On November 28, ABC Radio National's rural affairs program Bush Telegraph broadcast an item about country Jews:
"As Jewish communities in major cities celebrate the start of the Chanukah festival this week, one group is heading into country Australia to support Jewish people living in isolated areas without a synagogue or connection to their culture. The founder of Chabad of Rural and Remote Australia, Saul Spigler, says while the census lists only 3,600 Jews as living in remote areas, the work of his group indicates there could be between 7,000 and 10,000 in regional areas... He says he and his workers are a little like 'Jewish detectives', who will go 'anywhere to visit anybody'. Trawling the phone books, knocking on the doors of local shops and visiting cemeteries, town halls, police and Jewish doctors, they've found 250 contacts in the past 4 months." (Jewish group Chabad of RARA takes outreach to isolated communities)
Now it goes without saying that stories such as this, about the fiddle-faddling of the faithful, don't generally register on my radar. For that to happen, there has to be another, more political, dimension. Unfortunately, in this case, there was:
"George Koulakis is a Townsville supporter of the organisation, who describes his house as 'base camp' and maintains the motor home the group uses to travel... [He once] had an interesting interaction after stopping to get a drink on one long trip through country NSW. 'I pulled into a one horse town and wanted an iced drink,' he said. 'When I came back an old Aboriginal woman was staring at our big yellow motor home and its Hebrew writing, and I said, 'It's Hebrew, we're Jewish.' She said, 'You know what? The Jews and the aboriginal people have a lot in common; we're both from a very old culture and we're both still fighting for our land'."