Dina-Perla Portnaar
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A colleague said: ‘to the gas’

When I was wearing long skirts and a ponytail as a little girl, I wanted to be seen for who I truly was, namely Dina-Perla and not necessarily Jewish. Besides, the outside was not entirely in alignment with what I believed in as an individual, but I had to obey the rules of the home. So, I overcompensated by chatting happily with my neighbors, who found me and the – also problematic – family different and who were visibly more distant to us than to each other. Finally, I managed to make the outside fade away. Everywhere in the neighborhood, I was accepted for who I was. The neighbors followed my development from up close and saw me become the person that I am today, partly because I never left my anchor and safe haven in Amsterdam, the Netherlands.

The same happened when I made the shift from the Jewish-orthodox school the Cheider to the Montessori Lyceum Amsterdam. On my first day, I decided that it was about time to wear those long-expected trousers. However, those could not hide the fact that I originated from a Jewish family. Obviously, that was never the intention. The most difficult confrontations at school were the history lessons in which I heard theories for the first time, about the Second World War being caused by Jewish people. It was horrific, but I kept quiet. I did not want to lose those hours free from the orthodox life. Also, I did not want to risk again not being seen for who I really was. Soon, my classmates would think that I knew everything better as a Jewish girl.

I do not make it up
During my time at the university and at the beginning of my working life, I got a very diverse group of friends, indeed because I looked for them. It was striking to see how many left the Netherlands for good. After all, the Netherlands became too small for their aspirations. Once, I was one of them, but I never really acted on it because I was happy. I loved the Netherlands and I was loyal. So, I used the theme diversity within the field of communications. Yet at the same time, I experienced anti-Semitism in the workspace for the first time. In a manner of, I let myself me abused mentally during one whole year, almost voluntarily, because I loved the field of communications so much and I wanted to continue with what I started. An example? A colleague once said: ‘jetzt aussteigen’ when we arrived at the station. Another colleague once said: ‘to the gas’. I do not make it up. Obviously, there is no proof and there must be disbelief for sure, because no one expects such a thing. Anti-Semitism is of all times. It never disappeared after the Second World War. In fact, even on the labor market, disguised anti-Semitism can sometimes free flow.

I learned
I learned that some journalists and relations in the broadest sense wanted to label me too quickly as Jewish, while I am so much more and while I just as well could have been Muslim, Christian, Hindu and so on. I just knew about some that I could not expect any cooperation, purely because of that label. For years, I followed in columns on TweetDeck how journalists talked about political and social issues. I knew exactly where I could expect the anti-Jewish sounds. I learned to keep quiet and again, to overcompensate with my happy chatter. I learned that there were people who publicly expressed favorable views about Jewish people, but who treated them badly behind the scenes. I learned that people could talk for hours about their opinions of Israel, without even once having been there. I learned that there were people who could not or did not want to make the distinction between being Jewish and living in Israel, thus being an Israeli. I learned that anyone who was looking for a stick to hit with could always find or create one. I learned that there was a lot of stupidity and ignorance in society and that the general knowledge of what being Jewish really means, was shamefully little – actually, to this day. When I presented the Computable Awards 2012 in Huis ter Duin in Noordwijk, the Netherlands, I learned not to react to what was said about me a short distance from me. ‘First, we let them work really hard and then, we will take their houses from them.’ Again, I do not make this up. I did not misinterpret one word of that conversation, or this remark and the laughs at the end, but I will never have a way to prove it.

Until my biography Exodus from the lighthouse: shadow behind and face towards the sun came out, I had never spoken publicly about my Jewishness. In fact, for years I did not look forward to it. Imagine providing criticism on the orthodox web, choices that were made for you and that keep you behind with a ten-zero score on the long run. Imagine providing criticism on human rights at a micro level and mechanisms that somehow where created a long time ago, for instance as shown in the documentary One of us. I was prepared for anything. However, the way in which this wake-up call and tool for sustainable change has been embraced, can only be described as graceful. Undoubtedly not everyone might be a fan of my style, but I will never be able to say that there has been no support from the orthodox community. They will never be able to say that I felt like criticizing the Jewish nest in a bad way. I’m proud, because look: we can do this. Well, I do experience however that this book brings me into disrepute with a number of corporate relations. Honestly, let me admit that I wondered for years whether I should want this or not for that reason. Conquering fear and being brave, has many gradations.

As soft as this all sounds, I feel anger when I observe what happens in Europe. Gruesome murders because someone is Jewish. 4th May can never be protected for one year from bullshit, uh, discussions. Parties as crooked as I do not know what that cry loudly for inclusiveness, yet kindly but firmly reject a Jewish agreement. It can get worse: after the Second World War, let us collect taxes on the back of an initiative that should make something right. It is almost laughable. Radical groups who cultivate hate. Acquaintances of my age who say they want to keep the option open of moving to another country. I recently found out that the wife of an acquaintance was stabbed a while back in a perfectly normal kosher restaurant (I missed it, since I do not follow everything and I do not live in the middle of the Jewish community). Then, there are the owners of another restaurant, namely HaCarmel, who are considering closing down, because the Netherlands is too weak to stop compromising and to stand for what is right and humane. Violent people in the Netherlands are now called ‘confused’. I think the Netherlands is confused. Finally, it appears that it is currently necessary to conduct a survey and to gather experiences of anti-Semitism. Gosh.

Anti-Semitism is a persistent problem. Something that has been perpetuated for centuries is very difficult to debunk. In fact, some claim that anti-Semitism occurs at the cell level in humans. Now, let me not start that discussion and only state how vulgar – and at the same time dangerous – this reputation issue is. Also, the fact that many Jewish people are hard workers, pioneers, thinkers and contributors and thereby gain a certain position in society arouses envy. Various spiritual works explain that Jewish people are not so much the chosen people, but are the first in line of the different types of people to receive certain ideas. After all, everything in the world starts with an idea, in other words with life force. Also, we have been able to experience many times how the greatest good can attract the worst evil. Of course, let’s not forget the interpersonal problems in society, because everything is connected.

Fertile soil
Here’s the thing: let us never be too weak with the protection of our humanity, Jewish or not – I couldn’t care less. History teaches us that one individual can destroy six million lives. Humanity – love – is the only unmistakable thing we have in the world. Anti-Semitism and any form of racism, is not groundbreaking. It is the most stupid thing there is, how disguised and refined it may occur. Well then, you did not understand a thing as a human being. It is tiring. The world is changing and I have faith in what I experience around me. There is a gigantic group of people who lives from a place of higher consciousness and who would not want to live differently. Those people have total connectedness and everything that comes with that, including the further development from the old to the new. We just started this process and that goes for politics as well. We are not going anywhere and we will not be led by fear. Rather, by functional and channeled anger when necessary, because strangely enough, in combination with rest and the exchange of views, that can result in a very fertile soil, cultivating the most exotic harvest in the long term.


This article was published via the Dutch publication called De Kanttekening. Updates on the VAT issue as discussed in this article: a reasonable solution was presented, after many people signed a petition and protested. Another not so positive update since the appearance of this article would be the issue of the anti-Jewish and anti-Israel sketch on the back of Netta, the winner of the Eurovision Song festival 2018.

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