How are you?
To my wife, I know you’re scared. I know you’re paranoid that the barbarity that befell our people will come over to these shores. I’m grateful you’re not on social media, that seeing the evil unleashed hasn’t tainted your capacity for understanding the limits of human cruelty. I tell you we’re going to be fine. Yet in your constant double-checking of locked doors, your panicked calls to our older children to come home, I know you don’t believe me. And with rolling footage of thousands upon thousands chanting “From the river to the sea”, with a man walking down our high street in the middle of the day draped in a Palestinian flag, another shouting “Free Palestine” at me on the Tube, I’m not sure I do either.
To my son, that’s really sweet of you to ask. Perhaps you can tell something’s wrong, although I’m doing my best to shield you from events. I guess my being distracted, oscillating between short-tempered and hugging, tells you something’s up. We had to tell your older brothers, to explain why they can’t wear their school blazers, to be alert when out in public, to get them to promise to not watch or share any of the videos. How sad to explain why. That being a Jew makes you a target. You and your smaller siblings don’t know that yet. But in the extra security at your school, the impact on your Israeli teachers and Israeli friends, you sense something’s shifted, that monsters are real.
To my Israeli friend, I can see how much pain you’re in. You may be bravely shrugging your shoulders, but from our wives I know you’ve been crying at night.
I know you’re scared for all your family in Israel. I know you’ve experienced loss.
I know you wish you could be there, to share the burden of a nation finding itself at war.
I know your guilt that you can’t do more, I know, because it’s a guilt we all feel.
To my non-Jewish friend, it’s appreciated. Thank you for reaching out, I know it can be awkward asking, dreading the answer.
Other friends and colleagues are grieving though, everyone in Israel just one step removed from the murdered, the maimed, the missing. I know you’ve seen my obsessive posting online, and you’re right, it’s not healthy. But I have to do something, to fight those who spread lies, who advocate for terrorism. So, yes, I do need your support, I’m desperate for it. A like, a share, a comment, anything to help others find the courage to also take a stand. Friends, strangers, Jews, Gentiles, allies all, to whom I’m so, so grateful, because it’s only together that we can fulfil the promise of Never Again.
To my fellow Jewish comedians, I know how betrayed you feel. At least we have each other, we can vent on our WhatsApp group, in our DMs, over burgers after vigils. Oh, how our industry has betrayed us. The cacophony of voices raised at injustices of the past, replaced by eerie silence at the brutal slaughter of 1,400 Jews. And as growing rumblings of antisemitism spread among those we’ve shared stages, green rooms, car journeys, others look the other way, wilfully blind, yet still convinced of their moral virtue.
To a journalist, I’m anxious. I’m grateful for this opportunity to express what Jews in this country and Israel are going through. But I’m tired. I’m weary from repeating the same talking points. That there’s just so much to try and fit into a soundbite. That I don’t want to come across as whiney, or unsympathetic, to counter a narrative that others in the media are so desperate to establish. I’m depressed that Jews in this country need defending. I don’t want to let my people down.
To my JC editor, I’m sorry this is late. I see you also on social media, the hours spent pushing back against the waves of misinformation, indifference, and viciousness. So I know you appreciate how hard it is stepping back out into the real world to try and get anything done. How the tranquil calm of a blank page makes it difficult to string together a coherent thought.
To my other friends, colleagues, neighbours, WHY HAVEN’T YOU ASKED? Yes the history of the region’s complicated. Yes you want a Palestinian state, so do I. But right is right, wrong is wrong, and decency is decency. I’m disappointed. I’m sad. I wish I wasn’t surprised.
How are you?
To you, the reader. Am Yisrael Chai.