David had a novel view of independent Scotland


A JERUSALEM-based writer has written a futuristic novel describing a nightmare scenario in which a newly-independent Scotland turns against its Jewish residents.

David Brauner - who studied in Edinburgh in the 1970s and supports Scottish independence - knows about antisemitism.

The son of German refugees, he said: "German Jews felt very safe. Both my parents' families were very German. They celebrated Weinukah, Christmas and Chanucah together."

David's father, Irwin, was in Buchenwald for six months before he joined his sister in England in 1939.

He was then shipped off to Canada as an enemy alien, sharing a ship with German prisoners of war.

David said: "There was only a thin wire fence between the Jews and the captured Germans."

But Irwin didn't like Canada and came back to England, ending up in Birmingham where David's mother was already working as a domestic.

At the end of the Second World War, they both joined the American army to return to Germany to search for lost relatives.

David recounted: "My mother worked on one floor of a building and my father on another.

"They joined the American army because they spoke German. Their jobs were to listen in on phones. When they heard people who sounded like Nazis, they reported them and the American army picked them up.

"Ironically my parents were married in Germany at Berchtesgaden, The Eagles Nest, which was built for Hitler's 50th birthday."

Unable to trace their closest relatives, the young couple returned to Birmingham where David was born in 1947.

When he was almost three the family emigrated to America to join relatives, first in Florida and then in Boston.

David opted to read linguistics at Edinburgh University in 1970 for two reasons. One, because Scottish education was considerably cheaper than its American counterpart and, secondly, because, as a conscientious objector, David sought to avoid the Vietnam draft.

Having since served in the Israel Defence Force in the first Lebanon War and during the first intifada, he explained: "I was a conscientious objector in America, mostly because I did not think it was fair that people who had means and money could manage to avoid going to Vietnam.

"But when I moved to Israel, I learned virtually everyone serves. Conscientious objection was not an option."

In Edinburgh, David not only espoused the Scottish nationalist cause, but it was also there that he became a really proud Jew, having grown up in America in an assimilated Reform family.

He said: "At university, people, who called themselves Jacobites, were talking about Scottish politics. I was a Jacobite. There was already then the possibility of Scotland becoming an independent country.

"I was pro-independence. We had these discussions. I really felt sorry for the Scots. London didn't treat them very well.

"They were second-class citizens. They felt that they were an afterthought. Their roads, health and everything about Scotland was somehow second best. Yet they were paying taxes and supplying soldiers for British armies.

"I did feel genuinely pro-independence. I loved the Scottish people. I got on well with them and felt at home with them. I felt a certain kinship."

Simultaneously, at Edinburgh J-Soc, David was learning about Judaism and mixing with religious Zionists for the first time in his life.

He said: "I learned a lot about Judaism because I met Anglo-Jews, some of whom were quite religious. I went to the Orthodox shul. I taught myself Judaism as well as my university studies. Several of my friends were dyed-in-the-wool Zionists."

But David and his friends' twin passions for Scottish nationalism and Zionism were causing ripples among their Scottish friends.

When David's friend David Harrison made known to his Scottish friends that he was both a Jacobite and intent on making aliya immediately after his graduation, a fellow Jacobite tried to make him choose between the two identities by asking him where his heart was.

Then David received his first dose on antisemitism.

He heard two guys talking. One of them said that someone had 'jewed' him.

David told me: "That was the first time I had heard the word used a verb. I was shocked.

"I didn't say anything, but at that point I made up my mind that I was not going back to America and was not going to stay in Scotland. I was going to Israel.

"I wanted to go to a country where Jews couldn't be picked out from the mainstream population."

After a variety of jobs, David ended up writing and editing for the Jerusalem Post and other publications. It was at the Post that he met London-born Ruth Morris, who was researching the newspaper archives.

In 1991, the couple came to Lancaster University for Ruth to study for a PhD and David to pursue photographic and creative writing courses.

He said: "I had done a lot of writing for the Jerusalem Post, but I had always wanted to write fiction.

"Lancaster allowed me to be a non-fee paying student at a creative writing seminar. I wrote a short story called The Handshake."

The Handshake grew over the years into his recently-published novel, Another God - A Novel of Independent Scotland, which describes how the newly-independent Scotland's Chief Rabbi is summarily arrested and denied basic justice after urging his congregants to make aliya.

Surprisingly, despite the dire warnings of his novel, David - now back in Jerusalem - was disappointed at the referendum result.

He said: "The Scots had a wonderful opportunity to make themselves into a model country, like Israel did in 1948. The Scots have to be patient."

But did he really believe that an independent Scotland could become so antisemitic?

He explained: "The book is fiction. It was important not to place the story in a less civilised country. I wanted to place it in a Western country.

"Western Jews feel very safe as German Jews did. That is what the whole book is about. However strong the American Jewish community feels, I don't think it's any stronger than the German Jewish community was."

He admitted: "My parents' experience has definitely coloured mine.

"But I don't think any Jewish community is entirely safe, except in Israel. People are leaving France and Ukraine. When things get bad, it seems that Jews always have the short end of the stick.

"When one country separates from another, it is almost bound to find a minority to persecute."

But he admitted: "Israel has made a lot of mistakes. I think that the situation that we are in today very much relates to how Israel related to the people who were living here.

"They weren't paid the due consideration they should have been, no less than the English settlers who came to America paid the native Americans.

"This is what I am trying to say to the Scottish people in my novel. They should remember when they were a minority in Great Britain."

From Scottish nightmare scenarios David has now turned his attention to a translation of Sefer Hashem by Ibn Ezra and would like to write a grammatical analysis of the Tetragrammaton divine name.

© 2015 Jewish Telegraph