Despite the best efforts of a local MP and assorted fathers of terrorism, the Yorkshire city of Bradford has not become an Israel -free zone. Indeed, defying the best hopes of the hatemongers, members of the local tiny Jewish community get on famously with many of their Muslim neighbours.
And with what seems perfect symmetry, ‘Sacred Poetry’ was staged at the Bradford Reform Synagogue which last year was saved from closure with financial help from local Muslims.
Explained Syima Aslam, festival co-director: “The purpose of this event is to bring people of different faiths together and highlight the common spirituality and humanity that unites us, whatever our other differences may be … If in Britain we start making distinctions about people who live here based on where they were born, where does that lead us to as a country?”
Hadari was raised in England, trained as an actor and is a prize-winning writer and translator who has served as Young Writer in Residence with the Royal Shakespeare Company.
While Jewish readers will note that Hadari’s Bradford performance took place just after the start of the Jewish New Year, I’ve been fascinated by his essay in Mosaic Magazine in which he compares the mid-summer harvest biblical story of Ruth to a novel by the Victorian writer, Thomas Hardy. As this is a post packed with revelations, it is fitting that I end with two more ….
“Woman of Secrets
“My mother was a woman of secrets.
When I came out to her, it was on Oxford Street
Because I figured, it was a public place,
She’s not going to hit me. I was wrong about that.
She hit me – wham – and crossed the road.
There weren’t taxis braking, there weren’t horns, not a sound
Suddenly she was across the street
And staring daggers at me, right up to the Strand.
She never told me things. Like this place
She used to take me to –
It was a cabbage and sauerkraut joint
But in the back there was a smoky room
Where all these old people would sit
And eat their black forest gateaux
And tell me stories about Maidanek
And how they got all those tattoos.
I used to go there year after year
Stuffing myself with profiteroles
Then one day I must have said something,
This old woman called me a “self-hater”
I opened my mouth to say, “Excuse me?”
– my mother took my arm
And dragged me all the way to air,
Next day she met me at a coffee bar
And said, “Two things. I smoke, and we’re Jewish.”
The first I knew. I can’t believe my father didn’t.
The second – I looked at her.
“What’s all this about going to church?” I said,
“Why was I baptised?” She didn’t say another word.
“I smoke,” she said, “You want mince pies?”
She left me all these photographs,
Not a name, not a date, on any one.
I look at them sometimes and make up alibis.
All she left me is this skin
And sometimes the sound of a train
Makes me want to eat cakes in the outdoors
And then I light a candle alone
And make up a song to the strange names”.
© Natalie Wood (04 October 2014)