York’s first rabbi in more than 800 years has spoken of her shock at the ‘horrific’ attack on Israel and its aftermath.
Rabbi Elisheva Salamo revealed her concerns for the safety of Jewish people here and abroad.
And she also said that violence would not solve the conflict – but young people just might.
York is, of course, a city with a shameful chapter of its own – in 1190 Clifford’s Tower was the scene of one of the worst anti-Semitic massacres, when 150 Jewish residents lost their lives.
Rabbi Elisheva says there are now about 1,000 Jews in York.
“It’s horrific,” she said, reflecting on the conflict that has been reported all over the world since Hamas carried out a terrorist attack on Israel on 7 October.
More than 1,400 people were killed in the unprecedented incursion from Gaza.
Since then, at least 3,000 people have been killed in retaliatory Israeli strikes on Gaza, according to Palestinian health officials.
“We do have humanitarian concerns about everybody and we have concerns for our safety here and we have concerns for our friends and for our family in Israel,” Rabbi Elisheva said.
“It’s a devastating thing.”
Police offer support
She said that for people living outside of Israel, “there’s a feeling of powerlessness,” but there has not been any threatening behaviour towards her.
Antisemitic incidents quadrupled in the UK since the conflict began, according to the BBC.
Police officers have offered their support to York’s Rabbi if it is needed.
The city has reacted to the conflict well, according to Rabbi Elisheva, and she praised the Lord Mayor Chris Cullwick who had said “we urge leaders in Israel and Palestine to do all they can to urgently de-escalate the situation and avoid further loss of life.”
Other people in the city showed their support solely for Palestine and gathered outside York Minster with placards saying ‘free Palestine’ and held the state flag.
“I think that protests have political slants,” Rabbi Elisheva said.
“We may be very erudite but the politics of living in other places besides England are different, and so to make political statements from here I think is complicated.
“To make humanitarian statements from here I think is essential.”
She added: “The goal should be to end the war.
“It will come to fruition organically, but what I can say is violence is not the answer
“Death is not going to end things.
“Other states have tried to end terror by killing people and that has been partly ,but not completely, successful.
“I don’t think that killing people is what solves problems.”
Rabbi Elisheva suggests youth could be the answer.
“There are young people who come out of university with degrees in human geography, who are being trained to do this work,” she said.
“Maybe we need to hire some 19-year-olds and 20-year-olds with degrees that have never been tested and have only been created in the last 10 years.
“They come from a different world, I think, than many of the people who are creating more of the war than not.”