Archbishop Exclusive: ‘My Cousin The Rabbi’

Justin Welby’s comments, on the eve of his enthronement at Canterbury Cathedral today, came during an interview with the Jewish News in which he also voiced opposition to Israel boycotts, revealed plans to visit the Jewish state this summer and praised the Chief Rabbi as “one of the most significant religious thinkers”.

The past few months since being named as Archbishop have been transformative for Welby, not just because of his elevation within the Church of England but because he learned for the first time – as a result of a Daily Telegraph investigation – of his family’s Jewish roots.

Chemist Dr Gerhard Weiler, a cousin of the Archbishop’s father Gavin, fled with his family after Hitler came to power, later being registered as an “enemy alien” in the UK.

The 57-year-old former bishop of Durham said he was “really, really pleased” to discover details of his Jewish ancestry, but added: “It’s quite sobering to think I had a bunch of second cousins that didn’t escape.”

The great-grandfather of the man who will be formally confirmed today as the leader of 80 million Anglicans worldwide, along with three of his brothers, headed to London more than four decades earlier. The father-of-five told the Jewish News: “Once we’ve moved in properly, we’re going to meet up with some cousins who I had no idea about. One of them is a rabbi who recently wrote to me. He’s one of the senior teachers at a Jewish college in London. We’ll try to meet up, or get them to Lambeth Palace to do something fun to celebrate. To discover you’ve got a family you didn’t know about is really exciting.”

He also revealed he hopes to visit the grave at Hoop Lane Cemetery in Golders Green of his great-grandmother Amalie, who lived in Hampstead until her death in 1914. The Cambridge-educated former oil executive comes to office just eight months after Anglican-Jewish relations were severely strained when the Church’s Synod voted to affirm support for a programme accused by the Board of Deputies of producing “very partisan activists” on the Middle East.

The Ecumenical Accompaniment Programme in Palestine and Israel takes participants to the region for around three months, but critics point out that only a fraction of that time is spent in Israel, before accompaniers return to give public talks about their experiences. The private member’s motion also expressed support for Israelis and Palestinians working for peace and for aid agencies in the region.

Welby said last summer’s vote – on which he abstained – had “clearly” damaged relations.

And in an unusual step he said: “On reflection, I’d have voted against. I wasn’t quite up to speed when I went into that vote. I think the situation in the holy land is so complicated that we always have to show we recognise this and I don’t think the motion adequately reflected reflected the complexity.”

He said he would have wanted something added to the text saying the Jewish state, like any other legitimate country, has the right to “live in security and peace within internationally-agreed borders and the people of the region have the right to justice, peace and security, whoever they are.”

While Welby said the situation caused by the Synod vote was “a concern and something we keep an eye on”, he stressed that he was not in a position to instruct the democratic Synod on how to vote.

Given that the EAPPI is not a CoE initiative, he added, it also wasn’t in the church’s “gift” to introduce a system of oversight of presentations made by returning participants, as urged by community leaders amid concern over the content of some talks.

But the 105th Archbishop wanted to “encourage” an “excellent” proposa, recently announced, for participants to spend a weekend with a Jewish family in Haifa.

The Archbishop – who said interfaith relations have always been “very important” to him – has gained vast experience in the field of reconciliation over the past decade, lecturing on the subject at the US State Department and undertaking work in Africa and elsewhere.

Asked whether he planned to voice his views on overcoming the impasse in Israeli-Palestinian peace talks, the 57-year-old said his reconciliation work had, in fact, taught him to speak out “extremely carefully… and only if I think I can make a significant difference.”

Welby said he was “very much looking forward” to making his first visit to Israelin his new role in June, when he will continue the series of meetings started by Dr Rowan Williams with Israel’s chief rabbies. “My wife and I went on honeymoon there and it’ll be her first time back since.”

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Opinion: The Joy And Tears Of Marrying ‘In’ To The Jewish Community

“Walk down the aisle?” I harumphed. “It doesn’t look that way, does it? This is my WEDDING DAY and the groom’s family haven’t turned up.” A perfect spring day, plumped with possibility and excitement, had shrivelled into catastrophe.

One hundred and eighty guests had been seated for over an hour in a small wedding chapel in France. A heavily-treading usher had informed us that the groom’s family still hadn’t appeared. Looking into the chapel, I could see an impatient congregation twitching feverishly.

“Do you think they haven’t turned up because their Jewish son is getting married in a chapel?” I hissed. “But we promised that there would be no Christian references! And there’s the Jewish ceremony tomorrow.” Marching my way up and down the room, I tore out petals from my balding bouquet. “Don’t worry, darling. They will turn up. I’m sure of it,” said my mother. The catch in her throat sent a gallop of panic up my stomach which settled and thickened in my throat.

My fiancé, Oliver, and I had been together for seven years. We met during our respective years abroad, in Sydney, Australia. “I’m Jewish, you know” he had told me over a glass of wine. “Oh right,” I had said. “And my family are all Christians.” The implications of this conversation had been muted by the neon-coloured booze and thrum of music.

It was only on our return to London and things were getting serious, that I realised how this was going to play out: “I’m sorry, but you can’t meet my parents,” Oliver had grimaced one night. “My family won’t allow you in the house.”

“What? But last week I was coming with you to your brother’s wedding?”

“Hmmm. I think my parents thought you were Jewish. You are called Rebecca, after all. But then your surname came out.”

I was finally invited by Oliver’s brother and sister-in-law to the circumcision of their son. It was the first time I would meet all of his family and it was a black silence that welcomed me to the bris.

One lady, eyebrows triangulating in horror, turned her back on me. After months of diplomacy and tears, Oliver’s parents asked me to witness the wonderful traditions of a Friday night supper. I was welcomed, but with reports of one in two Jews marrying out, they were wary of a Christian girl from Chelsea.

As Oliver’s mother and father started to accept me, my job as a journalist took me to Jordan. A recent terrorist attack had blown apart a wedding in Amman and Oliver’s parents, on account of his Jewish upbringing, were terrified about letting him visit. The ensuing rows threatened a family breakdown, non-stop screams shattering the quiet Radlett streets. Oliver boldly went against his parents’ wishes and booked a return ticket to the Middle East. In doing so, the message he sent to his parents was set in stone as solid as the the Ten Commandments.

When I returned to England, Oliver proposed. Navigating the wedding wishes of both sets of parents proved tricky. My parents were set on a traditional Christian white wedding and Oliver’s parents, after realising I wouldn’t convert, wanted a non-demoninational occasion. Months of rows led to the break-up of our engagement.

“I can’t do this anymore,” I had cried. “Me too,” Oliver replied, chewing his lip.

After two months of misery and separation, we stumbled upon a resolution to please both parties. Over a year-and-a-half of planning and three massive wedding celebrations were needed to satisfy everyone. Forget a Jewish Princess – I was like the Queen! The whole situation was so fraught that neither of us had a moment to assimilate our feelings about our own religious ideals.

It was only when I started writing a book about my experiences of marrying into a Jewish family, that I could begin to make sense of the complex emotions of trying to retain my own identity while respecting that of my boyfriend’s.

As I sat in my wedding dress praying for Oliver and his family to appear, I had a moment of clarity. As the band desperately clung on to the last note of Handel’s Xerxes for Largo for the tenth time, I realised that I could never solve the problem of not being Jewish.

I could, though, use the foundations of my own religious background to face whatever was thrown at me with dignity, grace and courage.

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Senior British Diplomat Attacked at University

Sir Vincent Fean was not hurt, although one demonstrator was seen kicking him in the shins.

Student activists said they were protesting over British policy towards the Palestinians. They said their chief grievance was Britain’s support for a Jewish homeland in what was then British-ruled Palestine in a letter known as the Balfour Declaration, issued in 1917.

The letter also said “nothing shall be done” that would prejudice the civil rights of non-Jews. Israel gained independence in 1948.

Britain has been highly critical of Israel’s policies towards the Palestinians, especially settlement construction in the West Bank. In recent days, tensions have risen in the West Bank, with demonstrations, some of them violent, in solidarity with Palestinian prisoners held in Israeli prisons. Some have predicted the protests could escalate into a full-scale uprising.

“We asked the university to cancel his visit because Britain is the cause of the Palestinian tragedy,” said Taha Afghani, student leader of the Palestinian Fatah group, one of several political factions that organised the protest. Fatah is headed by Palestinian president Mahmoud Abbas.

Sir Vincent was returning to his vehicle after meeting Birzeit University officials when the incident erupted. Campus officials decided to cancel the lecture after dozens of students, some waving Palestinian flags and signs, gathered outside the office.

The Foreign Office said Sir Vincent had hoped “to engage in an open dialogue” about Britain’s policies in the Middle East. “Sadly, such a dialogue was not possible on this occasion.”

Birzeit University condemned the incident. “We believe it would have been much more useful if the students had a dialogue with the guest and expressed their political views in a peaceful way,” it said.

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Opinion: Israel’s Survival Depends On A Religious Majority in Knesset

All the major parties in Israel had active counterpart movements here. In the weeks and months preceding elections, a flurry of animated debates would take place around the country between British spokesmen for groups such as Likud (formerly Herut), Poale Zion (Labour) Mapam, Mizrachi and Aguda. Large enthusiastic audiences would often attend. Election night gatherings were as compelling here as in Israel itself. The euphoria in London when Menachem Begin was first elected Prime Minister in 1977 was something I shall never forget.

How radically things have changed. Once the disastrous policy of territorial appeasement in Judea and Samaria began in the early 1990′s followed by the fiasco of Gaza ten years later, the difference between the parties on foreign policy became increasingly blurred. Previous “Zionist” ideologies became redundant and the suicidal concept of a “two-state solution” entered the Middle East vocabulary. Coupled with this, the rise and fall of numerous new parties, alliances and coalitions made Israeli politics so complicated and unpredictable that the wider Jewish public simply lost interest.

Things have spiced up again since the election in January of this year. It has produced a polarisation that is quite unprecedented. It has effectively produced a straight 50-50 division in the Knesset between right and left. On the right there is Likud and all the religious parties, totalling 60 seats. On the left there is Labour, Yesh Atid, various miscellaneous groups and the Arabs, also totalling 60. A fascinating outcome, and it is to be hoped that Netanyahu will form a strong coalition with the right people, well equipped to stand up to the vicious international pressures that are bound to follow.

To me, the most negative feature of the election was the 19 – seat success of Yesh Atid. I see its “ultra-chilled” leader Yair Lapid as representing all that is decadent in Israeli society and in what remains of secular Zionism. He has the profile of a Hollywood film star, with little to distinguish his image from any swash-buckling upstart one might encounter on the European or South American political scene. Apart from the fact that he speaks Hebrew, his attributes and outlook are not in the slightest bit Jewish. On the Yesh Atid agenda, Shabbat, Kashrut and Torah study are completely irrelevant, as is any notion of the sanctity of the land of Israel. It is deplorable that downgrading religion, forcing Yeshiva students into the army and demonizing the Charedi community are the major planks of that party’s social policy.

In Jewish terms, the Lapid philosophy is both destructive and self-destructive. It represents a sterile modern day hellenism which, for all their faults, was not the approach of the country’s “founding fathers”. Zionist leaders like Weizman, Ben Gurion and Jabotinsky generally recognised the paramount role of Judaism within the land of Israel, even though they themselves were not actively observant. It was Ben Gurion who coined the phrase “the Bible is our mandate”. Even today’s political leaders – Peres and Netanyahu – are capable of connecting with their Jewish heritage and retain a residual “heimishkeit” in their statements and conduct. Little of this can be said for Lapid and his ilk for whom assimilationist secularism seems to be a creed in itself.

On the positive side, every time there is an election, an increasing number of seats move to religious parties and religious politicians. In this new Knesset, there are 18 Charedim (Shas and UTC combined) and 12 national religious (Habayit Hayehudi). If you add to this the 9 observant MK’s among the secular parties you find that virtually one quarter of the Knesset is actually religious. This development surely reflects the demographic reality of Israel’s population that religious families are increasing in numbers, while non religious are decreasing or remaining static.

If, as one can only hope, the said trend continues, there will in due course inevitably be a religious majority in the Knesset and a religiously dominated Government. This, more than anything else gives me reason for optimism, since Israel’s survival can only ultimately depend on adherence to Torah values. That, ironically, is the real meaning of “Yesh Atid”. Yes, Mr. Lapid, there is indeed a future, but it is quite different from the message you are preaching.

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Ward will face harsher action if he repeats intolerable slur

Let me remind you what was said. Direct comparison was made between the conflict in the Middle East, and the devastating atrocities inflicted on Jews by the Nazis. That is bad enough at any time, but David did it on a day when we were remembering and mourning. I cannot be clearer in my view that both David’s language and timing were unacceptable. I made this view clear in my correspondence with the Holocaust Educational Trust the next day and again to David when I met with him shortly afterwards. It was intolerable because it is both inaccurate and offensive to equate and link all Jewish people with the actions of the Israeli Government and the state of Israel.

It was intolerable because the Holocaust was a particular crime against humanity that involved the attempted extermination of a people. Whatever view we take of the actions of the Israeli government, no one would attribute that end to them. It was intolerable because the Jewish community, like the rest of us, will never forget Nazi cruelty, and deserve better than being lumped together and being described as “the Jews”.
Furthermore, while all of us unequivocally support the right for Israel to live in peace and to defend itself, that doesn’t mean every Jewish person in Israel or indeed the Diaspora supports every action taken by the Netanyahu Government. David’s language implied otherwise, and this is inaccurate and highly offensive.
When discussing sensitive issues such as this, language really matters, as does timing. David’s comments appeared on Holocaust Memorial Day, a day on which we pay our respects to victims of the Shoah. It was inappropriate to use a vehicle such as the signing of the book of commemoration to make these comments.
With all this in mind, I considered David’s offence so serious that, as Chief Whip, I censured him. This is the most serious formal disciplinary measure available to me as Chief Whip alone. It is the first time since I took on the role in 2010 that I have invoked the formal disciplinary procedures at all. I struggle to recall any Chief Whip using them since I became an MP in 2001.
This has been compared in the press to a parliamentary yellow card, a final warning. It is a very serious move and while all of these metaphors are correct, I consider my action as being more serious. In taking the action that I have sent a message to any Parliamentarian that this type of language and approach will not be tolerated by our party.
I have read the comment of those who regard it as a “slap on the wrist”. I can see why some might conclude that, but they are wrong. I trust taking this action emphasises just how grave we in the Liberal Democrats consider this to be. I have also made it absolutely clear that nothing of this sort must ever happen again. If it were to, the already serious consequences for David Ward would escalate significantly.
My party is one based on tolerance, and while issues around the Middle East are always likely to provoke heated debated, I am determined that that debate will be conducted in the manner and tone that are consistent with these values of tolerance and respect. I hope the Jewish community will not consider those comments as any way reflective of the view of the Liberal Democrat Party. Israel as a country, and the UK Jewish community as a whole, are both not only highly regarded by our party but we consider ourselves collectively friends of both your community and of the state of Israel. From the Holocaust Educational Trust to the CST and beyond, the Jewish community is a shining example of integration, self-sufficiency and charitable excellence.
I was lucky enough to attend the large Lib Dem Friends of Israel Lunch in December 2010. At that event, Nick Clegg made it clear in his speech that our party needed to rebalance how we discuss Israel and the Middle East. That point is as valid now as it was then. While I believe we are making good progress on this, I do accept that as a party we need to continue to build further bridges.
I will guide Lib Dem Parliamentarians to work with the highly respected Liberal Democrat Friends of Israel group and organisations like the Board of Deputies, CST and JLC on this. And we will, of course, continue to challenge anti-Semitism in the UK, wherever it occurs.

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Cameron Urged to Consider New Iran Sanctions

Issues as diverse as the Middle East peace process, anti-Semitism and education policy were on the agenda at the Downing Street meeting, which was organised by the Jewish Leadership Council and saw the prime minister reaffirm the need to fight boycotts and delegitimisation of Israel.

The delegation – which also included representatives of the Board of Deputies – urged Cameron to continue taking a personal lead in pressing the European Union to proscribe Hezbollah as a terrorist organisation.

They also thanked the premier for the Government’s “robust” stance on Iran’s nuclear programme, while urging him to consider further sanctions – believed to relate to IranAir. Amid continuing questions over the issue of funding for long-term elderly care, the delegation urged a swift resolution.

The JLC’s chair of trustees Mick Davis – who headed the delegation with Board of Deputies President Vivian Wireman – said: “The Prime Minister understood our concerns and was responsive to them. We stressed the need for the UK to help to support negotiations between Israel and the Palestinians by acting in a fair, balanced and even-handed manner.”

Opening the meeting, Cameron again welcomed the “enormous” contribution of Anglo-Jewry in areas including the Big Society, business and politics. And he said: “The Jewish community has been a model for others to follow in terms of successful integration into the UK.”

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Nuclear Reaction

A nuclear Iran would spark a terrifying Middle East arms race “within weeks,” involving Egypt, Turkey and Saudi Arabia – leaving the “fate of the region out of Israel’s hand”.

That was the stark warning delivered this week by Israel’s Defence Minister Ehud Barak at Bicom’s annual dinner, held in central London on Tuesday night.

Barak said a nuclear Iran would mean Israel’s near neighbours Egypt and Turkey would follow suit “within years” and Saudi Arabia “within weeks”. He added: “The countdown to nuclear materials falling into terrorist hands will have begun.”

Barak was cautious about the effectiveness of diplomacy and sanctions against Iran. He said: “Based on experience, we’re highly sceptical about the chances of success.”

Barak’s speech, in which he spoke of meeting US presidents and operating undercover in Beirut dressed as a woman, could also have been interpreted as a message that Israel could go it alone against the Islamic Republic.

“Once Iran enters the immunity zone, fate will be out of our hands,” said Barak, adding: “Israel was founded precisely so our fate would remain in our own hands. We will not outsource responsibility for making a decision, not even to our closest and most trusted allies.”

Reflecting on the recent changes in the Middle East, he likened the Arab Spring to a “geopolitical earthquake on a scale not witnessed since the collapse of the Ottoman Empire,” adding that regimes were “falling like dominoes”.

Israel’s Defence Minister also used the occasion to praise the British government “for its leading role in the campaign to have Hezbollah added to the EU’s terror list” and acknowledged that the UK had been a “driving force” behind sanctions against Iran.

The speech, in which Barak reiterated his desire for a two-state solution, was well-received.

Board of Deputies chief executive Jon Benjamin said: “If only Israel’s critics could hear the earnest desire for a lasting and viable end to the conflict expressed from the heart of the Israeli government.”

Alan Beith MP, President of Liberal Democrat Friends of Israel, said: “Barak made an excellent speech, setting out the dangers posed by instability among Israel’s neighbours.”

Alex Brummer, vice-president of the Board of Deputies, said: “The speech was an important statement of great relevance to the British Jewish community. He made it clear that economic sanctions are biting hard on Iran and the UK and EU have been most helpful on this front. But Tehran now has a stockpile of enriched uranium. And leakage of this material and technology is a threat to Israel and the whole of the free world.”

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Landmark deal boosts trade ties between EU and Israel

The Agreement on Conformity Assessment and Acceptance (ACAA), which will make it easier to export Israeli pharmaceuticals and other goods to the 27 EU member countries, follows a two-year campaign by the Board of Deputies and other Jewish organisations across Europe.

The agreement passed by 379 votes to 230, with 41 abstentions, and will make it simpler for Israeli pharmaceuticals to reach European patients.

Elizabeth Harris-Sawcencko, director of public affairs for the Board of Deputies, said: “Common sense has prevailed. It not only makes good financial sense, with billions of euros in savings on Israeli pharmaceuticals, it also means that patients will be getting the best medications available on the international market.”

The ACAA removes the need for additional red tape when Israeli products are being imported into the EU, reducing both the cost of the medicine and the time it takes to reach the market.

Zionist Federation Director Alan Aziz said: “This is a great day for those who value patients over politics.”

The deal had been held up by groups such as the Palestine Solidarity Campaign. “This vote is a huge blow to the BDS (Boycott Divestment and Sactions) movement,” said Jamie Slavin at the Board. “They may claim to be building a mass campaign, but are clearly gaining no traction.”

BICOM’s Dermot Kehoe reiterated this view. He said: “Those who campaigned against this should realise that peace will only be achieved through cooperation and understanding, rather than boycotts, divestment and sanctions.”

Sarah Ludford MEP, human rights spokeswoman for the Liberal Democrats in the European Parliament, said: “It’s a fallacy to claim that refusing the agreement will somehow help deliver peace in the Middle East. Blocking this trade would do nothing whatsoever for Palestinians.”

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Israel and Iran take centre stage in White House Battle

Obama chided Romney for his aggressive stance on Iran in front of a university audience in Florida. The President said: “He’s often talked as if we should take premature military action. That would be a mistake.”

Romney hit back, accusing Obama of wanting to create “daylight” between Israel and the US, and spurning the Jewish state during an “apologetic” Middle East tour early in his presidency.

Romney added: “They noticed that you skipped them.”

In what was, at times, a personal and heated affair, Obama countered, saying: “When I went to Israel, I didn’t take donors, I didn’t attend fundraisers. I went to Yad Vashem. I went down to the border towns of Sderot.”
Obama also landed a punch on his opponent over Iran, reminding viewers that while he was trying to enforce international sanctions against the Islamic Republic, Romney was “still invested in a Chinese oil company doing business with the Iranian oil sector”.

Both candidates made sure Israel featured heavily throughout, with frequent mentions during the course of the debate.

Both said they would support Israel against a threat from Iran.
They agreed Iran could not be allowed to obtain a nuclear weapon and that sanctions were the right way to go, and agreed military and intelligence co-operation with Israel was paramount.

There were also areas in which neither candidate committed. Neither suggested that they would provide military support to Israel for any pre-emptive strike on Iran, when many suggest that America’s advanced air-to-air refuelling capability would help Israeli fighter jets cover the long distances involved.
The debate ended with Obama on the front foot, aiming to paint his opponent as out-of-touch and out of his depth. He said: “Governor, you want to import the foreign policies of the 1980s, the social policies of the 1950s and the economic policies of the 1920s.”

The media was quick to seize on Romney’s geographical gaffes, such as his suggestion that Iran needed Syria’s access to the sea, despite Iran having more than 2,500km of coastline bordering the Caspian Sea, Persian Gulf and Gulf of Oman.

While the final debate was taking place, the US and Israel conducted their largest ever joint military exercise, in a region of rising tensions.

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Hughes’ one- state comment ‘out of context’

LIBERAL DEMOCRAT deputy leader Simon Hughes has accepted an invitation to join a delegation to the Middle East. His participation in the trip was revealed as a party source played down reports that he had suggested a one-state solution must be considered to solve the Israel-Palestinian conflict, insisting his remarks were taken “out of context”.

Hughes’ involvement in the next Liberal Democrat Friends of Israel Middle East trip was announced during a LDFI meeting at the party’s conference in Brighton, which was attended by Israeli Ambassador Daniel Taub.

LDFI chairman Gavin Stollar said: “Simon Hughes has committed to clarify his reported statements [on the peace process] in due course and allay any fears these may have caused. The fact that he has agreed to join our next delegation indicates that he is a friend of Israel.”

Around 100 attendees heard from delegates who took part in the previous LDFI mission to the Middle East. Stephen Williams, MP, was among those sharing their experience. He said: “Meeting people like Arnold Roth, who lost his daughter Malki in the Sbarro pizza suicide bombing in 2001, brought home to me the realities on the ground. There is any number of challenges that exist, with no easy answers.” Lorely Burt MP, meanwhile, said she was “touched” to join a Jewish family in Jerusalem for a Friday night shabbat dinner.

The LDFI meeting took place amid rumours of tensions within the party over matters affecting Israel and the Middle East. Earlier this month, former Lib Dem Defence Minister Nick Harvey claimed he was sacked as part of a cabinet reshuffle as he did not agree with a strike on Iran, and because party leader Nick Clegg wanted to sign the UK up to military action.

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