Shalom Pollack

Am I not Jewish!

As a tour guide, I have always been anxious to make new guiding connections. Self-employed guides, especially Shabbat observers, constantly seek new work opportunities and I heard that a particular company was hiring.

The company was one of the largest that operated “Birthright ” groups.

Ten days and nights with US college students is exhausting, but it is 10 days of work.

Beyond the work, Birthright groups are an opportunity to do good for the Jewish people. It is a chance to teach and inspire Jewish students for 10 precious days before they return to the Jewish wasteland most come from.

Constantly bombarded by anti-Israel propaganda, being Jewish is just not cool on campus.

For the first time in their lives, they are in a place where they are the majority and all of their friends are Jewish.

It is an opportunity to really make a difference.

They agreed to interview me in their corporate headquarters outside of Tel Aviv, on the “fast of Esther.

When I arrived from Jerusalem, I was asked to wait for my interviewer. I was seated on a comfortable seat surrounded by many busy young people and the familiar buzz of office activity filled the air.

I was approached and in the spirit of Purim was offered a “hamantash”.

I thankfully declined explaining that I was fasting. She looked puzzled and asked why?

I said, “the fast of Esther”.

At this point, the general buzz came to a halt. It seemed that the whole room and beyond were staring at me. Here was a strange phenomenon.

They had no idea of what I was talking about.

I continued waiting for my interviewer as the buzz slowly returned.

I was called into a room where a nice young lady greeted me and began to ask questions. They were the kind I expected as a tour guide; experience, strengths etc.

Then she stretched her neck a bit and looked at the top of my head.

She hesitated and asked haltingly, “Tell me, would it be a problem for you to lead the group on Friday night to a pub in Jerusalem and have your phone available for possible calls”?

“Yes, it would,” I said.

She apologized and suggested that this company would not be a good fit for me.

I agreed and stood up to leave. I was very disturbed; not because of the long trip for naught and not for not getting the job.

I felt terrible for the poor students.

To finally come to Israel – to Jerusalem, and spend their only Shabbat here in a pub?

I walked out with these disturbing thoughts in my heart.

I just had to return and talk to the boss.

I reentered the building and asked to speak with the general manager.

I was graciously seen into a very impressive office and offered a seat.

He asked how could help me.

I said, it’s not me that I would like you to help but the Jewish students in your care.

I described the exchange I had with his employee.

His demeanor became a bit less friendly. He assured me that his company knows how to ensure Jewish continuity. They have their method. Not to worry or question.

I said, “don’t you think that they have the same pubs with the same beer and same music where they come from”?

Should they not be exposed to something different on their only Shabbat in Jerusalem? Many wonderful families would love to invite them for a Shabbat meal and a real Jewish experience. At this point he became annoyed and cut me off. Gone were the smooth corporate manners.

He leaned forward, his facial color deepening and voice rising. He asked me if did not think that he was Jewish?

I said “if your mother is Jewish then according to Jewish law, you are too”.

At this he fairly exploded. “What! Is it only my DNA”?  I responded,” what else”?

He rose and yelled, “I speak Hebrew. I serve in the army”!

I said, “don’t the Druze do as well”?

Now he pointed an accusing finger at me and said, “You are Neturei Karta”!( the Jews in Hassidic dress that openly support Israel’s worst enemies)

I have been called many things but never that.

If the whole thing weren’t so sad it would be hilarious.

I returned to Jerusalem with a sad heart.

Pity the ignorant in the hands of the arrogant.

Pity our people.

About the Author
I made Aliyah after receiving an MA in International Relations. I have been writing articles about Israel since my arrival. I am a licensed tour guide since 1980. I served in the IDF. I am the author of ,"Jews, Israelis and Arabs" available on Amazon.