Life & Culture

We’re making aliyah to … N12


I'm channelling the Jews who built the pyramids

After the Holocaust a generation of Jews talked of keeping a packed suitcase by the door “just in case”. A depressing insight into the mindset of those who could never fully trust that their day-to-day reality wouldn’t again shift on the tide.

Not that we as a people haven’t already have a fair amount of experience when it comes to relocation. From nomadic tribesmen to slaves to Israel’s freeholders to diaspora and back, as our wandering shifted from voluntary venturing to escape and expulsion, you would hope that across millennia it would have somehow got easier for us to move house?

Amid the increasing antisemitism post-October 7, our family have decided we need more security. We also need a garden and extra bedroom, so we are making aliyah. To North Finchley. Or Barnet at a push, if the JC pay rise comes through.

Yet even though we made this decision months ago, we’re still clinging on like limpets in an overcrowded, deteriorating shell. Forget having a bag in the hallway, I can’t even fit into the loft to dig them out.

In today’s modern era, there are two factors our ancestors never had to deal with, developments that limit our capability to pick up sticks. The first being, we’ve got too many sticks.

When at any point in time in human history, have regular people managed to gather together quite so much crap? I blame Poundland, but five kids and a decade of birthday and Chanukah presents haven’t helped. Along with keeping every scrap of drawing paper and papier mâché blob they’ve so much as glanced at. And every item of clothing, just in case God pulls an Abraham and Sarah on us. Perhaps my book/comic/boardgame addiction also has something to do with it, as it long threatens to take up even more space than my wife’s skincare lotions.

Gone are the days of Tevya packing up a washbasin, broom and the rest, and being able to lug it all along in a cart. Although this is still physically impressive when you factor in all of Golde’s face creams. Our family would still be in Anatevka arguing about whether the broken air fryer is essential.

Our initial step then has been a mass declutter. Watching Marie Kondo would’ve been helpful for this bit, but we couldn’t make it over the mounds of discarded Paw Patrol toys to switch on the TV.

We tried a car boot sale but ended up spending more than we made on Ribenas and fried-egg sandwiches, so the last few weeks have entailed endless back and forth trips to the local charity shops. Now when they see me coming, wobbling along the pavement with my bags of broken air fryers, they pull down the shutters like I am a bandit in a Western.

However, at last we’ve had a breakthrough. We can see the walls again. Which brings us to the second factor; resale. I’m pretty sure there haven’t been any earthquakes over the past 14 years, yet more cracks are on display than a builders’ night out in Benidorm. I thought door slamming might be to blame, but puberty is only a recent phenomenon. Then I remembered the cracks were all here when we moved in, and have remained on my to-do list ever since.

Also on the list was a new kitchen, and finally we’re going to have a new kitchen! In time for us to leave. Our forebears never had this situation; make your neglected home liveable and perfect, for the new inhabitants.  It’s not like the Egyptians, Romans, or Russians with pitchforks ordering Jews to leave were saying: “But first put in a new faucet and repaint the hallway.”

And so my life has become that of perennially paint-spattered hands and sore knees, as a decade of home improvements and DIY is truncated into a few months. There’s a stereotype that Jews aren’t great at the manual stuff, that it doesn’t play to our strengths. To which, the sight of me utterly lost in B&Q, making indecipherable shapes with my hands to the shop assistants as I describe the kind of tool I’m looking for or the function I seek, may be the greatest contributing factor.

But I’m changing. I’m channelling those who built the pyramids. I’m channelling those who built the tabernacle, who could cut those shittim wood boards exactly ten cubits long and one and a half cubits wide. And who did not require B&Q assistance to discover what a cubit is, and never asked does one really need to lacquer the shittim? Interior or exterior lacquer? Which brand do they recommend? Does it need to be primed? What does “primed” mean? I’m channelling the Zionists who drained the swamps. All to sell our home for a new home. A new home... where I can again totally ignore the broken banister and sticky latch.

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