Elkan’s View from Netanya

Dear Friends,

I attach the current Elkan’s view which I hope you will enjoy.

Elkan’s view was originally created to fill a gap for Radlett synagogue before the appointment of their new Rabbi. Happily he is now in post, and I will therefore only be writing on the first weekend of the calendar month.

Warmest regards,



One of the great fascinations of historians is imagining what would have occurred if history had been different. Foremost among these for Jewish historians is what might have happened if Jews had made Aliyah in significant numbers to Palestine in the 1920s. Chaim Weitzman issued a famous cry “Jews where are you?” but the expected mass immigration from Eastern Europe did not take place. Had it done so the State of Israel might well have come into being before the Second World War and the Holocaust might not have occurred.

I have just finished reading a novel called “The Ambassador” by Yehudah Avner and Matt Rees. Avner had a distinguished career as Israeli ambassador in the UK, and his book “the Prime Ministers” is essential reading for anyone interested in modern Israel. In this novel the authors imagine what would have happened if the 1937 report of the Peel commission had been accepted by the Arabs, and the State of Israel had come into being. Dan Lavi, an Israeli married to an American paediatrician, is sent to be Israel’s ambassador to Hitler. His relations with the Nazi state are monitored not by its Foreign Office but by the Gestapo, but he succeeds in arranging for hundreds of thousands of Jews, stripped of all their valuables, to emigrate to Israel. Despite his excellent relations with Adolf-Eichmann however this does not happen fast enough for some Nazis, and there are dramatic scenes in the notorious villa at Wannsee in 1942. Eventually the gas chambers at Auschwitz are destroyed by the Israeli air force and Lavi becomes President of the State of Israel and receives as German ambassador one of his friends who had led the Nazi resistance.

This is one of the great “what ifs” of Jewish history. Sometimes as a people we have failed to grasp opportunities and the chance to create a viable state in Palestine before the Arab nationalism and anti-Semitism of the late 30s and early 40s is one of the great opportunities that we missed as a people. We need to be careful not to miss opportunities again.