By Melchett Mike
September 22, 2009
Dear Friends (well, that’s how “Sacksy” starts),
Dalia, one of the Rothschild kiosk quarter-to-seven crew – and the most balanced and normal of the natives who drink their morning coffee there (the competition, it has to be said, is not all that fierce) – recently surprised her husband, for his birthday, with a long weekend in Budapest.
On the morning following their return, she was simply gushing about the Pearl of the Danube, and especially the Marriott Hotel, on its banks, at which they stayed. The food. The rooms. The service. All superb. “And the best thing of all,” declared Dalia, without even a hint of jest, “we were the only Israelis.”
Now, you will never hear the Englishman – on his return to Blighty from the Costa del Sozzled (or whichever other destination he decided to grace with his civilising presence) – revel in the fact that he didn’t come across any other Englishmen during his sojourn.
Far from it. The Englishman delights in being amongst his own (and is even somewhat lost without them). Indeed, it is the “Kraut” and the “Frog”, the “Itie” and the “Spic” – in short, “Johnny Foreigner” – whom the Englishman does not wish to rub shoulders with on his hols.
I have been pondering this difference in attitude between the Englishman and the Israeli towards their own. It is not hard to fathom what it tells us about the Englishman . . . but what does it say about the Israeli?
The Israeli revels in one-upmanship. Everything he does or has must be better, less obtainable, more expensive – or, in the case of an identical product or service, cheaper – than what his friend does or has. So, for Dalia, the absence of other Israelis in the Marriott perhaps gave it an air of exclusivity.
The Israeli also believes that the Gentile – or at least the European, or white, English-speaking one – must necessarily have more class and/or culture than the native of the Middle East (said Israeli has obviously not spent a Friday evening in your average English city centre). Even I, a naturalised Israeli, receive looks of reverence when I – or, rather, my dreadful Hebrew-speaking accent – reveal my English roots. And I listen in puzzlement as awe-filled locals rave about aspects of London and England that I always took for granted. So, perhaps Dalia just didn’t want the Middle East interfering with her European weekend.
The Israeli also exhibits his own variant of what comedian Jackie Mason describes as “too Jewish” syndrome, relating to the Hebrew’s lack of comfort in his own skin. So, escaping her fellow Israeli for a few days perhaps provided Dalia with a welcome break from that uncomfortable ‘mirror’.
Jewish self-deprecation, our numerous complexes, and especially Groucho Marx’s not wanting “to belong to a club that accepts people like me as members”, all play their part here too.
Or perhaps I am just over-analysing. Anyone who has been on a flight, in a hotel, or anywhere for that matter, with a group of Israelis will know that there are politer, more decorous and rule-obeying breeds. Dalia’s continental breakfasts would not have been quite the same if dozens of her compatriots had been fighting over, and smuggling vast quantities of food out of, the Marriott buffet.
But – and I am getting to the Rosh Hashanah Message bit now (I think you will find the transition quite seamless!) – whilst neither Israelis nor life in Israel are perfect (both far from it), I strongly believe that those of you who are still living in the Diaspora are really missing out. You are just not “in the game”.
And when I hear of the ‘problems’ and concerns of friends visiting from the UK, of their interests, and those of their kids – not to mention Britain’s (and Europe’s) creeping Islamisation (about which I have blogged) – it just serves to reaffirm my decision to live here. Apologies for getting all existential on you, but, in the large scheme of things, the plushest of homes, flashest of cars, most extravagant of holidays, and even the best of schools, surely mean and count for little.
To return to the “footie” analogy (they tend to be the best, I find), the intensive training, expensive boots and fancy strip mean nothing . . . if you can’t even get on the pitch. And having the privilege to live during a rare period of Jewish self-determination – with sovereignty in the Land of Israel – has given all of us the opportunity to get on that “pitch”. It is totally incomprehensible to me how Jews, and self-declared Zionists to boot (pun intended), choose instead to watch from the touchline. (Whilst this may come across as preachy, my intention is not to patronise. And if just one or two readers think about the “Israel option” while bored sh*tless in shul this weekend . . . then pissing the rest of you off will have been worth it!)
So, a happy, healthy and peaceful New Year to readers of melchett mike and to all of Am Yisroel (the Jewish people) . . . but especially to the State of Israel and its citizens, who – in spite of their many faults – are the vanguard of our people, bringing their Diaspora brothers the standing, credibility, and thus security, to continue what I believe to be their relatively meaningless (in a Jewish sense) and increasingly precarious existence.
And, whilst Dalia may not be so pleased to see you during her next European “weekend of culture” . . . she would be delighted to have you here!
Rosh Hashanah 5770
[For more original, irreverent blogging by an ex-Londoner living in Tel Aviv, go to http://melchettmike.wordpress.com/]