This is a cross-post by Marc Goldberg
I have always liked saying that I am British by an accident of birth and Israeli by choice.
The truth of that isn’t in doubt, that’s basically how it happened and now I’m resident in Tel Aviv with no plans to move back to the United Kingdom (though that doesn’t mean it will never happen). Up until recently having a UK passport simply meant that I could breeze through passport control more quickly when on holiday to visit my family, that’s also the only reason I could think of not to give up my citizenship entirely. This is why it struck me as strange that during the month and a half after my British passport had expired and before my new one arrived I felt a peculiar sense of anxiety.
Could it be that I actually valued that little, red booklet more than I had previously realised?
My anxiety worsened when that last remnant of Britain failed to materialize before a trip I had to make to London. A phone call to the British embassy left me assured that I could enter the UK on my Israeli passport but…I didn’t want to. I wanted to go ‘home’ on my British one, I wanted them all to know that I was one of them when I arrived.
So when I found myself at Luton airport standing in a queue with all the tourists and having filled out a form to make the officials aware of where I was staying I felt truly out of place. “No you don’t understand” I thought to myself “I’m one of us not one of THEM” I thought to myself while neatly sandwiched between a blonde bombshell from the USA and an Indian family.
My UK passport finally made an appearance after my return from the ‘old country’ and the relief I felt at being English once again (yes I know not technically true) was enough to get me thinking about the country I grew up in and that maybe I had fonder feelings than I cared to admit.
I never liked the fact that I was in England when I was growing up, I felt utterly divorced from the country and the culture. As a point of fact I wasn’t sure how to define by Englishness at all, I felt like a Jew trapped in the wrong place for most of my adolescence.
I felt like I had nothing in common at all with those other people in the country for as long as I can remember. All my friends were Jews and I saw us different from everyone else. I was angry and didn’t think that the country was interested in me from the government on down. I felt like an outcast.
All my teachers at school seemed to be highly eccentric in a way that made me feel nothing short of uncomfortable whenever they were around me, which was constantly. I identified their quirks and eccentricities with a quintessential Britishness that I just couldn’t share. They spoke like toffs with posh accents, because they were and their accents tended to be shared by the politicians I saw speaking empty words at television cameras.
I hated England. I hated the grey, I hated the blandness of the world I saw there. I hated the people around me.
There seemed to be only two kinds of people, those like my teachers and thugs off of council estates. Either weak hypocritical types who went to the same college in Oxford that daddy went to or tough morons who ended up in prison for the same crimes that daddy committed when he was their age. I hated going out and wandering around the streets, I hated England!
But now I wonder. I wonder when I see Parliamentary committees interviewing Muslims to find out if there’s anything the state can do to stop them from feeling disaffected, I wonder when I hear another great song by an English artist, I wonder when I see the debates during Prime Minister’s question time.
I wonder whether it was England at all or whether it was me.
I wonder whether the few Muslims (and others) who felt the need to kill their fellow Britons in the name of their religion did it because the country did as bad a job of integrating them as they did with me. I’m wondering whether a country that cares so much it holds parliamentary inquiries into the extent to which it is integrating immigrant families and the generations that stem from them can be all that bad and I’m wondering if perhaps there are just people who want to blow other people up and will latch onto whatever cause is going.
I’m wondering if I was one of those people.
I’m wondering if the words young and angry go together so well for a reason. I wanted to change the world and being young and angry are what pushed me forward, gave me the strength to leave the country of my birth and take a course of action that I desperately wanted to take, one that I saw then as my life’s work and now am proud to have done. The combination of my anger and my youth had a positive effect, it led me to make strong, life changing decisions that saw me grow as a man. Now that I am a man and have the perspective of a few more years and a few less hormones I am taking a different view of the world around me.
Because the world no longer seems large and frightening, people no longer seem to have an evil intent, because the world is what we make of it. Then I felt helpless in the face of a cruel world, helpless and drowning.
And now I have to admit the truth, I was wrong.I love the city of my birth and the place where my family remain.
I am proud of my country and the influence they have had on the world and I am proud of what I learned of democracy, freedom and the importance of standing up for what you believe in from the eccentric people who taught me so poorly or perhaps I was a bad student.
I now have the honour of being a citizen of two countries, the land of my birth and the land of my people, the country that adopted me, that took me in no questions asked is the place where I remain, but the country of my birth and my family is never far from my thoughts.
I am proud to be a son of both Britain and Israel.