I still think Britain is a fine country to be a Jew in. But it is as though I now live in the shadow of an unseen enemy

I have been spat at in the street for being Jewish only twice. The first time was in Port Said in the 1960s and I was able to put that down to heightened regional tensions. The second time was 25 years later in Clapham, south London where there were no heightened regional tensions. I knew that I was being spat at for being Jewish in Clapham because my assailant followed the spit with the words, “Now get yourself a shower, and you know what sort of shower I mean.”

I did. I suspect that any Jew over the age of 10 would have known what sort of shower she meant. She. Why her sex surprised me, I can’t say. Maybe I automatically think of antisemites as men. Is that insulting to women? Again, I can’t say. But because she was a woman, the sense of physical danger I might have experienced had she been a man was supplanted by a sort of sadness. I am a mother’s boy and expect a woman to nurture, not abuse me. My sadness encompassed both of us. It was as though, in the act of aspersing me, she was violating her own nature. And in the act of being aspersed I was somehow, not to blame, but implicated. What had I done to be so hateful to her?

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