of young students and a rabbi in France have reminded me once again of an occasion on a Sunday morning when there was a bomb scare in the building opposite my hall of residence in London. The building was a centre for Jewish youth. On Sunday mornings they would have orchestra practice there. I could have conducted a certain Beethoven symphony myself by the end of that year. I could watch them scraping, bowing, banging and blowing from my bedroom window, a nice bunch of musical kids who got together to do some serious work and yet have fun doing it.
We would see these Jewish students going in and out. Most of them were younger than we were. There was not a lot of contact between us but relations were pretty friendly. The hall of residence was not far from a synagogue as well. I went in once with a Jewish friend. It was quiet and empty, different from a church but there was still the sense of a place where people went to worship. Most places of worship I have visited are like that.
I do not know what the youth centre was like inside. It was probably noisy at times. Teenagers in groups do tend to be noisy. Out on the street however the students were no noisier than any of the many other students in the area. We just accepted that they were there but not everyone did.
The day there was a bomb scare in the youth centre the Warden of our residence did not hesitate. They had to evacuate the building. They were coming out into the rain as the police arrived to search the building. The Warden invited them into our building. I was doing a short stint of telephone duty and watched them come in.
They stood in the big recreation room at one side of the front door. They did not sit. Most of them looked rather frightened. They said almost nothing at all.
One of them in particular was very upset. She had been through this situation once before and the outcome had apparently not been good. The young rabbi in charge of them had separated her from the other students and was trying to talk to her in the foyer but she was just becoming more distressed.
Just then one of our older students returned from doing some shopping and saw the girl weeping. She walked over, nodded an acknowledgment to the rabbi, and spoke softly to the young girl, put an arm around her and led her to a corner and a seat. They sat and talked softly.
The all clear was given a short time later. The younger student hesitated and then hugged the older one.
I do not know whether the younger student knew or not and it does not matter - but the older student was from Egypt. Although her clothing did not indicate it she was a Muslim.
At the point someone 'phoned to ask if everything was all right. Yes, everything was all right.