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Tuesday, 27 January 2015

Israel's not the only promised land...

I can't recall a particular tipping point that made me realise Jews could have a troubled future in Britain and that it was time to leave. Having spent ten years on the northern board of the CST, I've either been exposed to or become familiar with instances of spiralling antisemitism. Eggs hurled from passing cars, swastikas daubed on Jewish headstones alongside shouty messages of hatred.

I can't even say that an urge to move was catalysed by the virulent anti-Israel demonstrations which took place in central Manchester throughout the summer. I'd long since felt that Britain was no longer a place where my family could plan their future. What unfurled in my home town simply validated this decision

And so, this July, we're leaving. Flying off to a place where we can live freely amongst Jews and enjoy the sense of entitlement that comes with 5,000 years of Jewish heritage. No, not Israel - America.

It's a revelation that has shocked family, friends, and business colleagues. Surely, the flow-chart plotting the flight from antisemitism should end naturally in Israel? Hadn't we heard the clarion calls which ring out from Mount Hermon to the Red Sea exhorting British Jewry to wake up and return to our feted homeland?

I have, and I applaud those who make Israel - a place I love dearly - their home. But the destination for our aliyah will be Scottsdale, in Phoenix, Arizona, home to more than 100,000 Jews -a community large enough for our family to feel more than comfortable.

Yet there seems to be a tacit belief that the only place for Jews to thrive and flourish is Israel. But we are, and always have been, a people in motion. And all those good-to-go arguments about aliyah are not necessarily foolproof.

I've always loved America and Arizona in particular - for its climate, its beauty and, yes, its Jews. My family love America too - indeed, last summer our son Arron took up a place to study political science at Berkeley University. But our move isn't predicated on a need to be near our boy (and anyway, Arizona is a flight away from California).

Of course it won't be easy to go. I've lived my entire life in Manchester, a city with a broad, bustling Jewish community - though my wife Honey is no stranger to the role of wandering Jew. The daughter of a prominent Persian mother, as a 12 year-old girl she fled Iran at the height of the revolution, to live first in London and then in Manchester.

I accept that, on many levels, it would be so much easier to move to Israel. Thanks to the ancient Law of Return, as Jews we are not only welcome but of course entitled to live there.

By comparison, getting a visa, and ultimately a Green Card, to the States can sometimes be challenging. It took me two years to find the most cost-effective and least problematic route, eventually settling on a little-known scheme called the EB-5 Visa. The scheme awards a Green card to those who either invest in projects in rural areas or those of high unemployment; in my case, I am making a five-year loan to help fund a large hotel development in Vermont.

That's the thing about America. There are bountiful business opportunities. Quite different from going to Israel, where the way to make a small fortune is to go with a large one.

But there's another aspect to consider. Is it really desirable for every Jew on the planet to live in the Holy Land? Are we not better protected if we strengthen our presence and numbers in strategic places throughout the world?

I sincerely hope that the future will be peaceful and secure for British Jewry. But I'm not prepared to take a chance. By moving to America, I can offer my family a fresh start, live comfortably among a large Jewish community and expand my business interests too. 

Can a land get much holier than that?

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