A MAN with a tattoo of Scotland on his back holds up a Scottish flag to support independence at a rally in Glasgow..
(photo credit: REUTERS)
This Thursday the Scottish people will either vote with their heads or their hearts. If it is a No, then our heads will have prevailed. There is still no answer on what currency we would use, nor on our membership of the European Union, nor on how long North Sea Oil will sustain the economy.
If it is a Yes, we will have ignored all those niggling worries and let our hearts lead us along the path to building a freer, more democratic, more equal Scotland.
While some people have made up their minds, many others, this absentee voter included, have not. We all want a better society, but we are un-agreed on how to get there. From past professional experience of working with the Scottish Government and Scottish political parties, I know that there are good people committed to making a better society, but the results are thin on the ground.
Parts of Glasgow have a lower life expectancy than Gaza. Poverty, both of money and opportunity, is rife through too many towns. Endemic alcoholism sits side by side with a thriving whiskey industry. A public sector dominated economy is home to some of the biggest banks in the world.
Even historically we are deeply conflicted. Scotland was at the heart of the British Empire, as well as being victims of its colonialism. We profited from the Atlantic Slave Trade just as our most famous poet Robert Burns wrote about the equality of man.
I am as much Scottish as I am Jewish. My grandfather was a Jewish surgeon from Dublin who settled in Glasgow; my grandmother was a pillar of the once thriving Jewish community as a lawyer, fundraiser and chairwoman of the synagogue I grew up in. My family are still at the heart of the community, teaching at cheder, writing for the Jewish newspaper, organizing Limmud conferences and working for Jewish non-profits.
Yet from my father’s side I get my name Henderson – an old Scottish clan name, and the Irish-Catholic family which comes with it. I’ve traveled the length and breadth of the country and love the landscape and history as much as I love the people and poetry.
What remains unknown in this referendum is the fate of the dwindling Jewish community in Scotland. This summer has seen some of the fiercest anti-Israel campaigns ever. Israeli (non-political) performers were hounded out of the landmark Edinburgh festival; local councils actively promote boycotts of Israel and fly the Palestinian flag; and the Government of Alex Salmond’s pro-Independence Nationalist Party want an independent Scotland to ban any arms sales to Israel.
There is no doubt that from the day after a Yes vote, the small, angry band of generally non-Muslim, pro-Palestinian supporters would be hounding the politicians to make Scotland an international example of anti-Israel foreign policy.
Despite this, Scotland will still be relatively safe for Jews. The community will still be active and the synagogues will still be open. Discrimination and incitement based on religion will still be a crime. The problem, so they say, is not Jews, it is Israel.
With independence, Scotland would become a place where your acceptance as a Jew in society is judged by how harshly you criticize Israel. I have already experienced it; in the workplace, in education, in the pub. You can be a Jew, just as long as you don’t recognize Israel’s right to exist or defend itself.
I am a proud Zionist, a proud Jew and proud of my home Israel. I made Aliya because Israel is the only place in the world I can fully express my Judaism, and because I was sick of being told what my opinions of Israel should be.
Whatever the result of the referendum, whether the full independence of Yes or the increase in powers for the Scottish Parliament of No, Scotland is on a path to a fairer, more inclusive society – just not for Jews. The boycott advocates will keep spreading their ignorant hate of Israel aided by a biased media and an increasingly hostile public. As Israel continues to battle terror, from Hamas to ISIS, Scotland won’t be standing with us.
So as the referendum approaches, I, like Scotland, am conflicted.
My head says No – don’t make life any more difficult for the Jewish community.
My heart says Yes – and come home to Israel.Nick Henderson was born and raised in Glasgow, Scotland. He made Aliya in 2014 and now works for a Jewish educational program in Tzfat.