Israelis stuck in London get support with everything from childcare to falafels

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Israelis stuck in London get support with everything from childcare to falafels

As virtual communities help to provide a home from home one family already living in the capital say it is the worst time to be Israeli in the UK

Welcoming fellow Israelis: Neta Nel Segev (left) and Aviv Baum, co-founders of Mazal
Welcoming fellow Israelis: Neta Nel Segev (left) and Aviv Baum, co-founders of Mazal

Israelis in London have long supported each other using digital networks as well as in person. Events since 7 October have brought their community even closer as they respond to urgent request for help.

With many citizens who were travelling in the UK or Europe having been stranded here, and a few having decided to leave Israel before flights were stopped, their compatriots in London have shown huge kindness, going far out of their way to help.

Rachel, a British-Israeli in Golders Green, saw a WhatsApp post that Hila, from Be’er Ya’akov, near Rishon Lezion, who was on a batmitzvah visit to London with her twin daughters, needed somewhere to stay after their flights back were cancelled. Rachel, who lives with her daughters, aged 11 and nine, is currently hosting them in her three-bedroom flat in Golders Green.

“Initially I thought I can give up my flat and move in with my mother. I thought I’d do that,” Rachel said. “But I realised Hila wanted me to stay with her – she wanted that support and I wanted her to have that.” The two sets of daughters have been company for each other, and Rachel is helping Hila work out what to do next.

“Her parents are in Eilat, her sister is in Be’ersheva and she’s from central Israel so they are spread out. They are trying to see which is safest place to be.”

Israelis stranded in London are also being given extra comfort in the form of food. “We know many people are unable to return and want to give them a little feeling of home – every Israeli,” Aviv Baum, who runs a falafel restaurant in Camden with his business partner, Neta Nel Segev, posted online. “Those who are stuck in London are invited to come to Mazal in Camden and eat with us for free.”

Nel Segev, 36, is from Ramat Gan and Baum, 33, from Petach Tikvah. Both are thinking of their parents in Israel, who have not yet had a chance to visit the restaurant, but they are also very much embedded in the community in London. Nel Segev’s wife, Andrea, works at Yavneh and their two children attend Wolfson Hillel Primary School.

“We’re all stressed and shocked,” Nel Segev said. “We must keep things in place and try to keep a routine.” There was a danger of feeling helpless following the attacks by Hamas on Israel last weekend but the chance to feed others felt instinctive, and very Jewish.

Since opening in mid-June, the kosher restaurant, on the second floor of Hawley Wharf (rebuilt after a fire in 2017), had already become a meeting place for Israeli expats and has plenty of regulars alongside its tourist diners. They would come to chat, share tips about lifein the capital and even to lay tefillin. Likewise, in normal times Facebook and WhatsApp groups for Israelis were places where members passed on used baby equipment or offered tips on where to find a good flat or house rental. In the past two and a half weeks the conversations have been about emergency accommodation, babysitting and flights. One member with an air ticket offered to give it to any reservist with a tzav shmoneh, an emergency call-up notice.

Certainly Israelis resident here are feeling this is the worst time they have known to be Israeli in the UK.

Jonathan, 39, and his wife, Aviva, who are bringing up two young children in north London, say their hearts are filled with sadness, frustration and anger. “The thought of our families and friends going through so much pain haunts us,” said Jonathan, whose brother has been called up.

“Holding our children’s hand, explaining to them that our beloved country is under attack, is immensely difficult. But we remain strong and have faith that life will prevail, that we will win this.

“We have no other choice. Life, resilience and strength are the only answers against these barbaric acts. We pray for the return of our loved ones.”

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