Overlooking the ultra-orthodox Jewish girls’ school which is next door to our apartment block, we see a lot of people from that tradition. They are quiet, polite, shy, law-abiding folk who live their lives, and live out their fervent culture, in ways which are distinct from the diverse communities around them.
I know little about their culture, and about the way they manage their lives. They don’t interfere with us, nor we with them. They avoid our gaze and carry on their lives within the strong, supportive traditions they inherited from their ancestors. No doubt they are – as most people are – generally decent people trying to do the right thing.
This morning I happened on a piece in the magazine on the BBC website which reduced me to tears – of sadness, sympathy and a confusion of other emotions up to and including impotent rage. It is so eloquently written that I cannot attempt to improve on it as a cry of pain and a plea for understanding. Click on the highlighted words to follow the link.
It is playtime in the school next door. Soon it will be warm enough to keep our windows open during the day, and we won’t escape the sound of a couple of hundred lively young girls running around playing and generally horsing around. Which of them (for there will be some) will grow up to suffer in the same way as this sad lady? Almost certainly they will get husbands: which of them, too, will suffer the way this lady’s husband must be suffering?
Over the past couple of days, just in the course of two ordinary conversations and for no particular reason, I found myself saying to two dear friends that I believed the most important word in the English language is compassion.
I will return to that theme, but today I feel it even more strongly. See what you think.