The good news is that Jeremy Corbyn didn’t win the election. Teresa May and the Conservative Party won by the numbers. But there are few today viewing the results of the election who fail to see that a clear message was sent. The only question is to whom the message was directed, and will they listen.
The Labour Party gained 28 seats, which is a victory in itself, but they are not in control. Not yet. Had the Labour Party been in the hands of a different main contender, we could think this was politics as normal. But it wasn’t, and so it isn’t.
This morning in England is very different than it was yesterday.
The Conservative party won in seats and votes, but lost 11 places in the Parliament. A stunning victory by Labour puts them at 259, a gain of 28 and puts Jeremy Corbyn within striking distance of the Prime Minister’s office. Not this time, but maybe next time.
I will leave it to England to figure out the message that was sent yesterday. What it means for where England is headed – for its citizens and for the world is more than I can contemplate on a busy Friday with Shabbat just hours away.
For all intents and purposes, there is now a “hung Parliament” that is unlikely to accomplish much and may well send the country into new elections in the near future. That is the nature of the electoral system they have, as it is the one we inherited from them.
What is on my mind is something more personal, closer to my heart. If you are a Jew in Britain and you are not looking for your own “Brexit,” you are making an appalling and perhaps even costly mistake. Read that sentence again. Does it scare you – it should. It frightens me. But what you’ll find, if you search deep in your heart, is that it may annoy you, but you can’t quite deny it, can you? It doesn’t surprise you that there could be a time when you have to leave…as a few generations ago, too many didn’t. You know that time may come…pretty much every Jew in the world knows that. This is the ultimate lesson of the Holocaust. You may love where you live, but there will always lurk the knowledge that no matter how comfortable it might be today, tomorrow it could change.
The only real question you have today in the UK if you are Jewish is whether today is the day to leave.
When I was in Golder’s Green, I saw many beautiful home with very expensive cars. And in many of the cases, if not all, what you would find, is a mezuzah on the door of that lovely home. A mezuzah that marks the doorpost of our homes and the gates of our cities. It tells the world – a Jew lives within these walls.
And with each mezuzah fixed to the doors of these massive homes, I fought the urge to knock on the door and beg them to move to Israel. Sell your Jaguar and your Volvo. It is not objects that we have been taught to revere. Come home, I wanted to say. But I never did, because I knew that to the people in these homes, Israel isn’t home – not yet.
For those among the British people who are worried today, I can offer no words of consolation. You are a democracy. You chose this man, this party. I have no comfort I can offer those who are frightened by where Britain may go in the coming months and years.
And it is too soon after the last terror attack to make the agony even worse by telling you that this is what it was like in Israel 20 years ago – bombs exploding so often we couldn’t heal from one attack before there was another. Explosions and funerals and stories of those we had lost. I would not wish that time on any country; I mourn for those murdered and wounded in Manchester and in London even as I know that they won’t be the last…not with a man like Jeremy Corbyn in such a powerful position.
What Israel did was learn and respond – and the world condemns us for it. They call us apartheid despite the huge numbers of Arabs you can find in every university, working in every hospital, in our Knesset and on all our streets. The truth is lost to the world – that the only apartheid that takes place in Israel is in Arab areas, where Jews are legally not allowed to go for fear of being attacked, stoned, stabbed, lynched (as has happened many times).
We responded then and now – by putting guns on our streets in capable hands that know when and how to take out a threat in seconds, certainly not in 8 minutes. These are the truths that England will have to learn.
We responded then and now – by profiling so that we catch guns and knives, not perfumes and toothpaste. We search young men who ring the suspicion bell we all carry in our heads, rather than women like my 80 year-old mother sitting in a wheel chair, who was recently ordered to stand, take off her open sandals with the dainty heel, and spread her arms to be frisked. How many Jewish Israel great grandmothers have blown up planes? So long as you search great grandmothers in their 80s, men such as the Manchester bomber and the London Bridge rammers and stabbers will go free. These too, England will have to learn.
But i will also tell you a secret – England already profiles. I saw it myself – but it isn’t done for peace and safety, as it is in Israel. Try standing in a security line in Heathrow in the middle of a planeload of passengers that just disembarked from India. As an American and Israeli, I went to the non-EU line and waited among hundreds patiently snaking my way through ridiculously long lines. I listened to the questions as I got to the front of the line. I watched the behavior of the men sitting behind the gates as passenger after passenger went forward.
When it was my turn, in perfectly accented American English, I offered my two passports. Israel and the United States. The man took one look. My skin is the same white that his was, not the darker shades of the beautiful Indian people. He asked me two or three questions, wished me a pleasant stay in England as he stamped my passport, and sent on my way. It was a huge and amazing contrast in a country that claims not to profile. The men and women from India were subjected to 10 minute cross-examinations lest they plan to stay and work illegally in England. When are you leaving? How long are you staying? Where are you going? Who do you know in England? What do you do for a living? No profiling? Hogwash. England profiles today – just for money and not for life.
In the coming years, thanks to this election and the trend to which the results suggest, England will face two distinct realities – more attacks like Manchester and the London Bridge and some very tough choices about how they will have to respond.
That is for England. But on this morning after, I want to speak to the Jews of England. You wake in shock this morning, perhaps in anger. This is a day you probably prayed would never come. But it has.
You are safe today. It hasn’t started…yet.
Please don’t wait until it does.