One of the boasts made by friends living in Jerusalem, Tel Aviv and Netanya is that their location and large Anglo community can attract countless wonderful speakers and myriad exciting events. And they then reel off the list of household names: rabbis, newspaper editors and important professors who've thronged to their part of the country to talk to them on all manner of subjects. The last one I heard about was the editor of the Jerusalem Post on his phone row with the BBC, which made him miss his turning en route from Jerusalem into Netanya and delayed his arrival by several minutes.
And we often wonder: why not Haifa? Yes, when the war was on, no end of people turned up, apparently. But Haifa is generally regarded not as Liverpool, as I mistakenly thought a year ago, but more like Sunderland or Grimsby: the back of beyond to be honest.
Which is crazy, somehow, as there are got quite a few intelligent and highly (I would say fiercely) engaged and committed Anglos living here: doctors, lawyers, computer programmers, PR people, technical translators, therapists: you name it - all of whom are passionate about politics. And most of these are American women.
For instance, yesterday at our weekly women's shiur, one of them greeted me with the words: 'Blair was better than Williams'. I thought she was referring to the impending conversion of the former from the C of E to Catholicism, but she actually meant the articles about them in the Jerusalem Post.
I immediately came to the defense of the ABC, but she wasn't having it. 'In comparison to Carter', she said, 'Now he's left office, Blair is far more sympathetic to Israel than he was in office'. That is true, but I'd rather he'd said some of those things when in office. Think how much suffering the Jewish community would have been spared had he said then as he has now that he's not totally confident that the PA can deliver. I don't even remember him uttering a bad word against Arafat in those days.
And what about that 'pig poster' episode, straight after Holocaust Day, 2005? The ones the Labour Party put up against the Jewish Leaders of the Conservative Party, Michael Howard and Oliver Letwin, during the last General Election. 'But those were taken down immediately', she said.
You bet they were, because even the BBC called them antisemitic and one of their Executive Producers spent an entire Friday afternoon analysing them for me and expressing her consternation at how the Labour Party could get away with it. The Times pointed out that Tony had just held centre stage at Holocaust Memorial Day, the day before, and led the attack with an incisive analysis by William Rees-Mogg, their former editor.
Whereas, it does appear that in only one year the ABC has done a complete U-turn on his relationship with the Jewish people and Israel. And for this, he should be given credit. Whereas, our Tone seems to say one thing to one person and one to another, just like a politician in fact ....
And although I've never met Tone, I have met Lord Levy and found him a total and utter buffoon. Whereas the ABC's equivalent is a thoughtful and caring person with a great deal of insight, who prefers not to have his name mentioned in public, so I won't. You can often judge a person by their advisors. The Dalai Lama, for instance, has had the same envoy to Britain for the last 16 years at least, whereas some religious leaders, not least in the Jewish community, seem to wear theirs out every 6 months. Being intelligent is not enough. Emotional intelligence is just as important and sometimes I do wish that the Israelis would realise this as well. Oh well, Rome wasn't born in a day....
To continue about Tony: 'And what about his wife', I said. 'The one who went to the school opposite me in Liverpool'.
Just because she's expressed sympathy towards suicide bombers', said my friend, 'makes it even more amazing just how even-handed he is towards us' etc etc ....
I wished I could argue as confidently about Bush, Clinton and the rest, so I kept my mouth shut and just concentrated on our Shabbat shiur which dealt with the various approaches to the biblical text.
All of which is a prelimary to saying that last week I wasn't at all surprised that my genius friend had come up trumps and sent this around: an announcement about the FIRST EVER PROPER POLITICAL EVENT FOR ANGLOS IN HAIFA, with YUVAL STEINITZ MK, a household name who used to be a member of Haifa University's Philosophy Department. Which means that some of his former colleagues will attend as well, whatever their political preferences. And I know one very keen left-winger who's definitely going to be there tonight.
Chug Bayit with MK Yuval Steinitz in Haifa - November 11th
The Likud Anglo Division of Haifa and the North will be hosting MK Yuval Steinitz:
- Former Chair and Current Member of the Knesset Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee
- Co-chair, Joint U.S. Congress-Knesset Security Committee
The subject will be Israel's Security Situation Since the Lebanon War
Date: Sunday November 11th
Here is the sort of thing Mr.Steinitz has to deal with:
And to be honest, I would have attended this LIkud event had he a member of Kadima, Meimad, Meretz, Labour, or even Communist, and especially if he had been from the Pensioners' Party, which I'm definitely thinking of voting for when the time comes around.
And although there will be quite a few people coming from all over the north of Israel, including Galilee, the Golan and the border areas with Lebanon, all I have to do on this extremely cold and windy day is to cross the road and I'm there!
Will keep you posted.