Two weeks ago I wrote a piece about the antisemitic parody on Israel's security wall at St James's Church, Piccadilly, London. This week I was reading a response to the display from the inimitable Dr Denis MacEoin.
What stuck in my mind after I had read his letter to the church was his description in it of two women. The first was a Czech teacher at his old drama school in Belfast. Her name was Helen Lewis (nee Katz). He had heard that she had been imprisoned in a concentration camp, but it wasn't until one day she rolled up her sleeve and he saw the number tattooed on her arm that her plight came home to him.
Her life was saved because she was a professional ballet dancer. The Nazis kept her at Theresienstadt, where they kept dancers, musicians, actors, painters and writers to impress the Red Cross and others with their kindly treatment of inmates, while thousands died behind the scenes. Helen's first husband died in Auschwitz.
It was through her he received a growing concern for Jewish people, and from that, a deep love for the state of Israel.
The second woman, whom he mentioned quite separately, was a young Palestinian woman named Wafa al-Biss. She was
badly burned in a domestic fire, and taken to Israel's Soroka Hospital - one of the hospitals where Palestinians receive the most advanced treatment
in the world. Discharged after months of treatment, she was given a permit to
return as an out patient.
Some time later she headed for the hospital
wearing a suicide belt, with the aim of exploding it among the doctors
and nurses who had treated her, as well as however many children she
could find. She was caught at a checkpoint and imprisoned.
Recently she was released as part of a prisoner release agreement. Within
hours she was speaking to Palestinian children, urging them to put on
suicide vests and kill as many Jews as possible.
Women apart, Dr MacEoin's erudite letter is still well worth reading. Read it. You can see it here.