October 9 changed my life.
On that day I decided to stage a one-man counter-protest at the now infamous anti-Israel rally which started at Town Hall, Sydney, and moved to the Opera House.
With the blood of the victims of October 7 not yet dry and terrorists still on the loose in southern Israel, I felt compelled to attend to show that here in Australia there was no place for such unbridled hatred of Israel and the Jewish people. And to show that Australians stood with Israel and with the Jewish community in this moment of horrific violence and loss.
As the rally progressed, and the crowd’s chants grew ever more viciously antisemitic, I unfurled and waved an Israeli flag. I was rapidly confronted by a hostile group of protesters and chased through the streets of Sydney.
Many people have asked me why I did what I did. To answer that you need to know a little more about me. I combine in my family all three Abrahamic faiths. My father was an English-background South African, who was notionally Roman Catholic. My mother was a German Jew, who fled the Holocaust with her parents, leaving Frankfurt in September 1938, and settling in Swaziland (now Eswatini), in southern Africa.
I grew up in a mixed and turbulent family through turbulent times. My mother, like her father before her, became a successful doctor. My father, however, was a mercenary, and then later a smuggler of stolen emeralds and diamonds. And I was brought up in the shadow of the Shoah, and through the civil war in Rhodesia (now Zimbabwe) and the anti-apartheid struggle of South Africa in the 1980s.
As if all this was not complicated enough, my older brother decided in his 40s to convert to Islam. This gave me a great deal of firsthand experience of the realities of Islam, and its fraught relationship with Jewish people. Tragically my brother and I never reconciled our theological differences prior to his murder in Cape Town in 2019.
It was these experiences, combined with a later spiritual journey that led me to become an Anglican pastor, and led me inexorably to the confrontation of October 9.
I knew, and I know, that life is mostly very difficult and complex, that ordinary people need, at times, to stand and fight for what is right and true, and that antisemitism is forever lurking beneath the veneer of civilisation.
Following on from the events of October 9, and the ongoing waves of antisemitism we have experienced in Australia, I have joined with other Christians and Jews to form a movement to unite Australians against antisemitism. It is “Never Again is Now”.
Out of the horrors of October 7, one glimmer of light to emerge is this bringing together of the Jewish and Christian communities to stand together for an Australia where all people, free from persecution and hatred, are free to live in safety and peace.
We are pleased to partner with the Zionist Council of NSW to host our first event in Sydney where all Australians from different backgrounds will come together, on Sunday, February 18 at 3pm.
Mark Leach is an Anglican minister.
Register for the event: events.humanitix.com/never-again-is-now-sydney