« | Home | »

Living without Your Name

Tags: |

My friend’s wife was accepted to a PhD program at McGill University in Montreal. They decided to move to Canada with their two children at about the same time that I was offered a fellowship at Princeton and decided to move with my family to New Jersey for a year. Hoping to rent out our apartments while we’re away, we both posted ads on the most popular website in Israel. I received about five calls a day and found a tenant within a couple of weeks. My friend received only three calls in four weeks, and none of the people who called came to look at his flat.

A few days ago he removed his ad from the website and posted a new one, only this time he changed his name from Hussein to Rami. Rami is an ethnically indeterminate name – it can be either Jewish or Palestinian – but there are no Jews called Hussein. Within three days ‘Rami’ received about thirty phone calls, and six people came to look at the flat. He expects to sign a lease with one of them tomorrow. In Israel, if you are a Palestinian and want to rent a flat, at times, to misquote Arthur Miller, you have to live without your name.

Comments on “Living without Your Name”

  1. philip proust says:

    Not even people with Palestinian names want to rent from landlords with Palestinian names?
    Or Palestinian-named renters are too poor to participate in the rental market that academics inhabit?

  2. David Gordon says:

    And the etymology of the surname “Gordon”, at an Israeli address? I am sure the eager potential tenants were not hoping to rent from a Scottish expatriate, probably from Aberdeen.

    The point is that, rather gratifyingly for those of us who have had the name in the family for a dozen or more generations and who like it, it was a favoured choice when Jewish refugees who had found a safe home in Britain wanted to change their family name to something British-sounding.

    • alex says:

      There is a folk legend – probably gestated by Scottish self-images of hospitality – about Jews arriving in that country and on being asked their name, saying ‘Vergessen’ (i.e. ‘forgotten’) whereupon the registrar wrote down ‘Fergusson’.

    • Phil Edwards says:

      Until I thought about it (just now) I was convinced Gordon was a Jewish name as well as a Scottish one. I think the underlying problem was a childhood confusion between David & Jonathan and Peter & Gordon.

Comment on this post

Log in or register to post a comment.


  • Recent Posts

    RSS – posts

  • Contributors

  • Recent Comments

    • Phil Edwards on Stop Blaming Migrants: As it happens I gave a lecture on right-wing populism this afternoon. When I got to the section on nativism the lecture nearly ground to a halt - I'd ...
    • streetsj on Goldwater Revisited: My natural instinct is to think that fears of actual-Trump will prove to be overblown - I certainly don't go along with the Brexit doom-mongering - bu...
    • Timothy Rogers on Goldwater Revisited: This time around the populist paranoia is focused not upon some sinister foreign foe or Hollywood-style arch villain, but on certain groups of our fel...
    • editor@dailydetox.org on All Over for Sarkozy: It is worth noting that both Sarkozy and Le Pen are staring down the barrel of the gun of the Tribunal correctionnel. Sarkozy for the reason mentione...
    • suetonius on On Spring Street: Friends of my parents, together with someone who ended up on my Ph. D. Thesis committee (it's a small white petit bourgeois world) bought a building o...

    RSS – comments

  • Contact

  • Blog Archive

Advertisement Advertisement