Time to leave UK? No, but be ready

IS it time to leave the UK? And if it’s not, what will it take before we decide that now it’s time?

A major attack on our communities with loss of life or injury? Jeremy Corbyn’s Labour to be in power? Public support for Israel to be declared a hate crime?

The time when we become too afraid of being a “visible” Jew? What will it take for people to say “enough is enough”?

Last week, two prominent Jewish and Israel activists, both friends of mine, decided that the time had come for them to give up the good fight and return to their homeland.

Mandy Blumenthal, in an article in the Daily Telegraph, proclaimed that she and her partner Mark Lewis no longer feel safe here and that enough is enough.

While I respect their decision and feel sure that making aliya is right for them, I don’t think we are at the point yet where we should all be following their example.

Don’t get me wrong, if Israel is where your heart is, go gezunteheit. But to go out of fear of living in the UK? No, I don’t think we are there yet.

But we are very close. In fact, we are probably just one general election away.

Perhaps Mandy and Mark and the hundreds like them who flee for Israel from the UK each year are sensible in getting out before things get really bad.

Maybe it’s better to keep ahead of trouble, to go in leisure, rather than have our hands forced later on. But I still maintain that there is no desperate need to leave — yet.

What is happening in the UK is not like Nazi Germany in the 1930s by a long shot — the fear of another Holocaust is, I believe, totally unfounded.

For a start, we currently have police and government protection. The local police are out every Shabbat morning patrolling the streets with CST volunteers.

Every Jewish school and synagogue has security paid for by the government. Antisemitic abuse may be on the rise, but it is not tolerated at any institutional level.

But we are hanging on by a Corbynite thread and the disarray of the government at the moment over Brexit could force an ill-advised general election in the near future.

And then the security and protection we enjoy here could shift considerably.

Zionistic Jews in the UK are currently split into three main “waves”. The first wavers are the ones who are planning to leave in the near future, while times are relatively good.

They believe that they can see the writing on the wall and do not want to wait with false optimism like so many did in Europe in the 1930s.

Many of these people have the wherewithal (financial security, transferrable jobs, wealth, property in Israel, no unbreakable ties to the UK, etc) to make the transition in relative ease and comfort.

Many of these first wavers are activists, generous supporters and community leaders (and thus a great loss to the communities they leave behind).

The second wave are those who have pledged to book their “lift” if a Corbyn government ever takes power.

These people probably have the means to go if they need to, but are reluctant to “panic” —– after all, life is good in the UK and can be tough in the Holy Land.

The third wave are the “wait and sees”. These are the majority of British Jews — the ones who, like those in Nazi Germany, will never believe that things could ever get so bad that they would need to escape.

This category of people probably have the most to lose by upping sticks — they may lack the job prospects and the financial security to cushion a move to the land flowing with milk and honey.

Or they may have family ties that bind them to the UK.

As the first wavers pack up and leave, the Jewish communities here will get weaker and weaker, both politically and financially — making the position for the second and third-wavers increasingly difficult.

Even if the second and third wavers never find the need to leave (perhaps Corbyn won’t get in or, if he does, things won’t be so bad — or, if they are, then surely the difficult times won’t last), they will be fanning the last embers of our once-thriving communities, bereft of some of the strongest and most committed advocates.

My view is that it is not time to flee. But whether we are first, second or third wavers, we should all be getting prepared.

Whether that means opening an aliya file, discussing possible aliya with Nefesh b’Nefesh or attending an Ivrit ulpan (as I do), it is wise to be ready.

Most British Jews love the UK and are deeply loyal to her — and want to build on the firm roots we have laid down here.

But if there ever comes a time when these feelings are not reciprocated, we need to be prepared.


© 2018 Jewish Telegraph