Israel Stories

Thursday, July 12, 2007

The Bonfire of the Insanities

The Golan is possibly one of the most beautiful areas of Israel. We love it and at any given opportunity (which usually works out at about once a year if we’re lucky) we hope in the car and drive north. Its like a different world as you leave behind you the intense and pressurized world of middle Israel, the political scandals, Haredi rioting, the irritatingly slow post office, the frustratingly pig-headed bureaucrats and the woman who you meet in many different guises who tells you your children are under dressed, over dressed, under nourished, overfed or just cute, and proceeds to slobber over them.

Ah yes, just to breath the fresh air and lose yourself in the Hermon (it wasn’t my fault and I know its bloody great mountain near Syria, no I don’t need a map, and we weren’t trespassing and we wont get blown up by mines) I love it!

At this point I want to make it clear, especially to all the Nefesh B’Nefesh Olim that I wouldn’t trade living here for anything.

With the kids getting utterly fed up in the back of the car we looked for an ideal picnic spot. Actually the ideal picnic spot is the Golan. We pulled over and started unloading our supplies. I collected all the chips that littered the floor of the car and began to scatter the remnants of crackers and pasta? into a nearby field. The birds, I explained to my kids, will befit from the food mountain they had accumulated and deposited in the car. As I found the last scraps of matza probably left there since our last grand family tiyul, I noticed a large shadow overhead.

Now being English, its not unusual for a large shadow to appear in the sky on a summers day. In fact its par for the course, expected, it would be strange of it didn’t happen, but this is Israel. Even in the Golan its still strange for a shadow this dark to appear.

It was the smell that struck me first. Bar-b-q. Possibly one of planet Earths best fragrances. I once suggested that they should bottle it. To my mind it’s the essence of a great afternoon, reminders of lazy Sundays, Yom Ha’atzmaut (otherwise known as the great Israeli Sunday), overbuying and gorging yourself on meat until even the most manly of men has to say ‘no more’.

I took my eldest two and we decided to investigate where this heavenly smell was coming from. We followed the dark cloud and the smell until we arrived at a small clearing where another family picnic was in full swing. My eyes scanned the party for the bar-b-q. There it was, burning away and the source of the black shadow was a cloud caused by the billowing smoke coming from the fresh leaves and branches inadvertently thrown on to the fire.

Then I noticed what was cooking and quickly told the kids to run back to their Imma. After a bit of persuading they got bored of trying to look around me over me and through me and ran back.

There on the bar-b-q was a hole deer, a bambi, a once cute, future buck, roasting like some sacrifice from another age.

The family looked round to see me looking at their prize catch. The patriarch, I assumed, stood up and beckoned me forward.

“Please,” he said a broad American accent, “Please join us”.

“Are you allowed to catch and eat Deer in the Golan?” I asked rather sheepishly.

“This animal is not from the Golan, its from Syria and therefore probably OK to eat”.

I looked at the guy, planning my escape rout.

“I have my own family picnic, so I wont be joining you, and anyway unfortunately I only eat Kosher meat killed in the proper way.”

“This was killed in the biblical way, it was stoned and its neck was broken, then we roasted it in the manner of the Paschal sacrifice.”

“That’s great, urm but I really have to go.”

Now I’ve come across many alternative slants on real life since I’ve been living in Israel. You only have to walk through the Old City in Jerusalem to find King David, the Messiah and a whole plethora of prophets, but this struck me as not only decidedly odd but really quite sick. I considered called the police.

In retrospect the more I think about it the more I worry. What type of people is capable of stoning an animal and breaking its neck in front of their kids? What sort of family go out on a family picnic catch and kill a deer (which I actually don’t believe they did) and roast it.

Arriving back in the relative reality of Bet Shemesh, I was happy to see that our MKs were still misbehaving, that the haredim were still rioting, that the guy in the post office was still annoyingly slow and the frustratingly pigheaded bureaucrats were still frustrating and pigheaded. Why, because suddenly I was back in reality. OK so its not perfect, this young country of ours, but as I have now witnessed first hand the alternative is a lot more scary.

Thursday, July 05, 2007

The Devil and the Deep Blue Sea

Once again violence was aimed at Jewish Israelis going about their ordinary lives. The news reported that stones and bottles were hurled at Israeli cars, oil was spilled onto the road, graffiti sprayed and trees ripped up. The perpetrators, known as a radical branch of an otherwise peaceful group, took full responsibility, proud of their actions and apparent blatant regard for human life and property.

These terrorists were not attacking Jews because of the ‘occupation’ or because of the ‘right of return’; these terrorists were attacking Jews because certain signs, erected illegally on traffic lights, were removed from their neighborhood. The natural response of course is rioting.

As it was with the famous cartoons so it is with signs but these radicals were not Palestinian or Arab, they were Haredi Jews who felt the need to disregard every word they spend their time learning in order to cause wanton destruction and violence on innocent parties. Its like kicking up a communal tantrum ever time something doesn’t go their way.

As one resident of Bet Shemesh put it, “They preach like angels and act like the devil”. Strong stuff and probably unnecessary but when you get a rock thrown at your head, that point of view suddenly seems more understandable.

Still there’s good and bad as I am constantly being told. Black sheep and rotten apples.

Tantrums are as much a part of parenting as being woken up at 3am or schepping nachas at a ballet performance.

I have always had a love hate relationship with the beach. I love to swim in the sea, hat the way sand manages to penetrate everything from your picnic to your er, ears. (Tamed that down a bit!). So when we last visited Netanya of course the cry went up to go to the beach, heaven forbid we could sit round the pool. No the kids wanted the sand and the sunburn, they wanted me to run around after them, never taking my eye off our youngest, in short they wanted me to have really bad time just so they could realize I was right about the sand and the sunburn. (By the way we are very careful about sun cream but there is always one little spot that get missed).

I decided to put my foot down, but it was a bad decision for two reasons, firstly because it started world war three and secondly because I was driving and we sailed forward very suddenly narrowly missing a truck, we will remember 36 807 18 for a very long time to come.

The kids started with the shoulder shrugging and the oofs’ as only Israeli kids know how. “Oof its not fair, oof our friends all go, oof you never do anything for us, oof why cant we go, oof, oof, oof!”

Then came the negotiation, “we’ll only be good if you let us go”. Then the tears came, the welling up of emotions, the shouting, the kicking the back of my seat and the fighting.

“No,” I said sternly, trying to keep my cool. This time there was no giving in. I was going to stand my ground. They couldn’t behave like that, I had certain standards and they were expected to meet them. No negotiation under tantrums. I was taking the hard line.

“Ok kids”, my wife said, “we’ll go to the beach”.

Suddenly there was silence, I was fuming. “Well look at it this way,” she said. The only reason why you don’t want to go to the beach is the sand. You’ll enjoy it when your there, so its us against you. We are more than you so we win.”

As I looked at the deep blue sea I thought to myself ‘no where to run to no where to hide’. Some battles just aren’t worth the fight.