The question of where I belong and where I come from has been at me again. Here I am in an English village with its own Steiner school, health shop and film society. I have a few friends and connections in this place, am on nodding terms with shopkeepers, and the woman behind the counter at the chemist knows my name and automatically ticks the medical exemption box for me. There is a cafe where the coffee is just right and people go with their laptops, it might almost be trendy Shoreditch. I love the terrain here, the forest, the combination of wildness and gentleness. But I don't feel as though I belong here or that this is where I'm from.
As a child I was never in a place long enough to feel that this is where my roots are. Germany perhaps, but that was partly fairy tale and something about Christmas that lodged itself in my imagination. And Germany is where my parents had to run from as refugees, so how can I come from there?
When I speak about the English I know I am not speaking about myself, and especially not when I speak about the English middle classes, though I am middle class. After the Olympics opening ceremony I said, yes, there was something quintessentially English about it: the disparate elements hit the moveable spot, the particular something that might almost miss the mark with its blurred boundaries between the ridiculous and the elegiac. You would only really get it if you were English, and I got it. But still.
I want my tribe, is that it? Some ongoing predicament of the diaspora Jew? I am not properly Jewish, even if the Nazis would have given me full marks. When my mother, on entering her twilight years, wanted to become a member of a local synagogue she was told she would have to convert - even though her father perished in Buchenwald - even though her mother (who was not born Jewish) did convert. But she converted in old age, and so it did not count, as far as my mother's eligibility was concerned. Blut und Boden, und was noch? And yet, when my son went on an all-expenses-paid trip to Israel, the organisation responsible welcomed anyone who had at least one Jewish (full-blooded) grandparent. He had two and a half. For the duration of that holiday, he belonged, and though he was not tempted to up sticks and make his life in Israel, he did for a short space feel a sense of belonging to a community where you acknowledge in your being that yes, you have this essential and unbreakable thing in common.