Israel Stories

Sunday, November 11, 2007

The Ideal Husband

Kraftwerk got it spot on, she’s a model and she looking good, I’d like to take her home that’s understood. Deep, almost Shakespearian lyrics and complicated in their simplicity. A million words unspoken in two lines expressing life, art, hope and little slice of lust.

You can look but don’t touch. Scan the menu but don’t eat anything. You can browse but don’t try anything on. In fact don’t even look. And that’s the way a mans world is, and we’re not talking about food or clothes, if you get my meaning. Living in Israel doesn’t make it easier. At least the majority of women in England aren’t much to look at; most of them are Viking rejects, Saxon leftovers, Norman throw-aways and the significant remnants of a lost empire. But the Holy Land is certainly blessed in many ways and there are more proportionally perfect women here per capita than in many parts of the world. That’s not to say we don’t have our fair share of ‘her mother will always think she’s beautiful’ women. After all beauty is all about symmetry and proportion, oh, and the eye of the beholder. So when Bar Refaeli walks passed you on a Tel Aviv street and you turn your head should you be punished, after all, as in life, art. You are simply admiring lines and curves, contrast and color.

Nachalat Binyamin is one of the most unlikely places you would find an ornithologist. I mean a busy urban market, crowded and polluted with nearby traffic, cigarettes and caffeine fumes, seem the last place on Earth that a society dedicated to bird watching would set up camp. Unless, of course you understand that the word bird has a double meaning, and bird in English can be a winged creature that lays eggs or something with green eyes and a great smile.

Now I’m not a feminist, although I do like women, and I am definitely no more an ‘ornithologist’ than the next red blooded male, but I have to draw the line at an organization dedicated to ‘bird’ watching. If anything its quite stomach churning to think that there are men (and a couple of women) who were there pointing, making notes and discussing the merits of various women as they traversed the crowded market stalls.

Then she walked by, Bar Rafaeli and entourage , Israel’s leading super model, the girl that women like to call ordinary and men would just like to call. As if in tune with all the males in a 100 yard radius, as if there was some spiritual connection, a guiding force governing our actions, in complete and perfect synchronization, we all (me included) simultaneously turned our heads. Some smiled, some commented, some even dared to call her name.

“What are you looking at?” she snapped.

“That’s a nice picture dear,” I answered nervously. Was it so obvious?

“I nearly got whiplash from the way you turned your head, anyway she’s quite ordinary”.

“Who are you talking about?” I was going to ride this out and hopefully avoid a backlash.

“Do you like pictures of trains; do you think it would look nice hung in our salon?”


“What other pictures were you looking at them?” Trapped, I needed to think quickly, the hole was getting deeper. I looked around, and then I saw a pretty picture hanging in the window of a shop.

“Not the train picture dear, the one in the shop window, the village scene, very English, very nostalgic.”

I didn’t hear the thunder, but it was there. I also didn’t see the lighting or hear the storm warnings.

“You like that picture in the window, are you trying to be funny, are you so insensitive that you have to use unsubtle hints to tell me what you’re thinking?”

Now I was confused, scarred and very nervous.

“What do you mean d……?” Oh boy, I thought, as I saw the rest of the picture and the words Pharmacy above the shop window.

Life is full of missed opportunities. Action never taken, words never uttered, dreams never chased. There is a time to talk and time to keep quiet, a time to lie (or be economical with the truth) and a time just to say ‘yes I was looking at her, she’s famous, that’s all, but you’re the only one for me, she’s really quite ordinary’.

Missed it.

Monday, November 05, 2007

The Cook, the Thief, his Wife and her Mother

One of the great cult films to emerge form the 80s was Peter Greenaways film, The Cook, the Thief, his Wife and her Lover. A tale of tyranny or as the IMBD tag says ‘Lust...Murder...Dessert. ’ With lavish sets and even more lavish costumes it was a gastronomic feast of a film, not for the week stomached. But what do you care. You might now see the film, or you may think its not my cup of tea and stick with Titanic, each to his own.

Like some scene out of out of a Western, the dust and vegetation blew in swirling circles around the lonely falafel stand. Yossis homemade falafel and hot berekas, read the sign and just under it a neon flashing sign advertising that the falafel was kosher and under that sign and picture hung of the late Lubavitcher Rebbe, seemingly giving the thumbs up to Yossis homemade falafel.

A little queue had formed, patrons impatiently waiting for Yossi to fry up some more falafel, chop salad and squirt tehina from a ketchup dispenser.

On the counter top there was a large aluminium bowl full of falafel. Looking like a pile of rotting horse chestnuts, the smell wafted back down the line making us even more impatient. Tempers began to fray, but the ever cool Yossi informed us he was going as fast as he could and what did we expect for 10 shekel including cold drink and extra pickles.

Temptation got the better of the man at the front of the queue who reached up and took one of the falafel balls as Yossis back was turned. No one said a word. Yossi turned around to serve him and his genial smile dropped. He stared at the man eyes narrowing like Dirty Harry ready to take a shot.

“I know what your thinking punk, were there 20 balls or 19.To tell the truth ,I’ve forgotten myself in all this excitement………………… But you have to ask yourself a question do I feel lucky ……………..well do you punk”.

I snapped out it just as the thief’s wife started shouting at Yossi.

“My husband isn’t a thief,” She shrieked, “He’s never stolen anything”.

I couldn’t believe that, I mean the amount of produce consumed in the supermarket as we walk passed the nuts, and grapes and dried fruit. Everyone has a nibble. We justify it to ourselves, no point in buying grapes if they are sour. But I kept quiet.

Yossi faced the queue, “who saw him take a ball. I counted twenty, there are only nineteen.”

What a situation to be in. I did the noble thing, however, and stepped back into the shadow of a great tree trunk the man in front.

Suddenly the thief’s wife’s (Mrs Thief) mobile phone rang. “Immela, listen, there has been some trouble, Yitzy is being accused of stealing…no you didn’t tell me so… not the police………yes I know we have a cousin, but he’s in the Mossad………….no Tal cant do anything……… that wont helpuseither, hes dead Imma……………sorry Imma I mean he’s no longer with us………………Ok, hold on Imma”. Mrs thief handed the phone to Yossi.

“I don’t care who Tal is, he stole a falafel, no of course I wont call the police, yes there are still enough for everyone, but it’s the principle………………….no that’s not what I meant, look you cant just take……………I know he’s a good Jew……… I realise hes not from your family………….what was the name, yes of course my mothers cousin, no, no, that’s my aunt and she’s her second cousin, yes married you know who………OK I have an idea, shalom, shalom.” He handed the phone back to Mrs Thief.

Yossi faced the thief. “Did you take a falafel, yes or no,” his hand shot up to silence Mrs Thief. The thief nodded. “You know,” Yossi continued that your mother in law is my aunts first cousin, and as your family I wont do anything, but you have to know that your mother in law is very unhappy.

The thief paid for his falafel and walked away, not making eye contact with anyone in the queue, Mrs Thief, obviously very embarrassed walking behind him.

Then Mrs Thief suddenly perked up and ran back to Yossi shouting, “My mother doesn’t have any first cousins, you criminal, I have a good mind to call the police.”

“Call my husband a thief, you’re a thief and a liar”.

And with that she marched away triumphantly.