Neviim Tovim, blogs by Gillian Gould Lazarus

Archive for May 2022

My Booba  (grandmother) bought me and all my cousins souvenir books of Princess Margaret’s wedding to Anthony Armstrong-Jones. It was beautifully illustrated with formal wedding pictures and informal photos of the happy couple, taken during their courtship. I looked at it many times. To my exacting eye, Princess Margaret was not truly beautiful, not like Elizabeth Taylor, Audrey Hepburn or Jean Simmons. When you get old, any young person looks beautiful but I was ten.

I was a little surprised that Booba engaged with the celebrations of Princess Margaret ‘s wedding as  we were not what you might call royalists. Tsar Nicholas II was certainly no particular friend to the Jews when my grandparents left Russia and Poland. Booba was naturalized British but my other Booba, my father’s mother, was Russian all her life and had to report to the Home Office in accordance with the Aliens Act of 1905. The same applied to my father’s older siblings, he being the only child of his family born in England.

They were not Russian speakers as Yiddish was their first language but there was some syncretism: my aunt’s samovar, lemon tea taken in a glass; frequent use of the interrogative ‘Nu?’ and men dancing the kazatsky at weddings and bar mitzvahs. My father was able to execute a fine kazatsky, as did his nephew, my cousin Norman.

It was not so much the Russian connection as the socialist tradition which stopped my family becoming enthusiastic about the British monarchy. However, there was no resentment and when individual members of the Royal Family evinced kindly or conscientious behaviour, we liked them. My mother considered Prince Philip very handsome. I didn’t think so myself, until I became old enough to see, as I said, that everyone is beautiful under the age of about fifty.

In dramas about the English Civil War, we were on the side of the Parliamentarians and were irritated when they were portrayed as rigid killjoys while the Royalists got all the best lines, the good wigs and the cute dogs.

My brother-in-law, whose work in the charitable sector was recognized with an OBE, was invited with my sister to events where Royals, Ministers and sometimes Prime Ministers were present.  A photo of my sister and brother-in-law shaking hands with Prince Charles and Princess Diana adorned the walls of my parents’ house and was later displayed in their rooms in a Jewish Care residential home, along with a photo of my brother-in-law being introduced to the Queen. They also met – in reverse chronological order – Tony Blair, Margaret Thatcher, Harold Wilson and Edward Heath. There was a photo of my sister shaking hands with Norman Tebbit, which she feared could be used as kompromat.

More than one member of my family met Princess Margaret but they did not warm to her. I am sure that it was mutual.

Some years ago, the then Prince Charles attended a COP climate change conference and was introduced to the UK team from the department of Ed Miliband, at that time Secretary of State for Energy and Climate Change. My son was a young and minor cog in the machine and was not introduced, but Prince Charles turned back before leaving the room, to speak to him and shake his hand.

This is a mensch!

I liked Princess Diana because she seemed so natural and kind. I read articles and watched programmes about her life and mourned her untimely death with most of the world. Later, I hoped that Charles would be allowed to marry Camilla. Why should people who have loved each other so long be forbidden to marry?

I  watched with interest all of the Netflix series The Crown and took away from it the perception that personal suffering is not lessened or cushioned by royal status.

In recent years, finding myself at odds with the Left as never before, I  am offended by excessively hostile posts about the Queen and other members of the Royal Family although certainly they have some duds. Such is life.

The Queen’s Platinum Jubilee is sure to arouse strong feelings, pro and contra.

Did you know – of course you did – that Jubilee is a Hebrew word?

The Jubilee occurred every fifty years and involved leaving the land fallow for a year (shemita) as well as cancelling debts and releasing slaves.

יוֹבֵ֣ל הִ֗וא שְׁנַ֛ת הַחֲמִשִּׁ֥ים שָׁנָ֖ה תִּהְיֶ֣ה לָכֶ֑ם לֹ֣א תִזְרָ֔עוּ וְלֹ֤א תִקְצְרוּ֙ אֶת־סְפִיחֶ֔יהָ וְלֹ֥א תִבְצְר֖וּ אֶת־נְזִרֶֽיהָ׃ כִּ֚י יוֹבֵ֣ל הִ֔וא קֹ֖דֶשׁ תִּהְיֶ֣ה לָכֶ֑ם מִ֨ן־הַשָּׂדֶ֔ה תֹּאכְל֖וּ אֶת־תְּבוּאָתָֽהּ׃

 That fiftieth year shall be a jubilee for you: you shall not sow, neither shall you reap the aftergrowth or harvest the untrimmed vines for it is a jubilee. It shall be holy to you: you may only eat the growth direct from the field.

Leviticus 25: 11 – 12

Yovel, the Hebrew word for Jubliee, becomes iobeleus in the Latin Vulgate. The Greek Septuagint uses a circumlocution which does not sound like jubilee but references the release which takes place in the fiftieth year.

All right, since you ask, the Greek version is:

 ἀφέσεως σημασία αὕτη, τὸ ἔτος τὸ πεντηκοστὸν ἐνιαυτὸς ἔσται ὑμῖν· οὐ σπερεῖτε οὐδὲ ἀμήσετε τὰ αὐτόματα ἀναβαίνοντα αὐτῆς καὶ οὐ τρυγήσετε τὰ ἡγιασμένα αὐτῆς ὅτι ἀφέσεως σημασία ἐστίν ἅγιον ἔσται ὑμῗν ἀπὸ τῶν πεδίων φάγεσθε τὰ γενήματα αὐτῆς

Leviticus 25: 11 – 12

Apheseos semasia, something like ‘a significant release’, is the term which translates yovel, jubilee.

In the case of Her Majesty, it is seventy years on the throne, not fifty. Her coronation is one of my earliest memories. Like so many other families, we acquired a nine inch television set for the purpose of watching it. I was bored by the coronation but soon discovered the delights of Muffin the Mule and Prudence Kitten.

I hope that this forthcoming Jubilee will be an apheseos semasia for us all, a time of release from the manifold troubles which beset us, royals and commoners, yeomen and labourers and all those who, like my grandparents, travel to this land from distant shores.

27 May 2022

This may be an urban legend. I have heard that George Stevens, director of The Greatest Story Ever Told, thought John Wayne, as a Roman centurion witnessing the crucifixion, uttered his line ‘Truly this man was the Son of God ‘ with insufficient spirituality.  ‘Can you say it with  awe?’ Stevens asked Wayne. ‘Aw, truly this man was the Son of God,’ said Wayne at the next take.

The story was denied by both George Stevens and John Wayne. As I supposed, it’s an urban legend. So many things are.

Apotheosis was a regular feature of Roman imperial life around the time of the crucifixion, give or take a hundred years. From my reading of Robert Graves, I seem to remember that Julius Caesar and Augustus Caesar became gods. Caligula thought he was a god and Claudius was considered a god in Britain, a parochial deity.

In the modern age, the deification of political leaders is sinister, invariably resulting in the pursuit and punishment of allegedly deicidal persons. And not only political leaders. Being called deicides by the Church until the Nostra Aetate of Pope Paul VI in 1965 caused us Jews no end of trouble.

What I am doing here is procrastinating. This post, as you guessed, is about Facebook groups becoming increasingly worshipful of Jeremy Corbyn, which means my opening paragraph counts as deviation and hesitation, before I launch into the undoubted repetion of something I have mentioned many times before.

This way of talking about Corbyn as a godlike figure is not merely inappropriate or amusing. His opponents are invariably fingered as being Judas or Herod or Pilate or Caiaphas. Thus the Corbynist forums on Facebook become a veritable Oberammergau of Judenhass, with Israel often held responsible for Labour’s bad election result in 2019 or, by way of synecdoche, Keir Starmer, Margaret Hodge or Trevor Chinn stand in for the State of Israel and indeed for Am Yisrael, the people of Israel.

There has been no improvement in this state of affairs in the Corbynist social media I have seen. Whereas the suggestion that ‘the Rothschilds’ won the 2019 General Election seemed initially the opinion of outliers, it is now orthodoxy to say in these groups that Israel decided the election result. It seems ridiculous when you consider that Israel’s proportional representation leads time after time to inconclusive election results. It seems ridiculous for many reasons but it is an assertion which occurs repeatedly in the Corbynist groups on Facebook and is by now an urban legend nearly as popular as the anecdote about the awe of John Wayne. Even Corbyn himself suggested, in an interview he gave to an Al Mayadeen reporter, that Benjamin Netanyahu had played a part in his, Corbyn’s electoral failure.

The people making the comments are often the same individuals, members of every Corbynist group they can find and active in all of them. Can we put a number on them? The larger groups have more than 60,000 members and the smaller groups have fewer than 2,000. The usual number is about 10,000 members, a hundred of whom are regular contributors to the group.

And does it matter?

Does it matter if these predominantly elderly people have fixated on an elderly man who had little influence in politics until he was past retirement age, and whom they now regularly liken to Jesus? Many people whose opinions I value tell me that I’m focusing on a pathetic minority who turn to each other for the corroboration they can’t get in the wider world.

But I say, it matters if they think you’re Judas, Pilate, Herod and Caiaphas, rolled into one diabolical, election-rigging, scam-making, party-owning, blue and white T shirt-wearing entity.

  • James Casserly: Unfortunately there seems to be no middle ground, no nuance and even less humanity on Twitter. Like you, there are people I have no time for, some I a
  • keithmarr: G < div dir="ltr">Twitter is such a cesspit you can more or less guarantee any opini
  • Gillian Gould Lazarus: You're Nathan Hull, aren't you, an abusive troll who uses the alias Gerard O'Neill?