped. The incident would obviously have aroused interest and comment during the day and someone would have started a thread on it. The last thing I needed was to read scathing comments against Israel and to be dragged into an argument. I just wanted to get some up-to-date news on the team that I supported. I did a quick calculation in my head. The incident had taken place in the morning. Any discussion would have taken place sometime in the early afternoon so the thread would not be on the page that would appear when I logged in. Surely, everyone had had their fill of it by now. I promised myself that if I should see a thread about it, I would not simply ignore it.

So much for that. The moment that the MB page appeared on my screen, I saw that there was indeed a thread about the Flotilla debacle towards the top of the page which contained around 40 comments. It was still hot news, it seemed. I would have kept my promise to myself had it not been for the title of the discussion thread; “Nazi Israelis murder Peace Activists”, or something in that vein at least.

The thread had been started by C. with whom I had had several interesting correspondences in the past. He had started off on the board as a born-again Christian. Religion apparently had saved him from his previous life of alcohol and debauchery. Off the board we discussed religion and Israel quite freely. But then something changed in C. In addition to Jesus, he discovered George Galloway, politician, media whore and friend of Saddam Hussein whose anti-Israel agenda bordered on the anti-Semitic. C. accepted every word of Galloway’s as Gospel truth. His posts became virulently anti-Israel and I began to notice that other MB members who knew little about the Middle East were being taken in by what he was writing. Arguing with him was a futile exercise.

The truth is that I didn’t really care about what was written about Israel’s actions that day. I knew that they had appeared far worse than they actually were and that it was still too early to know what had really taken place. I didn’t feel that I was armed with all the facts yet to present a credible case. However, I was not prepared to be called a Nazi on the MB. The word “Nazi” to me is a red rag to a bull. I will always use my status as the son of Holocaust survivors to try and prevent the cheapening of the word.

I started off a new thread in which I complained about the use of the word. As ever I tried to be as civil as possible. Although I am not averse to a bit of effing and blinding in real life, on the MB, I tried to avoid it. I simply requested that he edit the title of the thread. I didn’t want to quarrel over what had happened in the Mediterranean that morning. The word “Nazi” was inaccurate and offensive and out of place on the messageboard. C. wrote back refusing to change the title claiming that Israeli forces had behaved like Nazis. A couple of other posters also commented in offensive ways. Actually at this point, I was quite surprised that the board’s moderators had not intervened and closed down the threads on the subject. They had done so on previous occasions and members had been suspended from the board for what I had considered to be lesser offences.

Another member, Tony, posted a comment asking me to explain what had happened from the Israeli point of view. I had got to know Tony through his postings on the MB over the years. We too had exchanged a number of emails about various subjects. He had never appeared to me be anti-Israel and seemed a decent chap. I knew that his request was genuine. I found a report on the Ha’aretz website and copied and pasted it into my reply. Whilst Tony thanked me for this, others, including C. wrote back implying that this was Israeli lies and propaganda. (Several months later, Tony was to “friend” me on Facebook and tell me about the BBC “Panorama” documentary that he had just seen. He said that it confirmed everything that was written in the article that I posted that day.)

It was at this point that I realised that I had had enough. I simply typed that I thought that my time on the messageboard was up and logged off. This was a slamming of a virtual door. I didn’t even sneak back later to see what reaction there had been as I really couldn’t be bothered. I don’t remember being that angry; I had just come to the realisation that there was little point in arguing with people who were not prepared to accept that there was another angle to the situation in the Middle East. I knew that some of the posters were probably bored individuals who got a kick out of winding others up, those like C. were adamant in their beliefs and nothing would persuade them that they just might be wrong no matter how many facts were presented to them.

And so eight years of what was almost an obsession had come to an abrupt end. During that time I had lived games vicariously through the reports of those that regularly attended them. I shared memories of players with some of the older posters and had got into interesting discussions on all types of subjects.

I can’t say that I left it without a twinge of regret. The next day, I logged on, more out of curiosity than force of habit and found a couple of PMs waiting for me from members telling me not to leave the board and not to take notice of what others wrote. I was truly touched and wrote back saying that I needed time to cool off. I did consider going back, but only for the football talk although I realised that I had a role to play in informing people about what was going on in Israel and trying to represent what I hoped would be seen as the acceptable face of Zionism. I suppose for that reason, I should have returned, but I didn’t have the strength for it anymore. I just wanted to talk Tottenham without being dragged into endless and pointless arguments about Israel’s right to exist. My football fix I would have to get from elsewhere. And anyway, by this time I was using Facebook more and had got in touch with former classmates of mine from 30 years ago. There is a limit to the number of virtual social lives that one can manage at the same time.