Saturday, 29 December 2007

A Christmas laugh

(Courtesy of the better half)

As an El-Al plane lands at Ben Gurion Airport in Israel, the voice of the Captain comes over the PA system:

"Please remain seated with your seat belts fastened until this plane is at a complete standstill and the seat belt signs have been turned off. We also wish to remind you that using cell phone on board the aircraft is strictly prohibited."

"For those who are seated, we wish you a Merry Christmas and hope that you enjoy your stay...and to those of you standing in the aisle and talking on their cell phones, we wish you a Happy Chanukah, and welcome back home."

(Of course, the pilot hasn't met Christian Nigerians yet!)

I never thought I would say this, but I missed Christmas. Kind of.

Tuesday, 27 November 2007

The Street

I've never really understood why foreign journalists in this part of the world are so obsessed with what the man on the street thinks about everything and anything.

Take this Annapolis thingymajig that's going on at the moment. Sky, BBC World, France 24 and the Chinese English News Network whose name I have forgotten have all done reports today with reporters strategically placed at intersections (possibly the same one) and jerking their heads backward epileptically whilst they intone solemnly that the word on the street is good/bad/dreadful.

The problem with this is that the Man on the Street probably knows better than to tell the Journalist on the Street what he thinks about anything. In any case, what the Man on the Street tells the Journalist on the Street will differ significantly from what he will tell his Mate in the Pub (this is known where I come from as Beer Palour Analysis - similar in function to Armchair Generals and Monday Morning Quaterbacks), and this in turn would differ from what he tells The Wife at Home (this is the Under the Thumb syndrome - all men suffer from it to some degree, and will tell their wives anything they want to hear in return for a little peace and quiet).

But then, I really don't know why journalists go touting for political opinion on the street when there is some much more interesting shit going on that actually gives one some idea about the country that one is in.

For example:

I'm walking home yesterday with my son, and we get into an argument about his socks.

(Note - it really isn't worth arguing with an 11 month old about keeping his socks on, particularly when he wants to eat them)

This woman walks up to us, passes us, then drifts back again...

'He's your son?' she asks (in Hebrew)

I nod.

'Baruch HaShem' (Blessed be His name - similar to 'Praise Be!')

I smile.

'Where are you from?'

I'm used to this line of questioning. Happens all the time. I tell her.

'Are you looking for work?'

'Huh?' My Hebrew, at best, is bad. I misunderstood her, and thought that she was telling me that she was looking for work. Why anyone would think I could help with that is beyond me.

'You know' (still in Hebrew) ' work...are you interested?'

The penny drops. I tell her, as nicely as I can, that I am not looking for work.

She looks crestfallen. 'Are you sure'

I nod slowly. 'Very sure.'

She returns her attention to my son. 'He's white!'

Now this is not, strictly speaking, true. My son is mixed race, or bi-racial, or whatever the socially acceptable description is this week for a child who happens to have two parents from different parts of the world. So He is not as dark as me. Neither is he as white as his mother. But mixed race kids are a rarity in Israel.

I nod, slowly. I start to edge away, but the wretched child picks this moment to throw off his socks triumphantly and on to the ground. I bend to pck them up.

'Where is his mother from?'

In any other country, in any other part of the world, I would consider this question bloody impertinent and forward. Here, I just answer. 'She's Israeli'

'Ahh'. She goes silent for a moment. 'And her parents?'

Now, this stumps me. Why on earth would she want to know where my wife's parents come from. I presume that she misunderstood me, and then I misunderstood he, and she was asking where the wife came from again.

'I said, she's Israeli.'

'No!' she snaps impatiently. 'Her parents! Yemenite, Moroccan, Algerian...'

Ah. I tell her that my wife's mother has Polish roots, and her father German.

She falls silent again. I start to edge away, the son's socks in my pockets. Then she starts again.

'Are you Jewish?'

I suppose it is not immediately obvious that I am NOT Jewish. Whilst I am not Kippa and Tefilim wearing, there are plenty of secular Jews from Ethiopia and so on. I give her benefit of the doubt. 'Nope'

'Why?' She now looks as if she is about to cry? Dear Jesus (actually, he may not be the right deity to call upon at the moment, but never mind...)

'I dunno. Ein Li Emmunah'. I have no Faith.

'But he (pointing at my sock munching son) he is, isn't he?' This is more a statement than a question.

Technically, I suppose he is Jewish, although I do think it would be nice if he had some say in it at some point in time in his life. But never mind. We Catholics are just the same.

'Yes, he is.'

'Baruch HaShem! Baruch Adonai!' She had finally fond something to be pleased about.

I bid my farewell and fled before she asked to check if he had done his Brit Miliah.

Now, haven't your learned more about this country than you would from a whole phlanx of head jerking BBC foreign correspondents? Thought so.

Next time, I'll tell you about the man who insisted on showing me a porn film in the street in the middle of the day...

Wednesday, 14 November 2007

Jerusalem Syndrome

My mother has come to visit. And like any good tourist, she demanded to go to Jerusalem. I hate Jerusalem*. But what can one do?

In the old market, alongside the usual 'my lover/mother/brother went to Israel and all I got...' and 'Free Palestine Now' and 'I got stoned in Hebron/Ramallah/Gaza' tourist tat was one, in English, with the inscription 'To all you Virgins...Thanks for nothing'.

I'm still not sure what quite to make of it.

We did the Stations of the Cross. Or, rather, my mother did the Stations of the Cross. I looked pretty and took the photographs.

The Souk was busier than I remember seeing it before now. I suppose the tourists have started to come back again. A shopkeeper even invited me into his space with the words 'don't be afraid...' I wasn't sure what I was supposed to be afraid of for a moment.

On the other hand, the little boys puffed themselves to their full height and shouted 'Sudani' as we passed, trying (and failing) to look ferocious and threatening. Refugees, apparently, rank lower than dispossessed Arabs in the Food Chain.

I think my mother enjoyed the trip. I for my part, finally laid my hands on a copy of Time Out Israel in English.

A couple of ideas I was going to pitch to my editor were running as features inside. This means (1) Great minds think alike, (2) There is less to Israel than meets the eye or (3) I need to stretch my imagination a little more.

I think I'll have a nap and think about it a little more.

*I don't actually hate Jerusalem. I am, in fact, benignly indifferent to the city. But I like to say that I hate it to piss people off.

Tuesday, 30 October 2007

War (What is it good for?) I'm in the middle of my driving lesson (don't ask) and Joe Cocker comes on the radio. One thing leads to another, and soon we start swapping stories about our favourite rockers from the sixties and seventies.

'Jimi he was one.' Motti muses.

I narrowly avoid a little old lady crossing the road. 'Yeah...pity they all die young.'

'I remember when he died.' For a moment, I swear that Motti is wiping a tear from his eye. That said, it may be my driving that is driving him to distraction. '1969, it was.'

I shake my head. 'Hendrix died in 1970, man.'



'I know what I am talking about,' Motti retorts indignantly. 'I was in the Army, in the middle of the war then.'

The traffic lights ahead turn red, and I ease to a halt. I pause and think for a for a minute. Perhaps he is right. I mean, it's not like I was born in 1969 or anything. Then a thought occurs to me.

'But you're always fighting wars in Israel. That's not really a good gauge to use, is it?'

The lights turn green. One nanosecond later, the guy behind us starts horning like it's 1999. Motti shrugs. 'You have a point there.'

On the radio, the commentator is wondering whether Israel will get into trouble with Iran, Syria or Hamastan next.

Saturday, 15 September 2007

In the beginning...

Well, I've been Israel for 6 months now. I haven't been deported, I've been away on holiday and I came back, and my wife hasn't divorced me yet. So I guess I'm here for the duration, and I might as well bore y'all about it.

I'm Goy, and this is my guide to life in Israel. Hope you enjoy it