The Eighth Jewish Child – for Caryl Churchill
Tell her that it’s more complicated than that.
Tell her that we love Israel.
Tell her that we hate Israel.
Tell her that Israel is in our veins, like oxygen, like a virus, like an antibody.
Tell her that to be Jewish is far more than watching the news and looking for balance, and far more than being a Zionist, and far more than just praying to God.
Tell her that Zionism isn’t a dirty word like racism. Zionism is a complicated word with good intentions and ambiguous results, like idealism.
Tell her that everyone is a human being, everyone is their own story, and everyone you meet is a potential friend however different they may discover you are.
Tell her that everyone is a potential enemy because they fear your difference, because they fear your memory, because they fear the Muslims, because they fear.
Don’t tell her that.
Don’t mention Muslims. Don’t mention anti-Semites. Don’t mention the Holocaust. Don’t mention Gaza. At least not in the same sentence.
Tell her that she can be Jewish anywhere in the world, but that Israel will come with her. Israel is the biggest project that the Jewish world has taken on in the last few thousand years, and it needs all the help it can get, even when it says it doesn’t. Sometimes helping Israel will mean backing its actions, sometimes helping Israel will mean protesting them.
Tell her to say what she thinks about Israel wherever and whenever she wants to. Tell her not to worry about giving ammunition to our enemies, because they create their own ammunition. They do fine without needing ours.
Tell her that Howard Jacobson is right, and wrong. So is Jacqueline Rose. And Melanie Philipps. And Jonathan Freedland. And so am I.
But Caryl Churchill is just plain wrong.
Tell her that those who don’t like us will always pretend to understand us.
We don’t even understand us.
And we would never dare write a 10-minute play about it.
Tell her it’s much more complicated than that.