Israel Stories

Sunday, May 27, 2007

The Force

……….And this is our basement. 25sqm, ideal for an office, spare bedroom or playroom.

“We’re not really allowed down hear”, said my eldest daughter, “its where Abba keeps his whisky and his Star Wars toys. See over there”, she pointed, “that’s a Darth Bader mask”.

“Darth Vader”, I corrected her. The prospective buyers of my house just stared at me blankly.

I tried to break the silence. “I don’t suppose they have Darth Vader masks in Bnei Barak.”

Needless to say they didn’t buy my house. I tried to use the Force actually I tried to use force, but to no avail.

The next lot of prospective buyers seemed a little more modern. “Yeah I love Star Wars, I remember my Dad telling me about going to the premiere”.

“Er, he didn’t take you?” I asked nervously. He just laughed. “Don’t be silly”, he said, “I wasn’t even born then, it was thirty years ago!”

I suddenly felt old, and I blamed it on George Lucas. If we didn’t have milestone I wouldn’t be able to gauge my age and would live in the everlasting sunshine of the spotless mind. Everything would be just a few years ago. I wouldn’t have to say 20, 25, 30 or even 35 years ago and I certainly wouldn’t have to say that I went to see Star Wars 30 years ago, a long time ago in a galaxy far, far away. Yes a bloody long time ago.

I suppose its all relative. My grandmother was born just before the First World War. History will probably record the world wars as more of a milestone than Star Wars. She remembers a time before the modern transport and television. More importantly she remembers a time before the State of Israel. She remembers a time when there were 3,500,000 Jews in Poland and she remembers a time when you could have a night out for shilling, and still have change for the bus.

I tried to explain to my daughters the significance of Star Wars and why after 30 years people still love it. They stared at me blankly.

So I walked away feeling old. Could I still be Luke Skywalker even though I was nearly 40, or would I be Obi Wan Kenobi? That was a sobering thought. I can remember running round the garden in my parents house, plastic light saber hooked to my belt, as my brother (an even younger Han Solo), and I fought off the imaginary storm troopers and Darth Vader. Ah, happy days I thought, swimming in the sea of nostalgia.

And then my heart lifted as I saw my daughter with my light saber hit her sister, wearing the Darth Vader mask, over the head, shouting “Die rebel scum”. But as with all waves they come crashing down eventually. First the tears then the arguments then the ‘yes dear I was looking after them, and scum isn’t a rude word, yes I’ll take it away from them, when I was their age I used to hit Jonny over the head, it doesn’t hurt, OK, OK, bedtime girls’.

Then I settled down to watch TV and as channel 2 came into view I heard a reporter on the news talking about 30 years of Star Wars. In typical Israeli style they claimed to have invented the concept, the technology and even traced the actors Jewish and Israeli roots.

The concept was obviously that the Torah was the Force. The technology was the same as ideas people were working on here at the time and the actors or rather Natalie Portman was born here.

So its official Star Wars is Israeli. The country isn’t even 60 yet, in fact when Star Wars was released Israel was 29, hardly old enough to create such a masterpiece of cinematic history. Then I realized that George Lucas was about 29 when he started the Star Wars project.

I can feel a mid-life crisis coming on.

Wednesday, May 09, 2007

The Donkey

In the shadow of Samuels’s tomb we sat admiring the spectacular view obscured only by a donkey and two kids from a nearby village. We watched as these kids whipped and kicked the donkey, jumping on and off its back, the distressed groans from the poor animal making it all to clear he wasn’t happy. Even at, or especially at 14 I could sense the injustice and suffering caused by these kids. It was time for action. First shouting then fist waving. Resolutions were made; I would never cause harm or watch harm being done to another living being. It was my moral, religious and ethical duty. Two legs, four legs, six, eight or numerous, I was the protector of all living things.

But as the years went by spiders were crushed in tissues, ants were decapitated, cats were blasted with water and even the occasional lizard was executed. I am not proud of these crimes and should repent but since I am human I don’t feel the need. I suppose my warped sense of animal justice is that the wild is for them and the cities and towns for us. I would also like to point out, before I get the cat lovers letters again, that I would never intentionally out of malice or spite hurt an animal

But I still had this nagging memory of the donkey, it truly was very sad, reminded me of that sad depressed donkey, Eeyore.

So when I returned home from Bet Kenneset, last week the last thing I expected to see was a Donkey tethered to a lamp post outside my house. The kids were gabbling something about a donkey and I was conscious of drawing some very odd looks from passers by on my way home. I kept thinking why are the kids talking about donkeys and getting so excited?

And there he was, definitely male, standing in his breakfast, outside my house. The first thing I noticed was he was very exposed to the sun. The boys in the street who had ‘rescued’ him explained he couldn’t be moved until after Shabbat.

“Are you all mad, I am not having a donkey tied up outside my house for the rest of the day”. Visions of a dehydrated or even worse donkey came to mind. “It’s cruel, he needs shade.”

The boys protested about not moving him until after Shabbat. I had other ideas.

I knocked on their parent’s door.

“The donkey has to go, tell your kids they had no right tying up outside my house, its unhealthy and unclean and making a mess of the pavement.”

They just laughed and said they’re only boys. Then they closed the door in my face.

I grumbled something about Israeli parents and returned to the donkey.

“This donkey belongs to somebody, you have to let it go and maybe it will return home”.

“It’s a stray,” one of the boys shouted, “doesn’t belong to anybody.”

“Oh and I suppose it put its own bridal over its head, clever donkey.”

Enough was enough, I didn’t have the time, patience or Ivrit to carry on arguing with these boys. I marched towards the donkey, untied him, gave him a slap on the tuchos and sent him on his way.

End of story I thought. Nothing in life is ever that simple.

After lunch the donkey was back, tied to another house. By this time all the kids in the neighborhood were staring at it, like some alien being.

“If that donkey is still here in half an hour I am calling the police after Shabbat. You and all your friends will be arrested for causing harm to and stealing a donkey.”

That did the trick, they all jumped up and scattered. The donkey was led onto the road and ushered forward in the direction of the surrounding hills.

After Shabbat the donkey was back. This time it wasn’t the village kids jumping on its back, but locals. To say I lost my cool was an understatement. Even the donkey was startled, but relieved.

That evening the donkey was escorted out of Bet Shemesh back to his home somewhere in the hills.

As I said goodbye to the donkey I felt a strange warmth, mainly around my shoes.

So I returned home expressing my strong opinions about animals and especially donkeys.