‘Hey, Mark!’ I turned and got here head to head with my neighbour. ‘What are you doing right here?’, he requested. He appeared genuinely stunned.

‘Right here’ was a vigil in London’s Whitehall, two days after the Hamas pogrom in opposition to Jews in Israel on 7 October. So I replied: ‘How may I not be right here?’ However because the night after which the week drew on, I realised, to my nice embarrassment, that this was not a solution that Jews in Britain may take without any consideration.

Half an hour later, I ran into the brother of a good friend, and though his opening query was totally different, the logic was the identical. He wished to know if I used to be Jewish. After I answered No, the actual query adopted: then why was I right here?

Attendees at the first vigil lighting candles to honour the victims of Hamas' terrorist attacks, October 9 2023.

Attendees on the first vigil lighting candles to honour the victims of Hamas’ terrorist assaults, October 9 2023.

The vigil was loud, indignant, youthful and tearful. Notably, as Hadley Freeman wrote in The Sunday Instances the next weekend, the group was additionally virtually utterly Jewish:

‘It was good, but it surely was additionally unusual, as a result of everybody I may see there was clearly Jewish: the lads wore kippahs and tallits, and everyone knew the phrases to “Hatikvah”, Israel’s nationwide anthem. Throughout city a pro-Palestinian rally was taking place. I seemed on the pictures within the papers the subsequent day and was struck by what a blended crowd it was. Younger Muslims, older white individuals, everybody marching collectively in defence of – what? Pogroms? In the meantime, the Jews simply had themselves.’

A second vigil was held to mark the assaults on Sunday, this time in Parliament Sq.. Whereas the primary vigil focussed on the horror of murdered festival-goers, with politicians and speeches and loud children singing and chanting their anger and sorrow, this second vigil was rather more reflective. The main focus was on those that have been kidnapped and brought hostage by Hamas, a few of whom have British kinfolk.

Attendees at the second vigil examining posters of those kidnapped by Hamas during the terrorist attacks, October 15 2023.

Attendees on the second vigil analyzing posters of these kidnapped by Hamas throughout the terrorist assaults, October 15 2023.

Speeches from rabbis and neighborhood leaders representing the households of the captive inspired hope, compassion and solidarity. We have been advised that whilst we supported Jews and Israelis presently, within the midst of their struggling and concern, we ‘shouldn’t shut our hearts to Palestinian grief’. The frequent thread by means of all of the speeches was our shared humanity. But despairingly, as with the primary vigil, and regardless of being nonetheless within the shadow of the pogrom, non-Jews have been few.

A speaker advised that non-Jews may assist with sympathetic phrases to Jewish pals and neighbours. Even perhaps by giving them a hug. That so little is being requested of us is definitely as a result of so little is predicted. And but it has been an article of religion for many years, amongst liberal-minded individuals, that had they lived throughout the darkish days of Nazi anti-Semitism, they’d have positioned themselves on the ‘proper facet of historical past’ by standing as much as it.

These would have been harmful occasions for anybody who tried to face in solidarity with Jewish individuals. To attempt to forestall or to sentence a pogrom in Thirties Munich or Berlin would have taken huge braveness. In the present day, we’d like solely stand within the sunshine in Parliament Sq. or Whitehall on a vivid October afternoon, and to inform our fellow residents that we’re with them unconditionally.

Sadly, as Hadley Freeman reminds us, our Jewish pals and neighbours are used to anticipating much less. However our shared humanity means they deserve a lot extra.

Mark Birbeck is a author based mostly in London.

Graham Linehan and Brendan O’Neill – live and in conversation

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