So, there we suddenly were in Israel. Mrs M. on a freebie but having to work. Me paying my way and free to wander, subject only to the mandatory attendance at the concerts ever ready to offer the usual ‘you were all wonderful and, don’t worry, I don’t think that the audience noticed a thing.’
The chorus had been invited by the Israel Broadcasting Authority for reasons which will, I hope, become clear at a later date. Two formal pieces, ‘Belshazzer’s Feast’ by Sir William Walton and ‘Israel in Egypt’ by George FridericHandel. Three performances in conventional surroundings, as I recall, and one utterly memorable performance of which, again, more later.
Mrs M. working hard and me having a wonderful time. In addition to the paying hangers-on there were a few great and good Jock freeloaders who had been invited along by the Israelis. One was the Lord Provost of Weegie. Bad enough, but he was also a Celtic-supporting, West Coast Labour Mafia apparatchik. Didn’t make him a bad person and we got on fine, but different times indeed. Can you imagine anybody with that sort of background going anywhere near Israel today, except in a blockade-busting boat?
Not, of course, that antipathy to Israel has ever come from any one part of the political compass. My Dad hated the place with a genuine passion. One of his closest friends in the Army was blown to bits in the King David Hotel and Dad took it personally. Can’t blame him and we never really talked about it but I came from a different perspective, remembering the Six Day War and the Yom Kippur War while my Dad remembered the Mandate years. It was ‘plucky little Israelis’ for me and ‘murdering Jewish terrorist bastards’ for him. The truth, as always, lies betwixt and between. As their guests in 1981, we did not scratch that particular itch, but you did see things that made you think.
We also made true and genuine friends who have lasted from then to now. In particular, a couple who have visited us in Scotland and who we went back to see in Jerusalem three years ago. Both Middle European Jews who spent time in Nazi concentration camps and who met in Israel in the early 1950’s having arrived there by very different routes. He was a French horn player in thE Jerusalem Symphony Orchestra and she worked in the University. Secular, sparky, so full of a passion for the State of Israel as envisaged by the nation’s founders and so full of despair about the way things were heading as the religious zealots got more and more of their own way.
Enough, already. Maybe I’m hindsighting now and should not be muddying the memory of a truly great holiday. More to come.
The Western (Wailing) Wall 1981
The Western (Wailing) Wall 2006
In 1981, we could only get to the Wall and the Jewish Quarter (which was in a frenzy of reconstruction) through the Armenian Quarter. From where I took the picture, you could stroll down and walk straight up to the wall.
In 2006, we came through the bazaars of the Arab Quarter which merged seamlessly into the Jewish Quarter. Took the picture from roughly the same point, but had to go through the security checkpoints which you can see in the foreground.