With increasing frequency, reports appear in the Israeli press about Racism, Discrimination and Xenophobia and it appears those racist sentiments, and their outbursts are on the increase and it is lamented that “once things were different”. I don’t think they were. Maybe today racists are encouraged by political elements that are intend on making Israel a racist State, but the phenomenon has been there always.

 

I have lived in Israel since 1977, first as a foreign student, and since 1988, after a four year interval in the U.S., as a Permanent Resident and later as a Citizen. I am not Jewish. I tell my children that I grew up in Holland as a human being and that at age 25 I came to Israel and I became a “goy”. 

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After I finished my doctorate at the Weizmann Institute in Rehovot in 1982, I decided to stay on to complete some work related to the research I had been involved in. No longer a student, I needed a visa as a temporary resident from the Interior Ministry. The procedure at the Weizmann Institute is very simple; the Institute supplies me with a letter stating that they intend to employ me for the next twelve months and request that I be issued a visa. To my surprise, the visa I obtained was valid for three months only, so after three months I obtained another letter from the Institute, and again I requested a Visa from the Interior Ministry. When also this time I received a visa for three months only, I decided to ask. (Inquiries with other post-docs at the Institute revealed that none of them had a problem obtaining a visa for 12 months, but they were all Jewish). The reply I obtained from the manager of the Rehovot branch of the Interior Ministry was very simple and straightforward: “You are not Jewish; you finished studying, what you want to stay here for?” A long correspondence with the State Comptroller concerning this blatant racist remark did nothing more then elicit the feeble response that the Interior Ministry employee “acted inappropriate” and all my urging to clearly state that racism is involved here were to no avail.

At that same Weizmann Institute, just before the ceremony during which a prize is awarded for the best dissertation in chemistry of that year, the secretary of the President of the Institute, a good friend of mine, told me enthusiastically that she had just given her boss the certificates for the prize to sign, and that I was awarded the prize for this year! I was not informed of this by anyone and during the ceremony it was announced that the prize would not be awarded this year without reasons being given. My good friend at the President’s office told me later that the prize is sponsored by an influential person and that this person had refused to allow the prize to be awarded to a non-Jew. Inquiries into this astounding piece of information of course never got anywhere, but between the lines it was clear that the Institute had capitulated to the racist demands of a moneyman.

I didn’t think too much of these events then, but maybe I should have.

 

In the beginning of the nineties my wife and I decided that we should move out of the city and we found a wonderful moshav in a small local council, where we bought a dunam of land to build our house. The land is not actually bought but leased for 49 or 99 years from the Israel Lands Administration. We went through an application process in the Local Council, which I have the impression was mainly intended to make sure that financially we are able to sustain a living  and not much more then that, and we were swiftly approved. But this was not enough. Since the moshav was founded originally by the Jewish Agency, they have a say in who can lease the land and the moment it became clear that I was not Jewish, we were turned down. We were scolded by the Local Council for “hiding” the fact that I was not Jewish, but what did they expect, a sign on my forehead?  Creative solutions were suggested, such as registering in my wife’s name only, but we decided that this is too blatant an expression of institutionalized racism to let go and we decided to sue the Agency. A good lawyer and the fear of damage to their image by the Jewish Agency, made them collapse even before the matter reached the courts and we were approved and even our demands for compensation of financial losses were met. A victory? Maybe then it felt that way, in retrospect it should have been another warning.

 

I travel abroad 5-6 times a year but my Israeli passport does not shield me from sometimes intense scrutiny by security personnel. My name is suspicious and after a look at my ID card which is then requested, I suddenly have to deal with such seemingly innocent questions, like “did you study Hebrew as a child”, or, “what are the names of your children”, and often a supervisor is called in to deal with my case. “Security Reasons” is the usual reply to my queries about their behavior. So why does it appear to me lately to be no more than State approved racism and xenophobia?

 

If things are so bad, why stay? In principle, I could pick up and leave and go back to Holland, from where I came 38 years ago.

But I have lived here most of my adult life. This is my home. And, with apologies to Lehava (the organization to prevent intermarriage), I am one of those who took away a nice Jewish girl and married her. And we are still married, and we have four wonderful children, who, my dear Rabbis, are all Jewish. But I brought them up in such a way, that long before they are proud to be Jewish, they are proud to be human beings, which you at Lehava seem to believe is of minor importance compared to being Jewish.

My life is here, and Israel, however imperfect and problematic, is my home even if there are those who do not like this or wouldn’t agree with it.

But I am worried, and sometimes even scared. Today the xenophobia is directed towards immigrant workers and most of all towards Arabs. But racism is fast becoming a legitimate expression of popular feelings, and I ask myself: when will it be turned toward me? When will the “regular” goy, assimilated in the Jewish world within Israel, become the target of the racists and fascists? What if our politicians will find the time is ripe to go after the “assimilated goy”? And I make comparisons with different times and different places and the similarity literally robs me of my sleep. I have friends here, some I have known for years. Never did I hide the fact that I am not Jewish and it has not made them shy away. Do I need to think how they will react when “goyim” like me will be declared undesirable? Is it fair to put them before such dilemma if they themselves may get into trouble for befriending a goy? Far-out isn’t it? Maybe it is. I hope it is. So why can’t I sleep?

 

So why indeed do I stay?

I have nowhere to go. At 64 I cannot start a new life elsewhere and I also wouldn’t want to. I want my children to grow up here, because this is their home and mine. But will it always be?

I no longer go to demonstrations or involve myself in any way in the protests that arise against the racist tendencies every now and then. Maybe I should. But I am scared.

 

I want to live out my life here because here is all I have. Even if some will say it isn’t mine.   


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