Google+ Badge

Friday, 24 October 2014

PerfectlyWriteFamilyTales: ‘Two Witches Brood’

PerfectlyWriteFamilyTales: ‘Two Witches Brood’: It was funny. The irony was clear. There they were - two fat, ageing witches huddling in a well. The same spot where their foremothers h...

Thursday, 23 October 2014

From Highest – to Lowest - the Jewish Week that Was!

A week that began on an emotional high for the Anglo-Jewish community with the public broadcast of a Holocaust survivor’s testimony,  plunged into ever-accelerating free-fall, then crashed to earth on Thursday with the terrorist murder of a three-month-old baby in Jerusalem.

Chaim.FersterThus is the Jewish experience encapsulated.

So as the days slid between the rousing speech of Polish-born Chaim Ferster at the Manchester, U.K. North West Friends of Israel Rally Against Antisemitism and the death of US-born Chaya Zissel Braun, there was news of grossly crude antisemitism on US student campuses and the jailing of a man who sent an antisemitic message to Liverpool Jewish Member of Parliament, Luciana Berger. Then her counterparts in the UK Independence Party (UKIP) were forced to defend their alliance by association with European racists and Holocaust deniers. Luciana.Berger




But let’s return to the top where an estimated 1,200 people, stretching from Israel to Brazil, enjoyed an online, grandstand view of the Manchester rally  as  each event occurred.

But those of us abroad were merely the off-stage crew for a cast of more than 2,500 people who gathered physically at the  city-centre  Cathedral Gardens, representing a wide cross-section of UK Jewry, along with Kurdish, Christian and  Muslim friends.

There were many Israeli flags on display at the rally but the event was not about Israel. It was designed as a firm response to the spike in antisemitism that peaked during Israel’s summer  Operation Protective Edge in Gaza and was never more evident than at the demonstrations staged outside the Israel-owned Kedem cosmetics store in Manchester.

So next I give you a verbatim account of the speech of nonagenarian  Mr Ferster, whose  testimony, also available here online, is likely to be lodged at the Yad Vashem Holocaust Museum in Jerusalem.


“My name is Chaim Ferster. I am 92 years old and I survived the horrors of the Holocaust.

“I was 17 when the Nazis came to my hometown in Poland, and by the time I was 21, I had been through 7 concentration camps. In that time, I witnessed the true depths to which man can sink and the speed with which others can rush to join him there.

“In Sosnowiec, where I was born, I was given a yellow star to wear, and later in Auschwitz I was given a number (reveal tattoo and read number B10924).

“Why, because I was Jewish – a problem that needed a solution, a final solution!!

“It is easy to think that this was a more primitive time, that it was not a surprise to a people used to pogroms and forced migrations, but Poland was my home, as Britain is now, and the idea of the Holocaust was as unfathomable to us then as it is now.

“Nobody can tell me that anti-Semitism is imagined or a product of our own paranoia.

“I am not here to scare you, or to suggest that the recent upsurge in anti-Semitism means we are headed for the same fate. I do not think that we are.

“Our government and those of France, Germany, and Italy, have been quick to denounce the abhorrent events that we have read about. The burning of synagogues, physical attacks on religious Jews, and chanting of “Jews to the gas chambers” in the streets.

“I am grateful to the leaders of Europe, for their leadership, but we must never be complacent. We need to stand up for ourselves, and that is what we are doing today in a way that could not be imagined in my youth.

“This country has been good to me, to my children, my grandchildren, and by the grace of G-d my great-grandchildren. Its people are liberal and tolerant, and the vast majority see anti-Semitism and racism for what they truly are.

“But anti-Semitism has evolved, it now has Israel firmly in its sinister cross-hairs. Zionism has become a dirty word used to beat us with. We need to reclaim it. Zionism is simply the belief that Jews have the right to self-determination in Israel.

“As all of us here know, Israel is a vibrant and modern democracy, in which self-criticism is a crucial and important part of the political process, indeed of Zionism. Criticism of Israeli policy does not frighten me, it engages me. But to demonize and delegitimize Israel is to let in an old and dangerous foe.

“In the words of the historian Simon Schama, ‘Israel does not cause anti-Semitism, Israel was caused by anti-Semitism’.

“We need to speak out, and educate others about the darkest days of our past, to ensure that anti-Semitism, racism and discrimination have no place in the modern world. Education is the only way to beat ignorance.

“My name is Chaim Ferster, not B10924.

“Our name is B’nei Yisrael, the Children of Israel, and we must not let anyone replace it with a number, a daubing on a wall, or an insult chanted in the streets”.  

Other speakers  included MPs Ivan Lewis, Jim Murphy and Graham Evans. Indeed, it was long-serving Bury Labour MP Mr Lewis who read a speech condemning antisemitism on behalf of Conservative Chancellor George Osborne, so confirming that all efforts to combat anti-Jewish sentiment have strong cross-party support.

But the heat from this heart-warming event has sparked debate about the many troubles facing the Jewish community worldwide.

As someone who worked in and for the Manchester Jewish community for  21 years, it was extraordinary to watch the tables being turned. After all that time writing about Mancunians fighting for and supporting Israel, it felt eerie, even surreal to sit at my computer here in Israel, watching the folks back home attempting to douse the unquenchable flames of Jew hatred. One must experience the feeling to describe it.

Paradox aside, the new phenomenon of  social networking has granted these public occasions an immense, immediate impact. The Internet has not only created an unprecedented democracy in general communication but given voice to the great mass of people within the Jewish community, pushing aside the traditional, old-fashioned leadership  in favour of grass roots workers who act with speedy spontaneity. 

Until recently, communal leadership largely comprised a self-appointed, self-perpetuating if well- meaning oligarchy whose members saw themselves as heirs to  the ‘cousinhood’ – the almost moribund  Jewish aristocracy. The idea of  ad hoc groups of rank and file activists taking leading public roles would have been laughable. But this smug complacency has been trounced -literally booed off-stage.

But nothing else changes. Not the empty calls for communal ‘unity’; nor the unseemly rows over religious practice or yet the discord caused by  personal  perception of a homeland for the Jewish people.

Chaim.Weizmann.PlaqueResearching for this piece I read Chaim Weizmann – A Biography By Several Hands. It’s all there: Dr Weizmann’s long stay in Manchester; the arguments over the ‘Uganda’, ‘Argentine’ and ‘Russia’ proposals; the split between ‘philosophical’ and ‘practical’ Zionists – even the laugh-out-loud moment when Weizmann had the chutzpah to tell Lord Balfour that he had been talking to “the wrong sort of Jews”.

But to return to the present: My own week included attending a lecture by US-Israeli military analyst, Major Elliot Chodoff. Don’t be persuaded by political opinion polls he counselled an ESRA Karmiel audience. They’re unreliable. Anyway, he confirmed more baldly, the terrorists with whom Israel deals are single-minded – bent solely on death and destruction. This, I maintain, is not only what we face in Israel but is the same ideology that now sweeps the entire West. 

There can be no argument about that.

© Natalie Wood (24 October 2014)







Monday, 20 October 2014

First Limmud Conference in Haifa

There may be English language sessions available at the first Limmud Educational Conference to be held in Haifa – so long as sufficient English speakers respond.


The programme will include a look at the Cairo Genizah and shared life between Arabs and Jews along with workshops, music, a Tenach (Bible) quiz, lectures – and even a wine tasting.

The event is on Tuesday 18 November at Bet Rutenburg, 77 Sedorot Hanassi, Haifa (4.00 -10.30 p.m.) with free car parking available about five minutes’ walk from the venue.

Proposed speakers and presenters include Rivka Lubitz, Professor Efraim Lev, Itai Yavin, Orit Rosenblit, Nurit Yacobson, Kobi Ayal, Amit Katz and Dubi ChanunLimmud.Galil

The entrance fee of 30 NIS (20 NIS for soldiers and students) includes a light supper.

Those interested in attending English language sessions should contact me on and I will forward the details to organiser, Rav Golan Ben-Chorin.

© Natalie Wood (20 October 2014)

'Operation Protective Edge' - from the Eagle’s Nest!

ESRA Karmiel-Misgav Branch members are to be treated to an eagle-eyed account of this summer’s war in Gaza by a leading  political and military analyst.

 Elliot.ChodoffMajor Elliot Chodoff (Res), who specialises in the Middle East conflict and the global war on terrorism, has presented and published papers in leading newspapers and magazines including the Washington Times, National Post of Canada, The National Interest, National Review, and Front Page Magazine, along with numerous online news outlets. 

Chodoff is the founder and senior editor of MidEast: On Target, an e-journal and newsletter. He teaches and lectures on the topics of the Middle East Conflict; Terrorism and Responses; Military Thought and Strategy; The Military Aspects of International Conflict; Arab-Israeli Relations; the Sociology of Modern Israel and the History of Zionism.

A graduate of the Ramaz School in New York and the IDF Home Front Command Senior Commanders Course, he  currently serves as the Population Officer of IDF Northern Command and is writing a PhD dissertation in International Relations at the University of Haifa on the deterrence of terrorist organisations. 


US-born, Major Chodoff moved to Israel in 1983 and is a founding member of Eshchar, a community village in the Galilee, from where he works  as a licensed tour guide, leading educational tours throughout Israel.

  • For details of  venue and  time, etc., please see: :

© Natalie Wood (20 October 2014)



Tuesday, 14 October 2014

The Tale of the Gold-Plated Pee!

Festival LogoAs the boys from Dickens’s classic begged for more and  other actors offered their hands in love, those running  tourist services at this year’s Acco Festival in Israel picked visitors’ pockets via outlandish charges for use of the public conveniences.

Please don’t think that I’m one to bear a grudge. Do not imagine that I relish  my title as the meanest woman in  Galilee. But I was flamin’ furious to be charged 3 NIS – £0.49 - US $0.80 – for what must have been the costliest pee in my personal history.

The experience came courtesy of the Old Acre Development Company, a subsidiary of the Israel Ministry of Tourism, whose purpose, the website tells readers, is to develop “tourist infrastructure … high-quality public services and quality enterprise …”

The poor English translation from the Hebrew attempts to explain further that a sub-contractor is responsible for the facilities and that those producing the festival have no part in the management or collection of the accumulated funds for these services”.

Please, Sir. Dare I have a drink?

© Natalie Wood (14 October 2014)

Monday, 6 October 2014

Reading the Real Story …

Leaving Story AvenueThere is a determined congruity to the life of New Yorker Paul LaRosa.

So why have no previous reviews of the CBS News producer’s warm-hearted memoir* pointed to the irony of a kid from ‘Story Avenue’ in The Bronx going on to make writing his prize-winning life’s work? Surely –that’s the real story!

Too obvious? Oh, c’mon, do!  LaRosa’s alma mater was New York’s  Daily News,  which judging by today’s issue (Monday 06 October 2014)  is crammed with the sort of man-eats-dog stuff that continues to make it one of the most widely read tabloids on the planet.

Which reminds me: the newspaper’s previous building featured as the Daily Planet in the first two Superman movies  and its present premises still display the giant globe and meteorological instruments that  triggered the infant  LaRosa’s  dream of becoming a reporter.

But while my tone is flippant, I hold LaRosa in great respect.

After all, we had a shared beginning. While he is an Italian-American Catholic from a poor family and I was born into the British Anglo-Jewish middle-classes, we were both in the final generation of rookie journalists to be trained in hot metal before cold type technology became the norm and changed the industry for ever. Paul.LaRosa

We were also  the last to learn the trade at the ‘university of hard knocks’, before everything was glamorised and became a streamlined profession. But as LaRosa charts his rise and his meetings with celebrities like Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis (he also worked briefly with her daughter, Caroline) and Joe DiMaggio, it becomes clear that newsrooms are the same everywhere. The biggest hitters invariably have egos to match.

* Leaving Story Avenue - My journey from the projects to the front page is available from

© Natalie Wood (06 October 2014)

Saturday, 4 October 2014

PerfectlyWritePoetry: In Search of a Common Humanity

PerfectlyWritePoetry: In Search of a Common Humanity: Despite the best efforts of a local MP and assorted fathers of terrorism, the Yorkshire city of Bradford has not become an Israel -free zone...

Wednesday, 1 October 2014

PerfectlyWritePoetry: ‘I’m a Jew As Long As There’s One Antisemite Alive...

PerfectlyWritePoetry: ‘I’m a Jew As Long As There’s One Antisemite Alive...: The death this week of Dannie Abse made me reflect  not only on the silencing of an engaging poetic voice but how spending a childhood in a...