NEXT Saturday, a mini-pilgrimage will proceed through Glasgow signifying peace and redemption in the midst of despair. Setting out from St Aloysius Church in Garnethill, members of the city’s main faith groups – Christians, Jews, Muslims, Hindus, Sikhs and Buddhists – will visit some of the principal centres of their faith and culture. It will reinforce bonds of friendship and mutual respect at a time when each day brings fresh images of suffering in Palestine.

It’s fitting this event will begin at Garnethill, just north of the city centre. Hill Street is home to the Grade-A listed Garnethill Synagogue. Built 144 years ago, it was the first purpose-built synagogue in Scotland and the main centre of Jewish culture and worship in Glasgow. It’s also where the Scottish Jewish Heritage Centre and the Scottish Jewish Archives Centre reside.

Glasgow has numerous museums, but none perhaps as compelling and vital as the little white-walled room within the synagogue that is the Scottish Holocaust Study Centre. Here, the grim, jagged timeline of the first attempt to wipe out the Jewish people is described in unsentimental simplicity, from Hitler’s rise to power, through Kristallnacht and the unimaginable horrors of the Nazi death camps.

Yet, there are no slogans here bearing bitterness and revenge; nothing that conveys clenched-fist outrage: merely the sorrow and grief of an entire people, yearning still to understand and to remember those who did not make it to this rough haven called Scotland.

It’s at this point I must declare an emotional interest. Three events in my childhood and youth shaped my political and social outlook on the world: the BBC’s images conveying the evils of apartheid South Africa in the late 1960s; the American mini-series Holocaust, starring Meryl Streep, broadcast on British television in 1979; and the 1984-85 miners’ strike.

The most profound impact was made by the Holocaust drama, which my parents had forced me to watch. “You’ve got to know about this and you must never forget,” my father had said.

In Dr Kenneth Collins’ work: Scotland’s Jews (A Guide To The History And Community Of The Jews In Scotland), the experience of acceptance, integration and contribution unfolds. “Anti-Semitism has rarely been a feature of Scottish life,” he points out.

Later, he reflects: “Scotland has eschewed the American model of the melting pot in its approach to the assimilation of its minorities. In a melting pot all diversity is stirred away; pattern becomes sludge; everything becomes the same, as all difference is dissolved. Often the only alternative suggested is a society of segregated communities, isolated and ghettoised minorities each incommunicado in its own silo, as they are aptly termed, fermenting resentment.”

He suggests Scotland has plotted a more sustainable course, adopting “a different and more durable model of multiculturalism, and its diverse communities have joined with politicians of all parties in uniting behind the campaign for One Scotland – Many Cultures”.

He points to Scottish and Jewish shared attitudes to life: “a strong belief in education; a reverence for the Hebrew Bible and the struggle to maintain distinctiveness in a sometimes unfriendly world. As a result, the Jewish contribution to the professional and cultural life of Scotland has been widely admired and appreciated”.

In the administrative office of the Garnethill Synagogue, I am discussing Scotland and the Jews with Susan Siegel, chairwoman of Garnethill Synagogue, and Kerry Paterson, manager of the Heritage Centre. Both of them testify to the overwhelmingly positive experiences of the Jewish community in Scotland and are eager to emphasise the need not to exaggerate any feelings of threat since the unprovoked and indiscriminate slaughter of 1,400 Jews and others on October 7.

“Scotland has always been a good place for Jews,” says Ms Siegel. “This country has been opening its arms to us for hundreds of years.” Yet, like other people in the Jewish community, she has been conscious of a heightened sense of tension in Glasgow since October 7.

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“It’s there,” she says, “but we must be careful when discussing accusations of anti-Semitism. Some of what’s being said and shouted is rooted merely in ignorance of the real history of the Middle East conflict and some of it is political tribalism.”

She tells me of a visit to the synagogue of Glasgow MSP Kaukab Stewart, who is Muslim. “She popped in not long after October 7 just to see how we were doing in the wake of those terrible events. It was very much appreciated. We’ve also had cards from many of our neighbours in Garnethill.”

Like every other Scottish Jew I have encountered in the course of the last month, she is horrified by the suffering in Palestine and her hope is the bloodshed will cease. Yet there is also a profound sense of frustration about the validity of a ceasefire that neither takes into account the fate of the 237 hostages taken by Hamas, or the prospect of these killers ever abiding by the terms of a ceasefire.

On every Saturday since the Hamas pogrom, large and very muscular pro-Palestinian protests sprawling out from the steps of the Buchanan Galleries have rendered large parts of the city centre into no-go areas for the Jewish community.

The Glasgow Friends of Israel stall further down Buchanan Street is now routinely subject to low-level harassment and intimidation: spitting; yelled insults; literature being defaced. Sammy Stein, chairman of the group that supports peace and a two-state solution in the region has told of insults about the Holocaust.

There is also a barely-expressed sadness at the almost complete absence of any empathy or acknowledgement of the trauma still being experienced by Glasgow’s Jewish community about the Hamas slaughter.

In Giffnock yesterday, in Glasgow’s south side, where the majority of the city’s Jewish community live, two young women speak of the hostile atmosphere that’ has been gathering around them since the Hamas attacks. Sydney Switzer is a Jewish community educator and Shayna Conn is a youth programme coordinator and they speak of how living in Scotland has been a largely pleasant and peaceful experience for them. Since October 7 though, there has been a chill. Both feel that what Jews are experiencing in Scotland right now is worse than anything that has gone before.

Ms Conn speaks of her pride that “Scotland is the only European country never to have expelled its Jewish community”. But what she is seeing now disturbs her.

“This is most definitely the worst I have seen and it is right across the UK too. People are asking themselves if they see a future for their children and grandchildren in the UK. They feel gaslighted and no longer feel comfortable about wearing Jewish symbols or walking down the street. It’s not even about Israel; it’s about being Jewish. They no longer feel they are part of the wider community.”

Ms Switzer says: “I now have to be careful that I’m wearing nothing that would identify me as Jewish. I’ve been in a cafe openly selling badges saying ‘from the river to the sea’. Yet some people in these places know I’m Jewish and that we regard this as genocidal.”

Ms Conn adds: “We are still remembering the hostages at all of our social gatherings, yet no one else is talking about them. They’re never discussed in non-Jewish circles. They’re disregarded.”

There are accounts of children being targeted with threats of physical violence at schools in Glasgow and Edinburgh and how school staff are not being as helpful as they could be. Ms Switzer says: “When we were discussing how best to respond to this one child said: ‘we need to go to Israel’. I was not expecting that,” My view is I hope we can return to building a safe and diverse community for everyone here.”

Since the start of the weekly pro-Palestinian protests in Glasgow they regard the city centre as a no-go zone. “I see a lot of naivety,” says Ms Conn. “Do people realise what they’re really saying when they go to those marches?”

Ms Switzer says: “I might venture there out of curiosity,“but I would never be wearing anything that identified me as being Jewish.”