DANA MILLS writes a message to Theresa May on the eve of Jewish New Year
IT CAME as a disappointment, yet not surprise, to hear that on the September 22 Theresa May will set out her plans as Brexit negotiations develop.
That is the second day of Rosh Hashanah, the Jewish New Year. Many Jewish people in Britain will spend that day with their families, reflect on the year that has passed and think ahead to the year that is just starting to unfold.
Although I am rather cross that the Prime Minister decided to intervene in my holiday plans, I decided to take the time and write Ms May a holiday message from one disappointed Jewess.
We Jewish people like to celebrate the holiday by saying: “May this year and its curses end; may a new year and its blessings start.” So, here are a few curses for you to do away with, Prime Minister, and a few things to bring back.
May this be a year in which you bring back to your priorities the welfare and wellbeing of all your citizens.
May this be the year when you dispense with the politics and economics of austerity, which have wrecked many lives; when you think of the many, not the few; when you lift the pay cap for the public-sector workers; when you don’t refer to nurses’ pay as “this, that and the other;” when you work in sincerity to save the NHS; when you prioritise access to justice for all workers and stop exploitation enshrined in the economy; when you make sure all those living on this island live in dignity and prosperity.
The year will only be as sweet as honey — as we will dip our apples in honey and wish each other well — if everyone enjoys it. Nobody is free until everyone is free.
We eat a fish’s head and say on the Jewish New Year that we should be a head and not a tail. May this be a year in which Britain regains its integrity in its international position. We will be heads and not tails if we know that hatred, racism and bigotry of all kinds are opposed by our representatives.
Don’t roll out the red carpet for US President Donald Trump, that country’s most sexist, racist, antisemitic and homophobic president to date.
Don’t smile in photo shoots and sign deals with leaders such as Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, who make a mockery of human rights and civil liberties in their countries daily.
Oh, and definitely don’t court Benjamin Netanyahu, Israel’s most right-wing Prime Minister, who is deepening the Israeli occupation of Palestine every day and causes much misery on both sides of the border. As a Jewess I beg that of you.
The Jewish high holidays are days of repentance and forgiveness. We Jewish people will reflect on the ways we have wronged each other, and ask for each other’s forgiveness.
I hope you repent too, Prime Minister. I hope you consider how the economy is lagging, inequality is on the rise, hatred and anger occupy our virtual and physical worlds, thanks to the actions of your government.
I will forgive you, Ms May, if you change your ways, if you show us an example of humanity and decency, if you choose policies, on both international and national levels that serve the interests of us all.
My fellow Jewess Rahel Levin Varnhagen (1771-1833), a pioneering feminist, advocate of social justice, intellectual, mentor to Heinrich Heine and admired by Johan Wolfgang von Goethe, once said: “In my heart I carry a kind of plan, to call upon all European women that they never participate in war and help those who suffer.”
This is my message to you, upon your Brexit speech, Ms May. Stop making Britain poorer. Stop arming the malicious. Stop standing by quietly as injustice is done in the world and within Britain.
Happy New Year, Ms May. May this year and its curses end, and a new one and its blessings begin. Otherwise, we keep fighting for a better Britain and for a better world.
Dr Dana Mills is a British-based academic and activist.