Israel Stories

Sunday, December 02, 2007

Grandma Lily

Everybody who is lucky enough to have a close relationship with their grandmother thinks they’re the best, and rightly so. The one difference between everybody else’s grandmother and mine is that Grandma Lilly was the best. Not that there is any competition, its just a fact. But now she has gone, sitting with Papa Jack, looking down on us and smiling with pride at her children, grandchildren and great grandchildren. We were all lucky enough to meet her even if some of our kids wont remember the experience, they certainly will always carry a little of her in their hearts.

Our kids will have the photos and they’ll hear the stories and they’ll look at their grandparents and understand that grandparents are not just tools in the fight against their parents especially at bedtime, not just for presents and not just for a safety net when their parents need a night off but an endless source of overflowing love and devotion. Shakespeare quoted the eternal sunshine of the spotless mind, and more than ever this applies to grandparents, who only see the unadulterated, untampered good in their grandchildren, often overlooked by the parents.

Grandma Lilly, as your first borne grandson and naturally your favorite, as you so often told me in a whisper (although I knew that the four of us were all your favorites and of course your 8 great grandchildren) I thought I knew you the best, but the truth is we all saw in you different sides in different circumstance.
When I remember you I can see us in Viceroy, drinking heavily seasoned soup and splashing spaghetti bolognese on a huge dark wood table. I see the little room with my nameplate on it; yes Jonny, Oliver and Andre, I truly had my label on that room. In fact I remember every inch of that flat, as I remember the gardens. That flat was also home, safe, cozy, familiar. I see myself sitting in the back of your mini, Grandma, speeding to the Bullring, I feel myself being dragged around, being introduced to everybody. I remember the milkman, the postman, the groundsman (Mr Gardener?).

And then in Southgate when you came to stay, the pride and love you showered on us after we had davened on Rosh Hashanna, or just in front of visitors. And our conversations. It didn’t matter what we spoke about, could be girlfriends, school, work or even about the most mundane things, I knew you were asking because you cared, not to make idle chatter.

I knew you cared because you loved us, as you loved our parents.

The Rabbis tell us that the sun sets slowly so the people arent plunged into darkness and confusion. We were all lucky that your sun set slowly and allowed us to enjoy you and know you for so long.
Grandman Lilly, I don’t want you to be just a memory, memories fade no matter how much you hang on to them, I want you to be a a part of us, so we can still hear you, see you and speak to you the way you were in your prime. Now you will be one of those dear departed looking down on our smachot with pride and love, together with Papa, who until last week was happily resting in peace!

You always used to stay “I’m only hanging on for your wedding” In fact you lived from Simcha to simcha as you saw your children and then grandchildren and then your great grandchildren, born, married, and spread out in different direction following their own paths. Where ever we were you were with us and are with us. You lived for us, but then you said, “I’ve done my job, let me sit back and watch them and enjoy them.”
We all loved you and will continue to love you, we all miss you and that will never go away. We know you will continue to schepp nachas from your family.

Grandma Lilly, you’ll always ‘be hanging on’ in our hearts.

The Football Yid

Small and huddled in the crowd, swarms of men in uniform standing and chanting Yid and Yiddo. I should be scared, I should run, hide. Our history is ridden with deep pits, where people have sunk or been pushed to very depths of darkness. In almost every country the screams of Yid or Yiddo have echoed down narrow lanes and in open town squares. Today I stand, surrounded by uniformed men shouting Yid and Yiddo and how do feel? Elated!

I rise to my feet and scream at the top of voice in echo, Yiiiiiiiiiiiiiiddddddddddddddddoooooooooo! Because this isn’t Europe, this isn’t a pogrom, it isn’t an anti-Semitic rally, this is the Blumfield Stadium in Tel Aviv and uniformed men are wearing replica football kits. This is Tottehnam Hotspur from North London playing a European Football Cup qualifying game against Hapoel Tel Aviv.

I suppose it started as an anti-Semitic chant. Because of Tottenham Hotspur’s (Spurs)large Jewish support, rival fans called then the Yids. This would have been totally unacceptable except that it was Jews. See, if the supporters were Indian or Muslims, people may have been more sensitive to the political correctness of the loony liberals who ban Christmas lest it upset the Muslims. But Yids was OK. Harmless fun etc.

But in the great British tradition of 'if you can't beat them join them', the Spurs fans started to call themselves Yids. Not the Jewish ones, the non-Jewish ones. Suddenly and overnight Spurs became the Yid army, fans watching their beloved team play in Europe had T-shirts with Yids on Tour or flags with their home town like Chingford Yids, Barnet Yids etc.

And so with the best of them, Jews and non-Jews in an unholy alliance, chanted, without any hint (?) of anti-Jewish feeling, Yiiiiiiidddddddddddddddddddooooooooo!

Looking around the stadium I don’t think I've ever seen so many kippot at a Spurs march. In fact I don’t remember ever seeing a kippa at an Spurs match. But here there were also men with beards and velvet kippot, knitted kippot and even a black hat.

The Yids had come home to the Holy land. This time it was ‘Yid’ against Yid and it wasn’t Channuka!
One Israeli sports reporter commented on the anti-Semitism being displayed to the Hapoel teams and their fans. He said that the screams of Yido chilled him to the bone, until one Hapoel fan (being interviewed) told a very confused reporter that in fact they were calling themselves Yido and if he cares to look where the chants were coming from, he would have noticed that these guys were wearing kippot!

I tried to explain this Yiddo phenomena to American friends but they couldn’t get it, and good for them.
Now I am not going to discuss the rights and wrongs of actually using the term 'Yid', because it is still used outside the realm of football as a very disturbing insult, but for 90 minutes plus extra time I can live with it.
The game itself was a little boring but the feeling of unity among the Jewish people was phenomenal. Singing and chanting together, secular, religious, ultra-religious and non-Jew together as one people with one cause.
The Hapoel fans couldn’t get it, couldn’t understand that on the field we have no religion no region, no differences. Football; the great unifier, where the fans become one, standing together. Trouble is they are normally unified against the other fans and that's when all the fighting starts.

And something even more significant happened. The UK was united in it's support of Israel the other night as it battled and beat Russia. For Israel it was just a victory, for England it was the resurrection of their dream to move forward in the Euro 2008 cup.

No one shouted Yiddo at that game, I bet. And if they had, it would have been anti-Semitic. Subtle difference.
Anyway, regardless that I am Yid, I am a Tottenham Yid and I am an Israeli Tottenham Yid.

The Half Baked Swede

Jaffa, once again. Can't stay away. Something about Jaffa that encompasses everything that is Israel. The mixture of cultures, the history, the architecture and the bread. Well bread is important and although man cannot live by bread alone, it's still good and I probably could. Even within the baker it was an international cosmopolitan multi-cultured, multi-ethnic experience. Every country and culture was represented by bread, French baguettes; Russian Loaves, Challot, Pita, Danish things and Viennese other things, even Ethiopia was represented.

Among the loaves stood one man, alone, smiling, dressed in an Arab robe, but with hair as blond as something very blond and eyes as blue as his hair was blond. There was no way he was the Middle East, maybe Stockholm East would be more accurate. He began cursing anybody that walked within 20 meters of him, he began to throw bread rolls at passers-by and yelling that he was a priest purifying the world. OK, I thought, these guys fill columns every week in the papers and magazines. I mean religious nutters in Israel account for one in ten of the population (I just made that up, but when you think about it, it seems plausible!)

Anyway, as with all these unfortunates, I ignored him and carried on browsing among the loaves. As I stood inspecting a loaf trying to work out if it was filled with raisins or dead flies, I felt a tap on my shoulder. My shoulder, my bloody shoulder, why not somebody else, why my shoulder.

“Can I bless your bread?” The Swedish Arab asked me, his eyes rolling back into his head, wild hair flaying in all directions as his head bobbed uncontrollably.

“No, you can't!” I had my reasons ranging from not getting spittle anywhere near my food or body, to religious doubts that was correct practice.

“I am a priest of the lord, I have the power of healing, take up thy bed and walk, I and no other. Cast of your shackles, possessions are useless all property is theft. Man cannot live by bread alone”. There then proceeded a jumble of gargled rhetoric spawning or spewing random verses from the bible, Koran and even Oscar Wilde (the one about lying in the gutter).

Naturally we all backed up and the poor innocent security guard, whose biggest worry up to today was how to get a double stroller through the narrow doors, approached him with caution, one hand outstretched in friendship, the other firmly at his waist, he actually looked like a teapot to me; funny what you think about in times of duress.

“Please leave the shop,” whispered the guard, “You're causing a disturbance and I don’t want to have to call the police.”

“Fascist, bullyboy, bastard”, he screamed (the nutter, not the guard), “Take you hands off me, I am pure and you are an infidel”.

“I’m not even touching him,” said the now astonished guard in very eloquent English.“He’s right you know,” said an old American woman standing next to me, “hasn’t laid an finger on him. Me, I would smash his face in. In New York if someone comes up to you, you have two choices, run or smash his face. I prefer the latter.”
Now it was my turn to be astonished.

The police arrived. Two young Ethiopian rookies entered the shop and as we backed away, the Swede assumed the Matrix (never seen it? Watch it then and you’ll appreciate this more) martial arts position urging the police to take it further. One of the policemen removed his gun and the Swede collapsed to the floor crying “lord why hast thou forsaken me.”

Off he went in the back of the car for questioning. The owner came running out into the street shouting “he owes me money, 20 shekels, he took a loaf, how can I make a living if nobody pays for my bread”.
I guess man can't only live by bread alone.