We are Christians, people of other faiths, people of moral standards, here to tell our friends of the Jewish community that they are not alone; that we stand with them. To Whitehall this evening for this event organised by Christian Action Against Antisemitism.
The designated area in Whitehall opposite Downing Street was already packed when I arrived this evening. The crowd included some obvious Christians (nuns habits are a bit of a giveaway) and Jews wearing kippot, some free Iranians and, as I heard later, some representatives of the free Kurds.
We were all offered a poster of a particular hostage which we could hold up ready to call out Bring Them Home. I was allocated this boy, of my daughter’s generation, Yotam Haim.
The sound system didn’t work well at first but we sang Amazing Grace without accompaniment, and other songs I don’t know in Hebrew.
Then the sound system burst into life. It isn’t true that the devil has all the best tunes as we had some good tunes tonight, but I think Beelzebub and his minions may have a better public address system.
The most powerful speaker was Thomas Hand. He spoke of how he was born in Ireland and grew up in London and went to Israel as a young man for the experience of working on a kibbutz. He loved the place, married and settled down. He and his wife had three children, then his wife died of cancer young but he is bringing the children up as a widower. Until the 7th October when his daughter Emily aged 8 was snatched as a hostage. The other children have survived but are bereft without their sister. It was her 9th birthday this week and we sang happy birthday and hoped the goodwill might somehow reach her.
In no particular order, as it was too dark to make notes and I had a poster of Yotam and a torch to carry, other speakers included Jacob Vince of Christian Friends of Israel, Gary Mond of the National Jewish Assembly, Gideon Falter of the Campaign Against Antisemitism, Laura Dodsworth of the October Declaration. An older lady whose grandparents survived the holocaust who spoke movingly of Churchill and my parents generation who stood against the Nazis, and an Israeli journalist who was one of those invited to the showing of the atrocities captures on the body cameras of killed or captured Hamas terrorists. His descriptions were not to be taken lightly.
In between speakers were hymns, prayers and blessings in both English and Hebrew. There was a download of these available for smartphones but I didn’t have it available. But these verses from Isaiah are very familiar to me as one of the blessings used at my own church for those not taking Holy Communion.
The Lord bless you and keep you
Make His face shine upon you and be gracious to you
The Lord turn His face toward you
And give you peace
There was a torch burning on the podium; this was lit at the Western Wall and has already travelled to several cities. it will keep burning until the hostages are home.
We ended with the National Anthem
Details were given of the NATIONAL SOLIDARITY MARCH AGAINST ANTISEMITISM next Sunday. I already know that I will have to miss it due to an important family event. But I doubt that this will be the last time we need to show our support.
During the speeches I moved out of the central crown to stand outside in order t get a view of numbers and they whole event. There were a couple of dozen of us standing by the memorial to the Women of WWII. Most of the traffic, especially the bus drivers passed slowly by (plenty of police) and showed their support by hooting and waving. The passengers on the open top tour buses were left in no doubt as posters were shown and ‘Bring Them Home’
But towards the end I started to notice more private cars with grim faced men-of-middle-eastern-appearance driving, and snarling incomprehensible epithets at us. Three boys on bicycles stuck up fingers and f*** you! But the police were alert. There were no Palestinian flags in sight, and no groups that I saw.
As I left I handed my poster back for future use; many of them had been placed on the railings to keep the hostages in the public eye. I doubt that they will still be there in the morning
I have mentioned here before that in 1936 my dad and my uncle (both now dead) were at Cable Street in London’s East End. Today was something I had to do, and will do again. This is now our responsibility to challenge.