Finding Ferdy B

Keith Kahn-Harris
A Lockdown Miscellany
3 min readApr 15, 2020

On the wistful pleasure of turning a chance encounter into a minor obsession

There was no reason why we should have chosen him. It could have been anyone really. I don’t even understand why we found it funny, why simply mentioning a person’s name could make us laugh. Nevertheless it happened…

In the summer of 1992, my friend Russell spent 3 weeks backpacking in Israel. We slept for a few nights in a dingy hostel in King George Street in Jerusalem. At some point during our stay, a tall Dutch guy entered the dorm, dropped his bag and left. I don’t think we ever saw him again, either because we were leaving or he had second thoughts about sleeping in our dorm. We certainly never spoke to him. But I did find out his name: Ferdy B —

From then on, for years afterwards, Russell and I would double-up laughing if one of us mentioned his name. As I say, I really don’t know why. I suppose it’s just the sort of thing that 20 somethings do.

In the endless quest for lockdown amusement, I decided to ask the question that we couldn’t ask at the time: Who are you Ferdy B?

Today, what was once a task for detectives can be accomplished in a matter of seconds. We can all discover, stalk, satisfy our curiosity to know ‘whatever happened to…?’

I easily found the man who is almost certainly the infamous Ferdy B. There’s more than one, but not many. One of them though has the severe aryan looks that I remember, as well as — crucially — a connection to Judaism. His Twitter strapline reads ‘Looking for truth, looking for HaShem’ [HaShem is a term that religious Jews apply to God]. His one uploaded youtube video recounts his experience at an orthodox Jerusalem-based yeshiva that specialises in outreach to the non-religious.

Questions remain: If he really is Ferdy B, what journey was he on when Russell and I encountered him in 1992? Was he born Jewish (secular maybe) or is he a Jew-by-choice? If he is on the path to orthodoxy in 1992, why is he still apparently not orthodox in his appearance (he doesn’t wear a kippa)? Or have I simply misinterpreted his life, extrapolating too far from minimal online clues?

This is how the online world tantalises. It makes us think we can seamlessly know the other without effort; turning the most ephemeral encounters into doorways to revelation. True, some people share much more online than Ferdy B does, but that’s even more misleading — we are not the sum of the online traces we leave behind.

The question that tantalises me the most is whether he has been tempted to search for me and Russell? And if he has, did he work out that I changed my surname (from Harris to Kahn-Harris) when I got married in 2001? Is he doggedly working his way through the multiple online Keith Harris’s, cursing the ventriloquist Keith Harris whose name dominates the search results?

Well, probably not.

But we can’t know which of our encounters are truly ephemeral. We cannot assume that a moment of our lives that we forgot as soon as we experienced it might be someone else’s seismic event. I may well be the Ferdy B of someone who I have never even spoken to. Twenty-somethings may have made me into a stupid in-joke and I will almost certainly never hear about it.

Godspeed Ferdy B! I will let you disappear into the online ether (at least until lockdown restlessness rears its head again in some future year). If you ever read these words, get in touch.

Thanks for reading. This article is part of the publication ‘A Lockdown Miscellany’, a space for reflection on the obsessions provoked by this strange period of lockdown. Would you like to share yours? If so, get in touch.

Keith Kahn-Harris
A Lockdown Miscellany

Professionally curious writer and sociologist. Expert on Jews and on heavy metal — interested in much more. For more about me go to