The Israel-Gaza conflict is one that has provoked strong reaction and divided opinion.
Here, Kevin McKenna reports on the deep hurt within Glasgow's Jewish community.

One hundred days after the worst atrocity committed against their people in modern history Glasgow’s Jewish community came together in dignified silence to remember the victims.

Many of them had also gathered on the Concert Hall steps at Buchanan Street on the evening of October 11, four days after Hamas terrorists had slain 1200 Jewish people and their friends with such bestial savagery that it yet defies adequate description.

Then, candles were lit and Hatikvah sung, the bleak and beautiful Israeli national anthem. The accounts of this unprovoked mass slaughter of innocents were only beginning to emerge.

It was clear though that the executions and the torture that had preceded them, as well as the systematic physical degradation of women, were born of an ancient hatred that will probably never be quenched by any peaceful means.

Yet, there was no fury or any bloody call to arms, only a sense of grief that lay heavy on the supplicants so that they spoke only with hushed voices and hugged each other. These people have a protective instinct evolved from 2,000 years of rejection, discrimination and defamation. They have learned if not to accept it then to live with it and build their internal, psychological reinforcements.

Even so, the barbarism deployed by Hamas on October 7 and the gleeful vigour of it, had shocked Jewish communities from all over the world who, until then had felt that nothing the world could do would ever shock them again.

There were around 200 at Kelvingrove Art Gallery on Sunday. Around them, dozens of little posters had been laid out bearing the stories of some of the 132 hostages who remain in captivity somewhere in the multi-million-pound underground city that Hamas have spent years constructing.

Beside many of these laminated lamentations were dozens of pairs of men’s and women’s shoes. This was a poignant remembrance of another anti-Jewish atrocity now commemorated on the east banks of the Danube. There, you can see 60 pairs of shoes, sculpted in iron to honour the Jews who were slaughtered by fascist Hungarian militia during the Second World War,

Around 800 of them had been forced to remove their footwear before being shot and then dumped in the river. The shoes would fetch a decent price on the war-time black market.

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Among those hostages being remembered at Kelvingrove was the Bibas Family: Yarden, 34, his wife Shiri, 32, and their children Kfir and Ariel. Kfir was nine months old when the Hamas ‘braves’ snatched him. He’d recently started to crawl and was always smiling. His brother, Ariel is four years old and “loves anything with wheels and a motor”.  Shiri is described as the bedrock of the family and that Yarden had proposed to her at the Dario Cecchini restaurant in Florence.

The smallest details are the most important. The plight of the remaining hostages and the catastrophic injuries suffered by those who’ve been released have largely been airbrushed from the narrative of the last 100 days. This is consistent with other horrors in the world’s oldest hatred and which have similarly been erased from our collective memories. With each detail they emerge from silhouette into sunlight.

The Herald: 100 days since October 7 Hamas attack. Photo Robert Perry.100 days since October 7 Hamas attack. Photo Robert Perry. (Image: Newsquest)
All shades of political opinion could be found amidst yesterday’s gathering. Some feel that Israel has been left with little option but to seek the elimination of Hamas because it has a right to defend itself and a duty to protect its own citizens. This was borne out starkly the previous day on the streets of London by an Islamist speaker calling for “the normalisation” of such massacres.

Others expressed opposition to Israel’s Prime Minister, Benjamin Netanyahu and his expansionist policies on the West Bank. All though, were bound by one common emotion: sheer horror at the scale of the suffering of the Palestinian people being used as human shields by the savages of Hamas. All those with whom I spoke communicated their desire for peaceful co-existence with a neighbouring Palestinian state.

Timothy Lovat, President of the Jewish Community Centre, said: “Like all reasonable people we eventually want peace and a ceasefire. Hamas say they want that too. But the best way they can make that happen is to hand over the remaining hostages unharmed and safely.”

Another common sentiment was evident yesterday: bewilderment and hurt. This is rooted in the performative political rhetoric that’s rarely empathised with Jewish communities throughout the world still reeling from the effects of the worst event to have happened to them since the Holocaust.

Instead, they’ve experienced a sharp increase in anti-Semitism while being told to stop using the Holocaust as a propaganda tool. In echoes of what occurred on the streets of Nazi Germany, there have been calls to boycott businesses and products thought to be linked with Israel. This is how it’s always begun.

The Herald: Members of Glasgow's Jewish community gather for silent vigil. Photo Robert Perry.Members of Glasgow's Jewish community gather for silent vigil. Photo Robert Perry. (Image: Newsquest)
Sammy Stein, President of the Glasgow Friends of Israel, is a Palestinian Jew who has always advocated for a workable two-state solution in the Middle East. Yet, he’s been troubled by widespread evidence of rising anti-Semitism across the UK and Europe in the wake of the October 7 attacks.

“The increasing levels of antisemitism in the UK have occurred side-by-side with the growing numbers participating in pro-Palestinian marches which have created an atmosphere of violence and hatred to Jews in the UK. In Glasgow, we’ve had people walk past our stall on their way to marches, behaving very aggressively and verbally abusing our volunteers. The evidence of my own eyes suggests that many of those participating in the marches are trying to hide their anti-Semitism behind anti-Zionism.

“We’re being told daily of people removing any sign of being Jewish such as head coverings or jewellery and removing the small scrolls affixed to their front door indicating that this it’s a Jewish household.

“Throughout it all though, I’ve been encouraged by the UK Government’s repeated assertions that anti-Semitism won’t be tolerated. Sadly, I can’t say the same for the Scottish Government.”

The Herald: Heads bowed as silent vigil is held. Photo Robert Perry.Heads bowed as silent vigil is held. Photo Robert Perry. (Image: Newsquest)
Last week’s Jewish Telegraph led with a story detailing a 57% rise in mental health issues among Manchester’s Jewish community following the Hamas attack. Mr Stein believes this has been exacerbated by the civic response to those attacks.

“I believe many people are unaware of the October 7 atrocities,” he says. “In contrast to the material being shown daily on news bulletins about the terrible suffering of civilians in Gaza, the true horrors of October 7 have never been shown because these are too disturbing to broadcast.

“Most people see what’s happening in Gaza but fail to comprehend what led to this terrible war. There are still women and old people being held and nor do we know how many have since also been murdered by Hamas.”

Posted missing from Kelvingrove were the artisan radicals who’ve made Buchanan Street a no-go area for Jewish people each weekend as they perform “from the river to the sea” and bravely wave their fists from a safe distance at teenage Starbucks shop assistants. Nor were there any representatives from enlightened, progressive, civic Scotland.

And so, like their ancestors throughout history, Glasgow’s Jewish community was left to remember their loved ones alone.