Israel Stories

Wednesday, March 26, 2008

Fat George

George was a huge monster of a man. Fat was not the word, obese paled into insignificance, mammoth maybe, gargantuan seems most appropriate. We called him Fat George, because gargantuan George was, for want of a better phrase, to much of a mouthful.

George, how on earth he got that name remains a mystery, was a Bedouin tracker. He could tell whether an Ibex had recently been nibbling on a bush, where it was now and what its ID number was. He was very good. He'd been decorated by the army for being so good. But now he was contented to lead tour groups across the country's southern deserts and eat. The nimble and agile George of yesteryear was replaced by the lumbering and wheezing giant tour guide of today. Was he happy, you bet your crown jewels he was.

Why was George so happy? Well he was doing what he wanted to do. Walk about in the open air, meet nice people, eat and get paid for it.

Now why am I laboring on about the fact he was so huge. Well, as with many people, I am little insecure about the fact that since getting married all those years ago, there isn't a chance I could ever fit in to my wedding suit. But George was so blissfully happy with himself it made me sick and jealous. The only thing that kept me going was the certainty that he wouldn't fit into my suits either.

So I made the resolve that if George was happy with his temple then I should be to.
At home, biscuits and crisps are more or less banned as we all try and lead a healthy lifestyle. So I decided, why deny myself; and went out and bought cookies, chips, bisli, chocolate and anything that would ordinarily be taboo.

For the first few days it was a feeding frenzy. Before meals, after meals, mid morning and mid afternoon snacks. I felt good, not denying myself anything, touching the realms of hedonism, feeling Greek and Roman all in one, with a touch of fat Bedouin.

And then the fall. Preparing to go out one evening, something didn't fit my wife the way it used to only a week ago. Fear struck me as I was the target of her frustration.

"Why did you have to buy all that rubbish. Why didn't you stop me eating it. Now I have nothing to wear and it's your fault!"

"But look, it's not so bad, I mean just be happy with yourself." In retrospect maybe that was the wrong thing to say. But of course like most men, we don't know when we are digging ourselves very deep holes and so I continued with my analogies with Fat George the Bedouin tracker.

"So let me get this straight, your idea of support is to compare me to an overweight former Bedouin tracker turned tour guide called George, Fat George?"

The cull in the kitchen went on all night, destroying all evidence of anything vaguely tasty and anything with more than 1% fat.

The next time I saw George I asked him why he was so happy and what his wife thought. "My wife doesn't tell what to do, what to eat in fact she doesn't tell me anything at all and so I go through life, my own man, blissfully following my own path."

"Wow, you have a very understanding wife." Jealousy rising, biting back the resentment, knowing that in reality all men need a wife to keep them in line.

"Actually I never married!"

Cynical, moi?

Sunday, March 23, 2008

Checkpoint Charlie

The traffic had built up along the 443 towards the Jerusalem. The reason was a second security check. They were looking for somebody. The boarder guards checked each and every car before letting them travel another kilometer to the official check point. In this day and age it is of course a sad reality that these checks are necessary, but you accept them because they could potentially be the difference between life and death.

I say accept them, because that’s what we should be doing, unless you are some loud mouthed American tourist who doesn’t realize what the purpose of these checks are for.

The traffic had come to standstill. So I did what any self respecting Israeli does and left my car to go and chat with a group standing by the central reservation. See if we could find out why there was this particular check and what we should do about the ‘matzav’.

And then the voice of calm and reason (sarcasm) blurted out from a nearby hire car. “I’ve got a wedding, why are we stuck, don’t they realize that I am going to be late.”

Well, we ignored the ranting and carried on our conversation, this time about school and what we were doing with our kids the week before Pesach which they had as holiday.

Then the delicately measured words of Mr Hire Car thundered out again, “if this country cant sort out its security maybe they should take a lesson from the Americans!”

If I hadn’t heard that with my own ears I would never have believed anybody could have said that. Was this worthy of an answer. Well we thought it better to ignore him than to enter into a debate about Iraq et al.

Then the comment that broke the camels back. “If they just expelled the Arabs ordinary folk like us wouldn’t be subject to the degradation of army checks and we wouldn’t be made to be late because some sub-humans are firing rockets and blowing themselves up”.

I am proud of the fact that I am not left wing, I have my own private views on how the country should deal with the situation, but my own personal philosophy is that instead of complaining, try and make a difference.

Before you say ethnic cleansing a mob had descended on Mr Hire Car. At first they started shouting at him, shouting obscenities and rocking his car a little. Realizing he may have overstepped the mark he locked the doors of his car and rolled up his windows. His wife who had thus far remained quietly supportive, started screaming.

The traffic started edging forward and we returned to our cars. The traffic stopped again and so I left my car only to see that my group had reformed and I noticed a great deal of laughing.

Now I have seen some surreal things in my life but this was just plain weird. On one side was a car load of Arab kids blasting out some very load Arabic dance music and on the other side was a woman using a breast pump. In the middle, eyes straight forward and looking very bewildered was Mr Hire Car. In front of him, just to add some variety was a large trailer with some sort of tank on the back, the canon facing Mr Hire Car’s windshield.

But I suppose that just about sums up the madness of the ‘matzav’.