I was in the middle of a job interview. No, actually, she made me wait, so I was just waiting for a job interview. But she was far too late. Like 30 minutes-and-more-late. And I was just sitting there while people (with the job) passed by the glass cube office I was asked to wait at, and it just hit me again.
“So why Hebrew?”
(Why, should it be rather, Dutch? – answers my well-hidden ego inside my head)
“So Hebrew, hm?”
(Can we just move on, please, there is French, too – continues my inner dialogue)
“So you have relatives in Israel?”
(We just can’t get over this, can we?)
Someone knocks on my door (I mean their door, but I am sitting here, so it’s partly mine now, too). I quickly put myself back to ‘present‘ mood.
“Another 10 minutes, she’s very sorry”.
“No problem”, I answer diligently.
(Anyway, I’m occupied here with my thoughts and my imaginary interviewer who only seems to be interested in my skills in Hebrew; well, my most limited one from all)
10 minutes, she said. That is just enough time to write down some short real-life snapshots on the back of carefully crafted resumé – how idle of me.
Being The Girlfriend of Him is not easy. No, not because he would show some very Mediterranean traits now and then, or because he could eat za’atar and Tahini for breakfast, lunch and dinner, or not because he cheers for this weird basketball team called Maccabi. (Weird means: I found the word entertaining).
No. Living with Him is not easy because his passport states: Israeli citizen.
Since I have 10 minutes, I share with you 5 recent conversations just to give you a glance at my life, at our life and what it means to be with an Israeli when you’re not an Israeli, and you’re not in Israel. (You know only 5 because writing takes longer than talking. Otherwise, I would just give you the 10.)
Four months into our relationship, one of my best friends – thought, believed, hoped, since then gone best friend – pointed me the question: “Really? A Jew? You needed to get together with a Jew?”
I never saw him again. He never called again.
“Yes, my boyfriend is from Israel”.
“Tov-tov, but you [sic] ima Jewish?”
“No, my Ima is not Jewish.”
“You must convert then.”
(Subway talk in downtown Manhattan with an Orthodox Jewish man (!))
“Because he is OK for you not being Jewish now, but once he puts the ring on you, he will want you to be Jewish.”
“No, I know he won’t.”
“So then his Mother will for sure, they are the worst.”
“His Mother passed away, she will not. And even if she would be alive, she wouldn’t.”
“Well, you know, but I would be very careful”, said my Jewish-hater Jewish classmate at NYU.
“Yes, we live together”.
“And his name is this?” (the clerk points on my boyfriend’s ID card)
“Where are you from Sir?” (suddenly, I stop being important)
“This is my file; I think we can focus on me”. (I insist assertively, as I learnt)
“But Sir, you’re not European, right?”
“I am British”, says my boyfriend, who indeed has two passports.
“But, you are not British for sure. Where are you from?”
“I am from Morocco”.
I see how my boyfriend is controlling himself, and yet, his little vein on the top right corner of his head gets thicker and thicker.
“Ah, salam aleikum“ – says the bureaucrat at the local, Belgian commune with pride.
When we leave, I am mad at him. Not the clerk, but my boyfriend.
“Why do you lie about yourself?”
“I don’t lie.”
“Yes, you do. You are not British; you are Israeli, be proud of that.”
“Yes, but this is your file, and I didn’t want to give you trouble.”
I am still mad. Not at him, but the clerk.
It’s not the first time he does this. I mean, it’s not the first time that my boyfriend becomes Marrocconian for a few minutes. He says Morocco, because he’s some roots there, and it eases situations when needed. And it’s needed.
And she arrives. She didn’t give me the 10 minutes. And after her being late for half an hour, I really just want to tell her: Give me a few more sec, please, I need to finish my story. I just need to write it out; since there is hardly anyone I can get advice for the invisible swing, I sat on four years ago.
But it’s clear, she is the boss, I am the one to adapt.
She looks through my CV, and says:
“So why Hebrew?”
And so here is my 5th snapshot I promised:
“I would take out Hebrew from your CV”.
“Because it can close doors for you.”
“But what if I don’t even want to enter those doors?”
“What do you mean?”
“What if I don’t even want to work in a place where I can’t talk openly about my next visit to Israel, or that my boyfriend is from Israel.”
“So, get prepared for some closed doors, my dear.”
(Said an HR agent in midtown Brussels)
And for the last four years, I am preparing for those closed doors. And they do come. But what nobody told me that I would get some other doors opened. And perhaps, I’m happier this way.