Saturday, December 8, 2007

The Star Spangled Dinner

Hi Leora,

Last night was really nice. The food was terrific and the company
interesting and easy going.

I must tell you I found myself surprised by how "Israeli" I felt in this company. For years I lived in the States and was completely comfortable in 100% American company, last night I was very comfortable but also amply aware of cultural differences. Perhaps It was the fact that the evening took place in Israel that is to blame, or perhaps it is I who's changed. I may have grown more Israeli since my ex-wife left. Maybe the recent (Thursday) news of our divorce being final caused me to be more conscious of these issues. Who am I? How close am I to the language and attitudes that used to make up my world? I found myself thinking about these things on the way home.

What are these differences? They start with small stuff like saying "no". When we were lighting the candles, there was talk of how Israelis name Tupperware containers "Mozzarellas". I've never heard of such a thing and I assumed it was used in the kitchen lingo of the restaurant in which your friend works. As soon as I said: "That's not true" I realized that an American would never have said that. However, if in Israeli company I were to say: "I believe that may not be true", or some such thing, no one would take me seriously for the remainder of the
evening. Each time I said "no" last night I was aware of it, even a bit embarrassed, but don't worry. it did dot detract from my enjoyment, only added food for thought to the chili and guacamole.

Another time I felt different was during a conversation about your other friend's documentary on pork in Israel. I found myself defending my right to eat pork, despite this being the "Jewish State" and all. For the first time in my life I felt that this issue affects me. I was bothered by the idea that someone who doesn't live here should think a restriction should be imposed on me for ideological reasons. Your friends had flexible views of this matter, but they didn't necessarily consider it unthinkable that ideological restrictions would be condoned by someone who isn't subject to them. The Claustrophobia of the Israeli identity came out into the open during that conversation and there was no way for me to really explain it.

I left that conversation feeling that Zionism only works if you're "first generation", i.e.: if you come here in order to "do it". Once you're born into it, it's too damn problematic. This sentiment, carried over several conversations, created a wall of misunderstanding between me and the other people I conversed with. The one exception actually being your friend who works at the Shalem Center. I think he deals so often with such complex questions, and in such a bizarre environment, that he's beginning to develop an Israeli complex of his own. He's quite a unique chap.

But all of you guys are unique, and your company is a gift. BTW, I left my salad bowl there, so I'll call you next time I'm at the "Prince" to see if you're there and pick it up.

Have a wonderful evening, thanks a lot again and take care,


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