British Jews worried sick and weeping at Israel-Hamas conflict, family says

British Jews have spoken of their safety concerns amid the surge in antisemitic incidents in London since the Israel-Hamas conflict started.

Lucas Cumiskey
Saturday 14 October 2023 00:25 BST
Ronit Tam-Hammerman and her husband, Eddie Hammerman, discuss the Israel-Palestine conflict at their home in Borehamwood. Picture date: Friday October 13, 2023.
Ronit Tam-Hammerman and her husband, Eddie Hammerman, discuss the Israel-Palestine conflict at their home in Borehamwood. Picture date: Friday October 13, 2023. (PA Wire)

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Louise Thomas

Louise Thomas

Editor

A family of British Jews have said they are “weeping and praying” for loved ones on the front line in the Israel-Hamas conflict.

Eddie Hammerman and his wife Ronit Tam-Hammerman are worried for family and friends living in Israel, including relatives in its army.

It comes after the Israeli infantry launched it first raids into the Gaza Strip on Friday since Hamas militants went on a deadly rampage through southern Israel on October 7.

Speaking from his family home in Hertfordshire on Friday, Mr Hammerman, 47, who works in PR, said: “We’ve got friends and family in Israel, and so there’s a big connection with them, with what they’re going through.

“Many of them have been called up to the army, so they will, some of them be on the front line, and we’re really concerned, and we feel really helpless here of what we can do for our friends and family and the wider community in Israel who have suffered in this terrible massacre.”

His wife Ronit Tam-Hammerman, 50, a primary school teacher, has family and friends in Israel, including her mother, brother and his family.

“My nephew is called up, my niece is on active duty,” she said.

“The reality is that we don’t know, we just know they are in duty and they are in the army, and you’re just worried sick.”

Mr Hammerman added: “My cousin’s out there, their kids are in the army, and they are serving.

“Our grandfather was liberated from Auschwitz. And we said then and we still say today, never again. But this never again has happened again, to us.

“So as British Jews we experience it generation on generation, we’re experiencing the highest number of Jews that’s been murdered on one day since the Holocaust, and we carry that as British Jews.

“So when we see people on the streets demonstrating against Israel the day after a massacre, it worries us, it’s really concerning for us.

“When we hear about the days of rage and three schools close, it’s concerning.

“We’re not scared. We have the support of the British public, we believe.

“We have the support of cross-party, Rishi Sunak, and the police and all the politicians have been very supportive.

“But when you see people on the streets and when you when you hear calls for global jihad, it worries you, as a British Jew, and we’re proud to be British Jews.”

In Golders Green, a north London area with a large Jewish population, people echoed his concerns after the Metropolitan Police said there has been a “massive increase” in antisemitic incidents since the latest Israel-Hamas conflict erupted.

On Golders Green Road, Steven, 42, said: “It was very uncomfortable and disheartening to actually see a reaction within hours of what happened you had Palestinian Hamas sympathisers out, outside the embassy rejoicing at what had happened.

“This was before any retaliation had started or counter measure, so you could see there are people amongst us whose true colours have shown, they have got no problem with Jewish people being slaughtered, murdered, massacred, raped, whatever the age.

“It’s disconcerting to know you live amongst people like that. You don’t know what other people carry in their hearts.

“So what that kind of thing does is awakens memories of the stuff that we know all too well.

“I’m speaking as a grandchild of holocaust survivors, I know their stories and it’s feeling it so to have that kind of reaction is very uncomfortable.”

He added: “There is an anxiety, there is a concern, I’m hoping its overblown.

“It’s okay to feel safe in Golders Green but what happens if I want to go past some other area of town, do I need to start wearing a cap?

“Am I comfortable with my children being out and about or do I want to keep them nearby?”

Rafal, 44, from Stratford, was working as a security guard outside the nearby Chabad Israeli Centre in Finchley Road on Friday afternoon.

Since starting his shift at 9am, he said two cars had driven past, with “free Palestine” and “f*** Jews” shouted at him from the vehicles.

Rafal said: “We are scared. We don’t feel safe.

“For me I’m not scared but my wife and kids … it’s difficult.”

Danny, 72, also of Golders Green, said: “It’s a frightening atmosphere and we are on edge.”

Passerby Rabbi Ephraim Klyne added: “Over the years I’ve educated children to respect and love humanity and undoubtedly over the next weeks and days those sentiments will be taught to children throughout the country.

“In respect of the hatred and venom that is being expressed towards the Jewish community, which will never be reciprocated.”

At his family home, Mr Hammerman stressed that “as British Jews, this isn’t a distant war, we feel it.”

“These are our brothers and sisters,” he said.

“We were crying this week. Literally on the line our cousins, brothers, sisters.

“We’re crying for the hostages, the children, and we’ve prayed for them at services every night this week in synagogues up and down the country.

“British Jews, we are weeping and we are praying for our brothers and sisters.

“Our reality for many years is we have learned to live with a threat, how sad is that we have to learn as Jews to live with an ongoing threat that things can happen.

“Are we scared? No. We walk around with our heads held high.”

His wife said her brother in Israel called her on Friday and said “take care of yourself, I’m worried for you”.

Mr Hammerman added: “That he should even think about being worried for us, says a lot about the situation.”

The war has claimed at least 2,800 lives on both sides since Hamas launched an incursion on October 7, with Israel placing the 25-mile Gaza Strip under siege and subjecting it to a torrent of retaliatory air strikes.

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