Jill Cartwright is a 31 year-old non-Jewish woman from England who lives in Tel Aviv, where she works as a sub-editor at Haaretz newspaper and lives with her boyfriend, the Israeli singer/songwriter Saar Badishi. The following is the first part of a mini-memoir that recounts how and why she moved to Israel in the winter of 2001, at the height of the second intifada, and what it’s like to be a non-Jew in Israel.
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One day after purchasing my open-return ticket to Tel Aviv, in the winter of 2001, I was sitting in the spacious living room of my parentâ€™s North Yorkshire home watching the news. Images of panicked Israelis queuing up for gas masks filled the screen. A few days previously, a Palestinian bus driver had driven into a line of people waiting at a bus stop, killing eight, and just a couple of months before that, Ariel Sharon had made his infamous visit to the Temple Mount and kicked off the Al-Aqsa Intifada.
My Dad slowly turned his gaze towards me, lifted his eyebrows and gave me a â€œWhat the hell are you doing?â€ look. It was the first such look – but definitely not the last. From then on it was normally directed at me by one of those guys who stroll Tel Aviv beaches looking for unsuspecting single girls reading a book in a foreign language. They know foreign girls will be more polite to them than any self-respecting Israeli girl who would tell them exactly where to go (but more of that later):
Guy: â€œWhere are you from?â€
Guy: â€œWhat is your name?â€
Guy: â€œAre you Jewish?â€
Then the eyes squint into an involuntary spasm of perplexity, the forehead wrinkles, the jaw drops loose, the shoulders shrug and the palms turn out, the head starts to shake from side to side and they just canâ€™t help themselves: â€œThen what the hell are you doing here?â€