Monday, 6 April 2009

And you must be the Nanny...

My friend M is half Iraqi and half Polish.

Well, she's fully Israeli - obviously, born and bred here and all - but her antecedents are mixed, Mizrachi and Ashkenazi. Her father's family were expelled/induced/tricked out of Iraq in the early 1950s, I think. Her mother's family came here in the 1930s, before the unpleasantness with Mr Hitler.

Broadly speaking, there really isn't any reason for this to be of anything other than general anthropological interest to anyone in this country, in this day and age.


M takes her looks from her father's side of the family. Long lush jet black tresses, a strong chin and nose, full lips. Think Rita, but better looking.

M's husband is

(I'm assuming - I've never thought to ask that I think of it, the only reason why I know for certain that N has Mizrachi antecedents is because she told me once about the trauma her family suffered when they moved to Israel, from a life of comfort and security to a fraught, impecunious existence...but that's another story altogether)

Ashkenazi. So naturally their first born, given the concentration of European genes, has lighter skin and hair than her mother.

Again, so what?

So this. A couple of weeks ago, M takes her child for a walk in the pleasant spring sunshine.

Now, Israelis can't resist children. They coo over them. cluck at them, ruffle their hair, share tips...generally, the Hebrew nation is collectively incapable of minding its business when it comes to small children. But usually in a good way.


A woman stops to coo at M's infant daughter. After exchanging plesanteries with the baby, safely ensconed in her pushchair, for a moment or two, she straightens and addresses M directly.

"So you're the baby's nanny?"

Of course, the main problem with ethnic discrimination in Israel is that it is based on the entirely fallacious presumption that European, Ashkenazi culture is inherently superior to that of the Levant and Orient. Which, like many other sweeping generalisations, is wilfully stupid. Anti-Mizrachi sentiment has, in part, been supplanted by anti-Russian, anti-Ethiopian and other minority disdain, but it is still there. The scars have been around for a long time, and still run deep.

There's a wonderful quote in Donna Rosenthal's book The Israelis (not a bad book, although liberally sprinkled all over with nice sugar coating), related by an Ashkenazi woman after her first meeting with her Iraqi boyfriend's family. She "stupidly" commented that she didn't realise that Iraqi Jews had a developed culture; his mother shot back immediately. "Only for three thousand years, When our art and literature were thriving, your Polish ancestors were living in shacks, eating stale bread."



My sister in law's son has snowy blond hair and clear blue eyes. I call him Tintin.

Last Sabbath, Mrs Goy and I (emphasis on Mrs Goy) volunteered to babysit for a few hours whilst his parents attended to other matters. After a couple of hours, we both became stir crazy, and I decided to take Tintin for a walk in his pushchair.

We live in a quiet (too quiet!) suburban neighbourhood, and most people about in the early afternoon sun are either returning from Shul or taking peaceful post lunch walks. Quite a few peered in the pushchair, facing away from me, as we strolled past. Then upwards at me. Then back in the pushchair again. Then back upwards.

I merely smiled beatifically and walked on by. This must have happened at least half a dozen times in ten minutes. Only one person volunteered comment.

"He's not he?"

God, I love fucking about with people's minds. So much fun.

Tov, back to stuffing my useless face with Chametz.


Jon said...

Haha. Gold article!

Cheers for sharing your thoughts
Jon from Australia.

Goy said...

Thank you!