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  • Martin van den Bergh

Antisemitism is alive and well

It may be surprising, but there is no doubt that Antisemitism exists today and is becoming an increasing phenomenon. This is despite the fact that Jews are no longer required to wear distinctive clothing, or the yellow Star of David. They can work and live where they want. They do not need to pay any special taxes, nor do they need to come under the ‘special protection’ of a Royal family or government.


Yet Antisemitism still exists in many forms and in many countries around the world, including Europe, the UK and the USA. What makes today's antisemitism the more concerning, is its acceptance and justification. Jewish history is full of Antisemitism, and one of the worst Antisemites was the prophet Balaam. He was hired by Balak, the king of Moab, to go and curse Israel, and he ended up blessing them instead. He even blessed them with a verse we all use when we enter our synagogues today - מַה טבֹּוּ אהָֹּלֶיךָ יַעֲקבֹּ מִשְׁכְׁנתֶֹּיךָ יִשְׁרָֹּאֵל - : How goodly are your tents, O Jacob, and your tabernacles, O Israel!


How can Balaam be thought of as an Anti-Semite? Rashi notes that when Balak sent a message to come and curse Israel he said: וַאֲגָרֲשֶנּוּ מִן- הָאָרֶץ and that I may drive them out of the land; I want to remove them from the land. Balaam recounted Balak’s words to the Angels of God: וְׁגֵרַשְׁתִיו : and drive them out.. Rashi explains Balaam did not only want to drive them away, he wanted to destroy them completely!


The difference may be small, but the inference is great. And that is a part of insipid Antisemitism. Many years ago I was with my brother and we went into a pub in Whitehall, and a man came up to me and said: ‘You people (Jews) should not be here!’ And when I was at university a fellow student suddenly made a comment, the inference of which was certainly Antisemitic.


So alas all aspects of Antisemitism still exist today, and we should not be complacent or think that even insipid manifestations of it are not dangerous. Those who declare their intention to destroy Israel, the only Jewish State in the world, such as the leaders of Iran and Hamas are very serious about his intentions, and yet Jeremy Corbyn insists that they are his friends.


Our only defence against Antisemitism is to remain strong and proud as Jews, and to live up to the one curse that was turned into a blessings - מַה טבֹּוּ אהָֹּלֶיךָ יַעֲקבֹּ מִשְׁכְׁנתֶֹּיךָ יִשְׁרָֹּאֵל - : How goodly are your tents, O Jacob, and your tabernacles, O Israel! - and we do this by making our homes and our synagogues bastions of our Jewish identity, and being proud of what Israel has achieved in the last 71 years.

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