Opinions and facts
I am an Italian Jew living in London. Tanya Gold is perfectly free to hate Venice, however her article shows an inability to see things in a historical context and an ignorance of contemporary Italian Jewry (Why I will never again pay a visit to the damp ghetto of Venice, 19 January).
First, not every place in Venice has grand buildings. The Grand Canal is called “Grand” for a reason. Ms Gold wouldn’t expect the whole of London to be a white stucco-ed Nash terrace, would she? At its peak, 6,000 Jews lived in the ghetto. Use of space took precedence over beautification. Also, Jews did not own their homes so why beautify them? They were also heavily taxed, so any appearance of wealth was frown upon as it might have led to new taxes.
Second, the synagogues are not “hidden” or “disguised”. They were all built when the ghetto restrictions were strictly enforced and every square inch of space counted. Therefore they are either attached to other buildings (like the Levantine) or part of buildings (like the Spanish, the German, the Italian and the Canton).
Third, “Never again is now” is a slogan that Italian Jewry adopted post October 7, in English!
Fourth, about the Holocaust Memorial: Ms Gold writes that 243 Jews were deported. Shouldn’t the names of those who did not come back be remembered? Has it occurred to her that the Memorial was put there by people who wanted to remember them? It is nothing recent; I am 70 and I remember my grandfather pointing out names of relatives, or people he knew, and telling me their stories. It brought them to life. It may not have meant anything to her, but it is not one of the many Holocaust memorials that have sprung up in the past 30 years. Her dismissing it without connecting it to the 243 Jews deported is offensive. I never made a religion out of the Holocaust but as a child of parents that survived World War II in Italy, I think I have a duty towards their memory and the memory of those who did not survive.
I repeat that she is entitled to her opinion about Venice. But she should have done a bit of fact checking.
What’s the solution?
Martyn Wolff, in calling me to account (Bad timing, Letters, 19 January), seems to be arguing with himself, stating that “both sides of the argument, (mine and David Aaronovitch’s) need the introduction of an element of realism”, without himself offering any solution.
There is only one way forward if Israel is to survive as the nation-state of the Jewish people. To continue the West Bank’s unresolved status, despite it being under de jure Israeli sovereignty under real international law, but with the laws of war (Geneva Conventions and Hague Regulations) erroneously still applied and four different legal systems operating there, after 55 years, is not an option
To create a Palestinian state in Israel’s heartland, an entity that has never before existed, for a people that already enjoys sovereignty in 22 nation-states, would render Israel indefensible, with a narrow “waist” of just some ten miles. Israel would be a sitting duck for attacks by an enemy that still maintains that its ultimate goal is its total elimination.
The indefensible nature of Israel on anything resembling the 1948 armistice lines was emphasised by a high ranking military US visiting delegation after the 1967 war. The truth of that is obvious just by looking at the map.
The only option in accordance with international law and Israel’s security is to formally rejoin the land liberated in 1967 to Israel by applying Israeli civilian law (the correct term for the misnomer of annexation ), and allow the Arabs living there the autonomy they have enjoyed since the Oslo Accords to run their own affairs. The situation on the ground would not change.
Obviously, they could not be given full Israeli citizenship by voting in Israeli elections, as Jews would become the minority in their sole nation state.
If anyone shouts “apartheid”, that is exactly the situation that obtains of the six and a half million US citizens, such as Puerto Ricans, who cannot vote in US elections, about which the international community has no objection. There are other countries where minority groups do not always enjoy full citizenship.
Warren S Grossman
Angela Epstein makes a good case for Jews, with their requirement to celebrate Shabbat four times a month, having no truck with Dry January (Worry not, Dry January needn’t apply for Jews, 12 January).
Like Meat Free Monday, it’s a virtue-signalling gimmick. But the drinking of wine is even more deeply embedded in Jewish culture.
Virtually every festival, simcha and right of passage — as opposed to drinking for the sake of it — is celebrated and sanctified with wine.
We are commanded to drink four glasses of wine during the Passover service. Wine is meant to be enjoyed; it is not haram, proscribed by Islamic law, nor does it represent the blood of Christ.
Being monotheistic, we don’t have a god of wine like Bacchus or Dionysus (Palwinus?), but we do have a special blessing to emphasise its importance.
Indeed, it is doubtful whether Jewish civilisation could have evolved without the drinking of wine.
No need to worry
Your readers ought not to be alarmed by Douglas Murray’s reports of an attack on an elderly poppy seller at Edinburgh’s Waverley Station (Why must Jews watch their backs as London mobs cheer? November 10).
The British Transport Police say that there was no evidence of poppy sellers being targeted, and after extensive enquiries took no action.