Living without your name
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.
Keeping the Rent Down
A few weeks ago I told the story of my friend Hussein, who had to advertise his flat under the pseudonym Rami in order to rent it out. The other day, my neighbor Yifat, who owns two flats in our block – she lives in one with her two children and rents the other out – told me about her attempt to raise the rent from 4000 to 4500 shekels a month.
The tenant, she said, tried to haggle, offering her 4100 shekels. Yifat was willing to come down to 4400, arguing that many military bases are being relocated to the Negev, which would surely lead to a steep increase in rents. Indeed, an air-force pilot had already contacted her and was willing to pay 4500.
The tenant didn’t yield. She said she was willing to meet halfway, but no more. “4250 shekels is a hefty price,” she said, “particularly if one takes into account the new circumstances in the neighborhood.”
‘What new circumstances?’ Yifat asked.
‘Didn’t you hear?’ the tenant said. ‘Neve is going away for a year and has rented his flat to an Arab.’
After reading the last post, a Palestinian lawyer wrote that she thought the flat prices on the block would actually increase once people heard that I left the neighborhood.
Another friend responded that in the “most accomplished enemy competition” between “Jewish traitors” and Arabs, it appears that the latter still have the upper hand.