Of Bob and Boundries

One of the most popular characters at my Jewish elementary day school was the janitor, Bob. For a third-grader – all the teachers are a mister or a misses, all last names and no fun. But the janitor – he was the coolest, because he wasn't a mister, he was Bob, as if he was a real person with a real first name only, just like one of us.

Of course for third graders – teachers and everyone else who worked at the school, from the principal to Bob the janitor, weren't really people like us. I mean – at the end of the school day we would go home and continue to exist outside of the school. But not so the school staff! Nooo! It is well known to little kids that at the end of the day every teacher goes to sleep in a teacher's desk drawer, until the next day when the first kids come back to school. That's why we weren't allowed to open the drawers in the teachers' desks – because it would be like your little brother seeing your private stuff and your mess in your room! Now I guess the principal lives in the office, the secretaries in the mailbags, and Bob? Well since he's the janitor and has all the keys he can go to sleep in any room he wants, but probably prefers the storeroom which is a room we see only him enter.

That's the weird thing though: in our kids' minds Bob could live a-n-y-w-h-e-r-e he wanted. But in real life that wasn't so, because, you see, Bob was black (I hear people say "African-American" these days, but Bob spoke perfect English without the slightest accent, so I doubt that he was from Africa), and everyone knew that in the Chicago area – black people couldn't really live anywhere they wanted. If you're black you could live in Evanston – but not Skokie; you could live in most of the west side but not in most of the north side. As kids we heard a rumor that an entire east-west highway was built in Chicago to keep the blacks south of it, but that it didn't work.

And that's something that we, as Jews, could understand well. As a Jew you could live in Lincolnwood but maybe not Kenilworth. We know it even more so from our sojourn as long-time guests in Europe, after they kind of "damaged" our homeland. In Europe we were always being told we could live there but not here, near the iron-works but not near the river. Jews couldn't stay in the Anatevka of their choice – if it was beyond the pale, the "Pale of Settlement" for Jews that is. In the end some of the Europeans decided we couldn't live… anywhere! So most of the Jews that used to live in Europe – are long gone...

Maybe concerning Jews in the past I could understand, because, after all, we were "guests" in Europe, it wasn't our homeland – as many (not all) Europeans were fond of reminding us, and the host is the one that decides in which room you are to sleep. But Bob? I bet his family had been "brought" to America generations ago, long before the mayor's family left the Emerald Isle for the city where you can make a quick buck and buy emeralds! So how could anyone tell him where to live?!

And that's the same question I have for Europe today: now that we're back in our homeland – how can Europe dare to continue telling us where we can and where we can't live in our own homeland?! Isn't enough – enough??

So to the European Union in general, and to Holland in particular – who just decided to cut the pensions of Holocaust survivors if they 'dared' to live in Judea or Samaria – I'd like to say: We're no longer your guests, so don't tell us where we can or can't live in our homeland, the Land of Israel.

As to our Arab cousins – they are welcome to live amongst us, peacefully and in harmony, and we'll all thrive together. Inshallah! God willing!