Pesach's survival story is relevant for today

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Jewish academic and Hebrew scholar Irene Lancaster reflects on the survival of Israel and what this has to do with Pesach - or Passover.

Easter has gone from a city, London, in which Ramadan was deemed to be far more important by political operators. Interestingly the two exceedingly jolly carnival festivals, much appreciated by children around the world, Jewish Purim and Hindu Holi, were also sadly absent from the plans of city's official politicians during the recent festive period. Possibly no surprise there!

Richard Dawkins spoke out, and his words were immediately seized on as a sign of repentance, when in fact he said nothing new. His attack against Christianity was really always an attack against Islam's extremism and for that reason, as well as for his scientific bent, he has proved to be very popular in Israel, especially among the observant Jewish community!

We have now entered into the new month of Nissan in the Jewish calendar, with Pesach (Passover) coming up in two weeks. Already, there is much frenetic activity, coupled with a feeling of great fragility in all our Jewish communities. Given the barrage of attacks coming against us from all quarters, it would be difficult not to feel slightly battered and bruised at least.

From the US President to the UK Foreign Secretary, statements and phone calls have flown to and fro. I was asked to sign a letter to President Biden from observant, mainly north American, Jews. The number has reached nearly 200,000 - some 180,000 were already handed in to the White House in order to mark the 180 days that the hostages had been in captivity.

Another founder member of our dialogue group is one of over 1,200 UK lawyers (including a former Lord Chief Justice, Master of the Rolls, Justice Minister and Director of Public Prosecutions) who have signed a letter to the Prime Minister, organized by UK Lawyers for Israel, stating that the government have made far-reaching legal errors when it comes to condemning Israel, or worse, basing themselves on a factually inaccurate letter penned by another group of lawyers who simply got things wrong.

How on earth, you might ask, can one set of learned lawyers deliberately misread an ongoing situation so devastatingly. Simply because, if you have a certain mind-set against the Jewish people, for instance, then you can convince yourself of their inerrant sinfulness. The whole problem is theological, not political.

If it were political, people would see that Israel has tried her best at all times, and that the founding fathers reached out to the Arab world, but in vain. Political sacrifices have constantly been made by the State of Israel in order to accommodate all political views, as long as they were political and not theological. Who would countenance suggestions that would result in the destruction of the Jewish people, for instance? But that is what the UK Foreign Office, led by the Foreign Secretary, expects Israel to do!

Our current situation in the Jewish community is surely reminiscent of our present preparations for Pesach, when we commemorate the fact that in the Book of Exodus, Moses asked Pharaoh countless times to 'let my people go', and each time Pharaoh refused.

So it got to the point when Pharaoh was no longer capable of negotiating. His stance against the Jewish people had actually become theological and therefore set in stone. In other words, he couldn't change, even if he wanted to.

This way of looking at things is most helpful in explaining the rage seething through the streets and campuses of London, Manchester, New York, Los Angeles and many others at present.

This is not a protest against Jewish politics. This is a protest against Jews. This is a protest stating that Jews have no right to be right, to be safe, to own their own land, to be a people, a nation.

To survive, according to the philosophy of these mobs, Jews must remain apart from polite society and be allowed to exist only as a much-despised, oppressed religion – as a Jew in the home maybe, but certainly not a Jew in the street.

That is why the police are turning a blind eye to crimes against Jews, whether in Scotland or in London. They know we are small, and they hope that we are powerless. But they are wrong. Yes, we are small, due to millennia of forced conversions, tortures, expulsions and murders, of which October 7 was only the latest instance. But we are no longer powerless.

And, as our Pesach story tells us, we will survive in the end, through thick and thin. For where is Ancient Eygpt now? Gone with the wind. Relegated to museums, while Jews and Judaism are alive and kicking and believing in life eternal and still contributing to the global community. No wonder that the Western world, which has lost its way, is scared stiff. But what if the West had always been wrong?

Andrew Roberts, biographer of Winston Churchill, was recently asked on a popular podcast, Triggernometry, how Churchill, the greatest ever Englishman, had been so prescient about Nazism. What made him see things so clearly when all around were appeasers? Simple, Roberts answered, Churchill was a philosemite, who actually liked Jews. He was therefore very attuned indeed to Jew hate, while his associates (most of whom were anti-Semitic in any case) just blanked out what was going on in pursuit of what they considered to be the greater good.

Why does this appear to be a shocking statement to make. Shocking because, which other statesman or woman do you know of in the last 100 years or so who followed suit? None, in my estimation.

So let's cherish all those people who try to walk in the footsteps of Churchill, the greatest ever Englishman. It is certainly not easy, but Jews will never give up.

Israel are the only non-Third World country where fertility rates continue to be extremely high throughout the entire population. This phenomenon points to an amazing optimism and hope for the present and future, even in terrible times.

Let us hope that this month of Nissan and the upcoming festival of Pesach bring joy both to the Jewish people and to the world at large, so that the world's hardness of heart turns, as the Jewish prophet Ezekiel states (36:26) into 'a new heart and a new spirit' and Christians particularly will soften their hearts to the Jewish founders of their religion.