Demonstrators against 2014’s Operation Protective Edge march up Whitehall in London.
(photo credit: REUTERS)
As the recipient of a small pension from the UK, where I worked for a couple of years before making aliya, I was surprised to get a letter asking me to prove that I was still alive. The British Department of Pensions didn’t seem at all interested in my health, only if I was still breathing.
Of course I am still alive, I thought, what a silly question. I have all the usual aches and pains when I get out of bed, so I must be alive. The tax office, electricity company and the municipality are all quite sure that I am alive, and regularly send me large bills without any need for me to prove it.
But who can argue with the British pensions office? So I took the “life certificate” to my doctor to get official confirmation that I am truly alive.
My doctor looked at me, noted that I had a pulse and was about to sign, then asked me, “just as a final check,” if I knew where I was and what the date was. Of course, I replied, I am in Rehovot, it’s February 2016.
“Well you seem alive to me,” he said, bringing down his official stamp. I went home happily clutching my certificate.
But later, sitting in my garden reading the newspaper, I began to have doubts – was I really in 2016? • A Spanish cartoon shows Israeli soldiers molesting Jesus. That’s strange, Jesus was walking around Judea 2,000 years ago. How could Jesus have met up with Israeli soldiers? Surely they must mean Roman soldiers. I made a note to send a correction to the El Jueves magazine.
• Over 10,000 are marching against Israel in London. I must be in 1936, when Oswald Mosley tried to lead the British Union of Fascists into the predominately Jewish East End of London.
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That march ended in the Battle of Cable Street. They can’t be marching again.
• German Jews are “no longer safe” due to anti-Semitism. Well, I know what that sounds like. But surely this is 2016 and not 1933. The Independent newspaper reported the head of one German Jewish community as saying: “I thought the time of the packed suitcases was over forever.” He went on to say that extreme right-wing forces – that means neo-Nazis – and Germany’s welcoming of refugees who were brought up in cultures “steeped in hatred” for Jews, were resulting in anti-Semitism.
I wanted to follow this story, but found that the Independent, not known for its love of Israel, is packing its suitcases and won’t be publishing anymore.
• There is progress in the Munich peace talks. This is obviously impossible, there have not been peace talks in Munich since September 1938. No one, but no one, would be foolish and insensitive enough to hold peace talks in Munich! • A Canadian minister says Calgary can take more Syrian refugees. So it cannot be 1939, when Canada callously turned away refugees – but admittedly, they were “only” Jewish refugees. When an immigration agent was asked how many Jews would be allowed into Canada after the war, he replied “None is too many.”
I can only wish them luck with the many Syrians they want to turn into good Canadians. I suspect that the Syrians have other ideas.
• Anti-Semitism is now ‘fashionable’ in the US, experts warn. Now I must be in 1947, the America of Gentleman’s Agreement, the movie in which Gregory Peck poses as a Jew. He experiences all kinds of prejudice, the most insidious being the subtle, “gentleman’s agreement” where anti-Jewish sentiments are taken for granted.
• An Israeli AirBnB guest is refused by a British host. This feels very familiar. I must have gotten myself to the England of the 1960s when Jews couldn’t get into the Hampstead Golf Club. A report at the time by The Jewish Chronicle showed a sport plagued by widespread hostility towards Jewish golfers. The report noted that “throughout the country” golf clubs were practicing “discrimination against Jewish applicants.”
By now I was totally confused. I checked the doctor’s certificate – it still stated clearly that I was alive and it was dated 2016. But everything I had just read showed that I could be in any year you care to choose. Nothing has changed over the years, even over the centuries. Every aspect of anti-Semitism is just the same as ever.
The phone rang. It was my 10-year-old grandson.
“Grandpa, it’s a beautiful day,” he said in accented, but otherwise perfect English.
“Can we go out to the fields and fly our model airplane together?” Oh, yes, I thought, I’m alive, I’m most definitely alive! The writer is a retired physicist. His overworked imagination has created a novel, Snow Job – a Len Palmer Mystery, available for Amazon Kindle.
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