My Generation and the Jewish presence

Peter Green obituary: Fleetwood Mac founder and guitar pioneer who made the  blues his own
Peter Green: his aim was “to express as much as he could in the music, playing as few notes as possible”. Photograph: Ivan Keeman/Redferns

When I was young, maybe nine or ten, my dad showed me a drawn illustration in some pamphlet. It was a representation, from left-to-right, of brains, a Jewish, a Scottish and some other. The Jewish one was the biggest and the Scottish one was second-biggest.

My memories are vague, but I think this article in goodness knows what kind of source, was suggesting that Scots had the second-biggest brains in the World and, perhaps, were one of the lost tribes of Israel.

My dad was a lifelong and confirmed presbyterian, with RC friends but a deep anxiety about the Vatican’s intentions and a notion about an affinity with the Jews.

Readers may have some insight into this.

So, my first ideas about Jewishness were very positive.

Later, by 12 or 13, in the early 60s, I had picked up the idea that the Israeli struggle for statehood was especially heroic and that General Moshe Dayan was an Arthurian figure. No doubt my dad again but also the UK media, were the source of this simplistic view.

At school, I missed the first opportunity to encounter Anti-Semitism in Shakespeare as our teacher, recognising the limited possibilities of teaching boys in an industrial town with flare stacks and cooling towers dominating the window views, taught only the horrors and violence of Macbeth.

Later still, in the later 60’s, I became absorbed in the music and words of the counter-culture. I loved Cohen, Simon and Dylan and knew they were Jewish. They were so thought-provoking, progressive, tolerant and literate – cool. At the same time, in my first and last year at Glasgow School of Art, 1969, I saw the first Fleetwood Mac with their guitarist Peter Green. I knew he was Jewish, and his words and guitar-playing seemed the most beautiful and moving sounds I’d ever hear. Unlike the so-called guitar greats of the time, he was not fast and showy but made sounds that bypassed the frontal cortex and went deep to pull at your emotions.

In my first job, in an architect’s office, I met Daniel who claimed his girlfriend’s father in Denny (!) had asked if he was a Catholic Jew or a Protestant Jew. We played football together. I though him cool.

In the Falkirk branch office of Baron Bercott & Associates, I thought the boss in Glasgow must be an aristocrat and only months later visiting the HQ, found that Baron was a Jewish name. How we laughed.

To then gradually discover what Israel has done in Palestine was a great sadness for me. I know it is for many Jews too.

5 thoughts on “My Generation and the Jewish presence

  1. I agree with all the sentiments expressed here.
    Jews are one of the great peoples of the world, contributing to the arts, medicine, science etc. Persecuted in Europe, while able to thrive in the middle east (Islamic Empires offering religious tolerance to a much greater degree than the “liberal” West).
    Again, I grew up with cheering on Israel, a small entity surrounded by enemies. It is only in the later part of my life, the appalling conduct of the Israeli State in subjugating an entire population under Israel military law for 60 years, while annexing their land and water in an apartheid situation has become evident.
    There is no solution being proffered to this, and the Abraham Accords do nothing to solve the problem of the Palestinians.
    The crazy UK government has now allied its self to Israel to prevent the Iranians building WMD’s. We should have no part in a hypocritical war (Israel also having undeclared Nukes) in the Middle-East.

    Liked by 6 people

    1. I would also point out, that the early Zionist leaders like David Ben-Gurion, thought that the “Palestinians” were almost certainly the Jews who did NOT leave Israel, but stayed in a land over-run by Romans, Arabs, Crusaders and whoever. And became, Christians, Muslims or the religion de jure.
      They came to this conclusion because the Palestinians dietary and funerary habits were near identical to Jewish rites.

      There have been DNA studies, and some interesting sites.
      The conclusion(s) is that Jews and Palestinians are blood-brothers, but that Jews, as with the rest of us, have a good mixture of ancestry.

      Liked by 4 people

  2. “My Generation and the Jewish presence”, very astute comments, with which I am also in agreement.
    Also to the music part. Who can not appreciate this?


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