Because I am a Jew. What that meant, my 9 year old self was not too sure. But it was that simple. Because I was a Jew I had to sit somewhere else. I had to find new friends to spend break time with. I had to grow up and learn about Anti-Semitism. And all this in Grade 4. Quite a tall order, if you ask me.
Perhaps that lesson was a long overdue nudge in the right direction; to ensure the ancient, unspoken rules that govern social interaction remain untarnished. Heaven forbid Jews and Muslims ever cross paths and the idea that they could actually be friends, well that was improbable.
But there you have it. She was my best friend. She, the Muslim. Me, the Jew. And it worked, for a while. The two of us exploring childhood together. The two of us swopping stickers and playing dress up with our Barbie dolls. Once or twice we even took out the scissors and trimmed our Barbie’s hair. And sometimes at the end of it all our Barbies looked more like transvestites trying to grow out their Mohawks. But we had fun and I learnt to be quite creative with synthetic, blond hair.
And of course no childhood friendship would be complete without the magic of Disney, tartrazine and lots of sugar. And these were the things we never ran short of. And laughter. There was plenty of that too.
But we grew up and the laughter ran out. It was in primary school. Grade 4. There was a group of us and I was the only starry-eyed one. The only Jew. And boy they made that pretty clear. Not only was I starry-eyed but I was not welcome.
“Nicole, you can’t sit here anymore. You’re a Jew”.
And now, 13 years later I’ve decided to make Aliyah (to immigrate to the holy land). I’ve filled out the forms. And have started gathering the documents needed to prove I’m Jewish. Yes, you actually need to prove it. It’s not enough that ever since I can remember I’ve had strangers approach me as though they were doing some sort of census. So are you Greek? No, Italian? You must be Portuguese, they’d say to me feeling triumphant as though they’d solved some unfathomable mystery. As though finding out where I could be placed in the pecking order of life would make them feel fulfilled. Why else would they do it?
Poor me, huh? I got such a rough deal. And this is the part where I give you my bank account details so you can contribute to the fund I’ve set up. The I-am-Jewish-so-you-should-feel-sorry-for-me-fund. Ok, not really. But it’s also not the part where I tell you that me making Aliyah has to do with some innate Zionistic desire.To be honest, a part of me is disgusted by the state of Israel. But who am I to talk , I’m not Israeli. So it certainly isn’t Zionism that is driving me.
I can’t explain it, I think being singled out and told you can’t do something because you’re a Jew may have something to do with it. See now more than ever I am curious about what it means to be a Jew. And a part of me hopes that Israel will have some of those answers.
So for those of you that I’ve told about making Aliyah. And those of you that have given me the “Why Israel” response try and understand. It sounds crazy. But for the first time in my life I feel that this is something that I need to do not because someone is telling me to but because if I don’t my life will be empty and meaningless ; the worst type of life to lead.