Monday, 26 March 2018

Why Don't They Like the Jews? - On Passover and Refugees by Brian Bilston

I was invited to share the ‘Story of Passover’ at a local school. It had been fun; we’d done the frogs, the Matzah on the back and, ‘Let my people go,’ and I was taking questions as I was handing out the Matzah. First question, ‘Why did the Egyptians not like the Israelites?’ It was one of those kinds of schools. I pondered the question into the evening when I was honoured to play a part in the Taste of Refuge Seder, hosted at New London in partnership with the Separated Child Foundation. In a room full of New London members, volunteers from the foundation and refugees from the broadest range of battle-beaten countries we hid the Matzah and hit one another over the head with spring onions. I want to thank all the volunteers who made the evening such a success and acknowledge, pre-eminent among us, Angela Gluck. And then there was this exception piece of poetry from Brian Bilston;

They have no need of our help
So do not tell me
These haggard faces could belong to you or me
Should life have dealt a different hand
We need to see them for who they really are
Chancers and scroungers
Layabouts and loungers
With bombs up their sleeves
Cut-throats and thieves
They are not
Welcome here
We should make them
Go back to where they came from
They cannot
Share our food
Share our homes
Share our countries
Instead let us
Build a wall to keep them out
It is not okay to say
These are people just like us
A place should only belong to those who are born there
Do not be so stupid to think that
The world can be looked at another way
(now read from bottom to top)

Perhaps that’s the thing about our experience of otherness - both our own and that of others. We can read it top to bottom and bottom to top. The messages of Pesach are perhaps ultimately twofold. Firstly that freedom is possible, potential exists, no matter how dark our experience of the present. Secondly no human should be enslaved, treated as a slave or even treated as any less worthy than any other human. We are not there yet.

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