Israel Is Life
Ben Gurion airport is located in the middle of nowhere, as most airports are. You leave and enter a highway, bound for Jerusalem. The view en route is neither sacred nor propitious. One thinks Israel looks exactly like New Jersey, or the Valley of Ashes. Thus, one would think Israel is nothing special until you discover that even 10 years ago, there were no such highways. However, as you leave the highway and enter Jerusalem, all such thoughts vanish. Everything is spectacular every building by decree must be made from Jerusalem stone, so it is difficult to separate the ancient from the recent. We stayed at the Hotel Inbal, built along Moorish lines, with everything opening up onto a central courtyard.
The first two days were pretty boring and the visits with various political and religious leaders all blurred together. All I could say was that I went off the bus, politely positioned my body to listen to somebody blathering, went back on the bus, went to another site where I heard some more blather, on the bus, off the bus, and a lot of blather in between. Several events do stand out, however. We visited the Knesset to meet with Minister of Justice Tommy Lapid and MKs Michael Melchior and Avram Burg. My entrance was spectacular and was worthy of a Mel Brooks movie. I kept setting off the security device, no matter what was removed from my body. Piece by piece, I removed my jewelry, my watch, my belt, only to keep setting off the sensor. Finally, I was ushered to a private chamber, where I was patted and wanded by a female security guard, touched in the various intimate places where I would usually require a proposal of marriage before permitting, only to learn that it was the wires in my bra that set off the bells and whistles of the sensors. Well, at least I know one part of my anatomy can truly be regarded as explosive. We got to see the Knesset debating the Road Nap and I learned the MK5 behave worse than post-docs at the staff meeting. There wasn't ever a moment that I witnessed where three or four NK5 weren't out of their seats, talking on their cellulars. At one point, we heard a lot of noisy and animated side conversations, whence Ariel Sharon started yelling, "Toda Raba. Toda Raba. Yoshevet. Yoshevet. Toda Raba." (Thank you, sit down).
The second outstanding part of the visit was the tour of the Tel Nof Air Force Base, where we heard a presentation from what was guaranteed to be the hottest looking lieutenant colonel I've ever met. This hottie, the Commander of the F-l5 Squadron, had the most exquisite sculptured face and a muscular, lithe frame that could not be hid by the somewhat baggy coveralls he had donned. Unfortunately, I could'nt begin to give you the highlights of his power point presentation, so distracted was I by the anatomical esthetics of his bodily presentation. I was severely disappointed to learn he's married with young children. Ah well, a girl can fantasize. He showed us an F-15 and let us climb up the steps to see it in all the nosy detail we could wish. We saw a demonstration of the F-15 in action and were hosted for lunch at the base. They eat well all sorts of salads, juices, macaroni (too mushy by American standards), meat bourekas, chicken burgers, and, mini pastries.
And as nothing in Israel is secret, we drove right by the base the American army is building in Israel and even took pictures. Officially, there is no American army base in Israel, but everyone knows where it is and that it is there. I'd tell you where it is along the Seam Line, but it would be denied since there is no American base in a friendly Middle Eastern country, so such data would be of no avail. Netanya reminded me much of Florida. I watched the elderly jabbering in Hebrew and thought, Oh come off it, you can really speak English, if you wished. I was not at all moved by the Park Hotel-it was hardly the World Trade Center the week after. It is all renovated now. Just as the World Trade Center is just another construction site. And I learned there how phrases in one country mean something different in another. At lunch, I asked for iced coffee, which to me is a glass of ice to which cooled brewed coffee has been poured into. There, it was delicious but we know that beverage as a coffee milk shake.
I could not omit from an account of my visit a paeon to Israeli bathrooms, as they are so spectacularly modern. The top of the tank has a push button for flushing. Their toilets flush almost noiselessly and none of the bathrooms, no matter how heavily trafficked, are noisome or loathsome. All the sinks were activated by sensors. All bathrooms had soap dispensers, with the most marvelous aroma issuing forth from them. However, the modernity does not extend to the clothes washing process-wherever you go in Israel, from the most upscale neighborhoods to the Ethiopian slums, you see clothing hanging from the second and third story windows. I was unclear whether a dryer was such an unaffordable luxury or whether Israelis despise to use it.
And the irony I come to Israel and late at night and early in the morning I watched VHI. Scanning the channels, I could also watch Spanish TV with Hebrew subtitles with Hebrew subtitles, reading what I could. When Crosby sang to Sinatra, "We sing so rare," the subtitles read, "Anochu shirim tovim" (We sing so good). When Kelly stuttered, "I don't know... probably not," the subtitle simply said, "Lo." (No).
One of the psychic realities of life in Israel is dissociation. On one side of the road might be Jordan, the other Israel; one side Palestine, the other Israel. This dissociation extends all the way to the Kotel, where the haredi have fashioned a metizah there, the men, sectioning off the largest portion for themselves, and allocating a tiny quarter for the women. The separation fence, is another example of dissociation, as it represents a literal wall, one which was already breached by Palestinian terrorists and has been recently criticized by the Jerusalem Post as representing yet another wall which has not lived up to its promise and will do more harm than good, like the Maginot Line, the Great Wall of China, and the Berlin Wall. Then, there are the practical difficulties. We hiked through the woods of the Kibbutz Mezer, to view the separation fence from a vantage point. On the Israeli side of the fence are the Palestinian olive trees the Palestinians will have to hike five miles out of their way, pass check points and guards in order to gain access to their trees. It matters not the borders of Palestine and Israel have not been finalized. American money is building the fence and American money will pay to move the fence, once the borders have been finalized.
If anyone expected me to undergo a spiritual transformation from visiting the Kotel and the Old Jewish Quarter in Jerusalem, they'd be disappointed. I went up to the wall and placed paper prayers in various cracks, for me and for my associates. I walked among the excavation of the old city and went where once the old mikvah was. I wasn't touched or anything I've lived in the Jewish city of New York for over 20 years now. Anyway, Israel is not what it was in the 1960's when Jews did things no Jew was used to thinking about like manual labor, etc. Nowadays, like everywhere else, there's subcontracting to non-Jewish immigrants. Nursing care is delegated to Filipinos (in fact, there's a part of Tel Aviv known as Little Manila) . Labor that is done by illegal Mexican's in the states is done by Palestinians and Romanians. There are also Thais and Vietnamese available, not to mention Ethiopians and Russians.
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