‘I’ve Never Felt So “Other” In My Life’

As violence erupts in Israel and Palestine this week, police have increased their patrols of Jewish areas of London, while security at Jewish schools and synagogues has been raised. One Jewish writer shares why she’s never felt so alone in the UK.

Israel vigil in London

by Siam Goorwich |
Updated on

Earlier this week I went to a vigil at Downing Street, to stand together with other Jews and our allies, to mourn our dead and show solidarity with Israel.

Saturday 7th October 2023 will go down as a dark day in the history of the Jewish people. In an unprecedented attack, Hamas terrorists from Gaza ripped through Israel with barbaric ferocity, raping, torturing, killing and kidnapping unknown numbers of Israeli and international civilians. With so many people still missing, we won’t know the full scale of the atrocity for some time. But we do know this: it was the largest number of Jewish people killed in a single day since the Holocaust.

I woke up on Saturday morning to frantic messages from an Israeli friend: “We are under a massive attack,” they wrote. “Locked down. Please share the stories. People need to know what’s happening.”

Since then, everything has been a blur. The attack was on a Saturday, Shabbat, the Jewish day of rest. Saturday was also a Jewish festival, Simchat Torah, a joyous day that’s supposed to be full of singing and dancing.

I am glued to my phone, as horror after horror unfolds on Instagram. Young women at a peace rave have been raped and mutilated. Entire families have been killed in their own homes. Holocaust survivors kidnapped, to be used as bargaining weapons and human shields. It is hell on earth, and we watch on, helpless.

Every day brings more heartbreak, and the worst thing is we know this is only the beginning. The Jewish community in London – indeed, around the country and around the world – are braced for more attacks. It’s the same every time violence flares up in Israel. Security at our schools and synagogues increases (it’s not set up, because it’s already there – our schools and synagogues already need protection at all times). Two Jewish schools in north-west London have even closed temporarily because of safety fears. This week, the police have increased their patrols in Jewish areas of London, and I’ve read reports of head teachers allowing pupils to forgo their blazers because they have Jewish symbols on them. One head teacher has banned after school detentions so all children can safely access their bus home.

Meanwhile, the Community Security Trust (CST), a charity who provide security and advice to the UK’s Jewish community, has told the Jewish News that the number of calls they’ve received since Saturday’s attack have tripled, and they expect that figure to go higher.

Politicians of all stripes have reassured the Jewish community they support us, and Israel. And on one level, that’s comforting, but it also makes me feel a bit icky because I don’t really support any of them or their wider politics, and the people muttering and shaking their heads around me at the vigil felt the same.

I've always thought of myself as British, but I don't feel it right now. I feel ‘other’. More ‘other’ than I've ever felt in my forty years of life.

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