“Your shoes are all wrong.”
“Excuse me?” David Shemesh asked as the man surveyed the long length of his body before his eyes rested on his non-descript brown dress shoes.
“Your shoes are wrong,” repeated Boris Gurevich, who after independence would change his last name to Gurviel. “They’ll know you are from
. An Arab shoeshine boy has nothing to do all
day but think about shoes. They can’t
read; they don’t go to the cinema. That
is what they do all day: pray, shine shoes and make little
David Shemesh stood in front of Boris Gurevich, the official was somewhat concealed behind his desk by a hedge of stuffed file folders. A column of white hair stood atop his head, like some primeval glacial poised to fall.
Behind him, the window shade was tightly closed. But even so, the
sun infiltrated the room through
minute pin pricks in the cotton fabric illuminating a galaxy of floating
dust. A tram rattled below in the
street. In the far distance a siren from
a British patrol wailed. In the face of
Gurevich’s disapproval, Shemesh felt he was standing in front of his father. Jerusalem
“I know you are from
I’ve read your file carefully.
Otherwise, we would not be asking you to do this. Fluent in Arabic, you went to a
Muslim secondary school…” Iraq
“A secular Arabic school,” Shemesh interrupted, but Gurevich continued, the point moot.
“You can pass as a Muslim in a crowd or at a dinner table; this is not in doubt,” he said gravely as he looked at Shemesh through narrow eyes. “But I have found, in this business, that it isn’t the big things that snag you. No, it is the little things that fuck you up: the shoes made in
the Hebrew word which slips out in the wrong crowd. The bit of knowledge that you shouldn’t have
about a street corner in Tel Aviv, or a garden in Jerusalem, which you reveal,
and snags you. The little things
we don’t account for fuck us up.” Palestine