I am writing to you
even though I have no idea of your address. Hopefully, somehow it will reach
you, wherever you are.
remember ever writing to you before. Our marriage happened so quickly after we
met that there was no opportunity for letters, and then once we were married we
were rarely apart, so there was no need. After you left me, I was so full of
grief that I could not write or do anything. So, this is my first letter to
you, when I am in my seventies and letters have become as obsolete as our
When I got up this
morning I realised that it is the third anniversary of Miriams death, so
I wanted to wish you well and say how sorry I am. What is the Jewish
thing you say? I wish you long life. Although it is not
really appropriate. I was there at the funeral. I wonder if you knew. I stood
with the others, in that windy cemetery, as we said something in Hebrew, and
various people talked about her life; her kindness and her honesty
could be quite brutal, as we both know, but at least she accepted me, your
little shiksa, which many of your relatives didnt.
You may not know but
your mother and I continued to meet up after you left. I have many fond
memories of eating out in Sheffield, in her favourite Greek café, or
walking along the canal, arm in arm. She told me more about the past than she
(or you for that matter) had ever previously told me. Her fleeing Germany alone
at the last minute, and her few memories of her parents; fragments that were
disappearing fast. Towards the end of her life she tried to do a family tree,
she even wanted to go back to Koln to see if you could find where she had lived
as a small child, but then she became ill and couldnt. Perhaps it was for
I am glad your
mother isnt alive to see the news of the pogroms in Israel. Few things
upset her; she seemed to feel that she had seen that the worst humanity could
do, but I think that this would have broken her heart. I thought of you and her
when I heard about it on the News, and almost rang you, but then I realised
that I couldnt. That I had nowhere to ring
.how I miss you
Anyway Ben, here
ends my first letter to you. I often think of you and of Miriam, particularly
during this scary time.
Love (whether you
want it or not) from Christine
I realise that it is
too late to be sending letters to you, but I need to talk, and really there is
nobody who understands and sympathises. I could ring Aaron I suppose but I
dont want to upset him, and I might get that awful wife of his, with her
self-absorption and stupidity. And anyway, I feel so apart from both of them
these days, with their liberal virtues and their Amnesty subscriptions. If only
I had your tolerance, or was it your lack of interest?
Perhaps it is
trivial, with what has gone on and is continuing to go on in the Middle East,
but I am frightened. It happened three days ago, and I have not left the
house since; my windows are closed and the curtains drawn, and I cannot even
answer the telephone. Once I have written this I will try to go out and post
it, but I doubt that I will have the courage.
I was in Sheffield
on Sunday afternoon; driving through the city, although my doctor tells me that
I shouldnt drive anymore, that I could cause an accident, but I never did
like walking, and so long as I am careful
anyway I never did as I was
told, even as a child and I am not going to start now.
But anyway as I
headed towards that cheap car park I always use, there were hordes of people in
the centre, marching with banners and flags. At first I thought that there was
a football match on, (remember when we used to host FA Cup semi-finals, and you
would stop the car and ask someone who had won). It was similar, with chanting
and that camaraderie that you often get amongst young men. And then I noticed
that many of them had their faces covered, as if they had something to be
scared of, and the flags were red, green, white and black, and that the banners
were all about Gaza and Israel, not United or Wednesday.
Cars were slowing
down as they tried to avoid the marchers who had spilt into the road, and then
I realised that the protesters (or celebrators) were stopping cars; banging on
windows and roofs. I was frightened, very frightened for a moment. And I
desperately wanted to reverse out of there. But there was a car just behind me
as well as one just in front, and if I tried swerve out of there, I would end
up on the pavement and probably kill somebody.
And then they
engulfed my car, and someone knocked hard on my window. Where were the police?
Or ordinary people doing their shopping? There were bodies all around me,
hemming my car in, and I felt suffocated, couldnt breathe. The man who
was knocking signalled me to lower my window, and when I did nothing, he
started to hit it harder and harder, so that I was scared it would break.
I wound it down, and
a bucket was thrust in my direction, and a young man in a mask and with a
Yorkshire accent demanded money for Palestine. I tried to pretend
that I was a teacher again with an unruly pupil.
you I quaked, shaking with fear, and hoping it did not show.
He looked at me, and
I could see hatred in his eyes.
Havent you seen what the Israeli oppressors have done?
I could smell the
hatred and could not say anything.
Jewish, came a voice from beside him, and spit landed on my coat.
And then I thought
of Miriam, and all she had suffered and all that her people had suffered and
for a moment I felt her strength.
told him, I am Jewish, and I am going home.
As the group around
fell silent for a moment as if deciding how they were going to kill me, I
realised that the car in front of me was driving away and that there was a side
street just in front of me and to the left, so I put my foot down accelerated,
away from the mob, my window still open. I heard shouting and somebody kicked
the back of my car, but I kept driving and turned into the side road which
fortunately led away from the centre, and then I kept going, ignoring red
lights and pedestrian crossings, until I reached home, my shopping
As I sat in the
drive I cried and thought of you and of your mother, and I wished I could be
with you. But you left me for G-d knows where and then so did Miriam, and I am
on my own and I dont even have anywhere to send this, but I will write it
and put your name on the envelope, and post it, and hopefully somehow it
will get to you and you will read it and think of me, your widow.
The Sound of Marching
Every town and city has its history;
Holy buildings built and then torn down, the shouts of the mob, bodies left
unburied in the street and the rhythm of marching feet
They thought her mad as they watched her
march up and down in front of the Town Hall, as if a soldier on parade. Forty
paces one way, perfectly paced and then back again, whilst those with nothing
better to do gawped, or mocked her. One of Nottinghams homeless, rather
the worse for wear, tried to join in, and for a few moments, he marched behind
her in parody, before giving up and slumping back down onto his sleeping
She was dressed like a respectable
grandmother or mother out for a shopping trip, with an M and S blouse and
trousers and a sensible haircut, perfectly sane and normal, but for her legs
and arms moving to a beat only she could hear and forcing shoppers to step out
of the way to avoid those swinging arms.
Can you hear them marching?
she asked the young policeman when he stopped her to see if she was okay.
They must be round the corner. I dont know what they are protesting
about, but I can hear them, the shouting and the drums.
Whats your name madam?
Close to she looked pale and thin, and
he wondered when she had last eaten.
There are no protests today,
Rachel, he told her, gently guiding her to a bench, his arm lightly
touching her shoulder. It is only Tuesday. There is something to do with
Palestine again on Saturday, but nothing before then, they are still tidying up
after the last one.
But I can hear them; they are
getting louder and louder. Perhaps they are by the castle. I might head towards
the Victoria Centre; I dont want to get mixed up with
He listened intently, almost despite
himself, but there was no sound above the usual noise of buses and trams and
the buzz of conversation. Perhaps he should call someone; a doctor or a social
worker, but before he could make a decision, she seemed to make up her mind,
got up, said thank you in a very polite voice and by the time he
realised what she was doing, she was on a tram heading towards
Just an eccentric old lady,
perhaps a little confused he thought, whereas if she had been heading
towards a less respectable part of Nottingham, he might have felt compelled to
They found Rachel dead on Friday
morning, she had only been left for half an hour as the two nurses on duty
dealt with a panicking patient, but when they checked on her, she had stopped
breathing, and her eyes were wide open in what looked like shock.
She was screaming all night
said Nurse Smythe, in the end we moved her into a side ward, because
there was nothing we could do that would make her stop.
She looks frightened to
death Dr Aziz told her, scared stiff. What was she
I couldnt understand it.
Some foreign language.
She came in with someone from that
Jewish organisation, Nurse Jackson told them, JSOC or something, so
she must be Jewish. Perhaps she was shouting in Yiddish, or whatever it is they
speak. I was given a number to ring in case anything happened, I will let them
know in a bit.
If she is Jewish, she will be
loaded, not that she looks it, Nurse Smythe said smiling.
Probably got it hidden under her
mattress, Nurse Jackson responded, equally amused.
Doctor Aziz felt she should probably
challenge such behaviour, and a year or two ago she would have done so but
things had changed, and she thought it best to ignore the nurses. She looked at
the body in front of her and sighed; she hoped that wherever she was now, she
would be somewhere safer. And then after a moment she left, leaving Rachel to
the tender mercies of the two nurses, whilst all around monitors beeped and old
ladies cried out in confusion and fear.
Rachel has gone.
I didnt know she was ill; I
knew she was a bit confused and not eating so well, but nothing
She collapsed at home, fortunately
Bracha found her and took her into the City Hospital, but they found her dead
in the morning. Apparently she looked very peaceful; she died in her
sleep. She was never the same since she got caught in those awful riots in
London over the summer
She was lucky to be alive, unlike
those other poor souls
They sat silently for a moment, as they
I saw David last night; he and
Ruth are thinking of moving to Israel.
Didnt he say the same thing
two years ago after that other unrest?
Yes, but this time he seems more
determined, and Ruth agrees. He is going to the embassy next week. Have you
ever thought that we might
But this is our
I know, I know. But after what
happened to the Rabbi and his children
I am sorry. It is okay, it will be
I love you.
I love you too.
But that Saturday in Nottingham and in
many cities throughout Europe and North America, there was the rhythm of
marching feet, banners raised and everywhere the sound of breaking