The HANDS of British voters eased the MINDS of global Jewry
By David E. Kaplan
Friday the 13th is considered an unlucky day in Western suspicion, evident by the endless number of spooky horror movies set on this day.
Not so Friday 13th 2019!
Jews the world over awoke on this worrying day, breathing a collective sigh of relief that Jeremy Corbyn would not only be the next Prime Minister of Great Britain but received such a thumping that will send him packing.
For Jews in the UK, the election was less about Brexit, which was the main issue, and more about antiSemitism. If we would go by conversations in Jewish households prior to the election, it might have ended up as “Jewexit” instead of “Brexit”!
If there was any doubt about that before the election note the British Chief Rabbi, Ephraim Mirvis, entering the political fray in an unprecedent step by describing Corbyn as “not fit for high office” in a November 25 op-ed in The Times.
The Chief Rabbi of the United Hebrew Congregations of the Commonwealth was imploring people not who to vote for, but who NOT to vote for.
The future of the UK Jewish community lay in the balance – in the hands of the British voter.
And If there was any doubt about this apocalyptic fear by Jewish voters, it was affirmed in the immediate post-election assurances by the former Tory leadership candidate, Michael Gove addressing a victory rally in Surrey Heath:
“You have had to live in fear for months concerned you may have a prime minister who trafficked in anti-Jewish rhetoric and embraced anti-Jewish terrorists. You should never have to live in fear again.”
Just think about it; this is what it has come down to! That the Jewish community in the United Kingdom has to be assured “You should never have to live in fear again.”
By contrast the man who is going to occupy number 10 Downing Street for the next five years is not only well known in Israel but the Jewish state is well known to Mr. Boris Johnson.
Boris’ connection to Israel ‘journeys’ back many years to the days in which no one was on the tarmac to welcome him at Ben-Gurion International Airport and no red carpets were in sight.
In 1984, two young Brits arrived in Kibbutz Kfar Hanassi as volunteers; they were the future Prime Minister Boris Johnson and his sister the future British journalist and television presenter, Rachel Johnson.
It was the summer of 1984, and the Johnson siblings undertook a six-week experience in Israel. In those days, it was “the thing to do”.
Rachel was on a gap year before heading to Oxford University, while Boris, 14 months her elder and already a student at the same university, had just finished his first year at Balliol College, where he was a classics scholar. “Our father thought this was a good way to get rid of us for the summer,” recalls Rachel.
In 2013 Rachel wrote on MailOnline of those experiences of nearly three decades earlier at Kibbutz HaNasi started by group of British Jewish immigrants, members of the Habonim youth movement.
“I was a pale-skinned, fair-haired teenage girl visiting Israel for the first time with her even paler-skinned and fairer-haired older brother.
We’d come to work as volunteers at a kibbutz north of the Sea of Galilee, on the green banks of the Jordan river, just below the volcanic pointy hills of the Golan Heights and a few miles from Syria.
We arrived at the kibbutz in the blasting heat of July. ‘Warm breeze,’ I wrote in my diary at the time. ‘Smell of blossom … and latrines.’ Soon after arrival, we were assigned our work sections. I had the Augean task of ‘male sanitation’.
Boris was bundled into the communal kitchen, which catered and cleared up after kibbutz Kfar Hanassi’s 600 members and volunteers who dined together three times a day on yogurt, houmous, eggs, houmous, yogurt and tomatoes (that’s all I remember eating at every meal, anyway).”
While comically depicting the scene with “There could not have been worse gigs for pampered, pale-faced public-school spawn,” Rachel reveals much about her brother, the future Prime Minister who would cause Labour its worst defeat since 1935.
While Rachel “moved to picking fruit, and then, after striking up a friendship with an attractive shepherd called David” and promoted “to being a shepherdess,” Boris, “doughtily remained at his post, his skin peeling from the heat and steam, and stayed sane by reading Homer and Virgil in the library in the evening.”
Boris Takes The Cake
In the land of destiny, the young man was destined for leadership.
Alec Collins, who hosted the future PM in his home at Kfar Hanassi in 1984 revealed in a recent interview “Even back then, he used to say, ‘I will be a leader one day”.
“He is a great guy to be around with and chat with,” continued Collins. “Boris can strike up a conversation with just about anyone, on the spot. He has a great sense of humor, and this will be of great benefit to the UK.”
This has proved so.
To quote Boris:
“My position on cake is clear: I’m pro-having it and pro-eating it. And once you have your cake and eat it, too, you’ve effectively laid claim to two cakes.”
Equipped with his unique twist of logic and inimitable wit will leave his adversaries baffled as he scales the proverbial ramparts.
Taking on Brexit, the most monumental issue since WWII, Boris can take inspiration from his political hero and wartime victor, Winston Churchill who too was tasked to lead armed with a mastery of rhetoric.
The Jewish Connection
Like Sir Winston Churchill – a great greatest supporter of the Zionist movement and of the 1917 Balfour Declaration – Boris too refers to himself as “A passionate Zionist”
In an article to commemorate the centenary of the Balfour Declaration in 2017, Boris wrote:
“I served a stint at a kibbutz in my youth, and… saw enough to understand the miracle of Israel: the bonds of hard work, self-reliance and an audacious and relentless energy that hold together a remarkable country.”
And on his visit to the country when he was the mayor of London, he lashed out at BDS – the boycott, divestment and sanctions movement – and pronounced Israel the only “pluralist, open society” in the region.
This is a far cry from the man too who aspired to be the resident of 10 Downing Street – Jeremy Corbyn.
While Boris has Jewish ancestry traced back through his mother to the revered 19th century Lithuanian Rabbi Elijah Ragoler, his feelings about Israel may stem just as strongly from Jenny Sieff, who became his stepmother when he was seventeen.
From a prominent Anglo-Jewish family, Jenny’s stepfather, Teddy Sieff, served as chairman of Marks and Spencer and was vice-president of the British Zionist Federation. In 1973, Sieff survived an assassination attempt by the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine when he was shot by the assassin Ilich Ramírez Sánchez more familiarly known as Carlos the Jackal. Carlos fired one bullet at Sieff from his Tokarev 7.62mm pistol, which bounced off Sieff just between his nose and upper lip and knocked him unconscious; the gun then jammed and Carlos fled.
It was Jenny’s family in Israel, the distinguished South African-born Israeli diplomat, Michael Comay, who had been Israeli ambassador to Canada, the UN and the UK and his wife Joan, who would help arrange for Boris and his sister Rachel to volunteer at Kibbutz Kfar HaNassi.
According to Rachel, her brother showed great mettle volunteering on the kibbutz. While she admits how she finagled her way out of cleaning the men’s bathrooms and got herself reassigned to picking apples with “an attractive kibbutznik,” Boris dutifully stuck to his appointed job in the communal kitchen. There – as Rachel describes in her diary – “he showed inner steel scrubbing pots and pans and sweating it out in the heat of the kitchen, meal after meal.”
Clear early signs of the makings of a leader if one adheres to the wise words of President Truman: “if you can’t stand the heat get out of the kitchen”.
With Brexit the first order of business, the political ‘MasterChef’ is ready to make history. Clearly Israel has a friend at 10 Downing Street and can look forward to welcoming on the red carpet at Ben Gurion Airport that unmistakable blonde mop who first came to Israel on the way to kibbutz Kfar HaNasi 35 years ago.