I will never forget the day two British girls in Israel mistook me for Israeli. We had all been looking for work. I had been living in Israel for some three months by that point. I had a deep suntan, curly hair and a lovely pair of Arab trousers, with the crotch down round my knees by that point, so I guess I understood the misunderstanding. To tell you the truth, I was quite flattered. Israeli women are truly beautiful.
I think I must be a bit racially ambiguous.
My great great grandmother was French but I believe my olive skin, which runs in my father’s side of the family, goes back much further than that. I have discussed it with other relatives of my father’s whom I have met through my research and yes olive skin, dark eyes and dark hair very much run through my grandmother’s side of the family.
My mother, well she is so British, it’s not funny. Two seconds of sun and she turns beetroot red. The French call we British people rosbifs, I believe for our tendancy to turn pink in the sun.
I have been eyed suspiciously at times. I was once chased down on the street by a shop assistant, who thought I had stolen an ant farm. They had seen the look in my eyes, had realised their mistake immediately and tried to backtrack but by that stage, I was not going to have a bar of it. I had marched back to the shop and demanded they search my bags. Whereupon it became clear my ant farm had been purchased from a completely different shop.
Another time I had been paying for my shopping in a supermarket and the woman had asked to look in my bags. I had dutifully obliged. I had then been forced to totally empty my bags and yet they had still seemed determined to further humiliate me. When I had eventually tearfully returned home, (after I had calmed down) I had rung the store manager to complain. He had been lovely. He had apologised and had told me to ask for him personally, if I had ever experienced issues again.
Bag searches are routine here. My friend and I were both shocked when it had happened to us as backpackers, but I wish I could say it is the only time I have been subjected to an over zealous bag search.
My daughter tells me, it is because of my age and not my perceived ethnicity but I remain unsure. Her friend, who works in a supermarket, is apparently always dealing with light-fingered women from my age group.
Perhaps all this seems irrelevant in the current climate but for me it isn’t. At times superficial judgements about me and my children have also endangered our lives.