Archive for March, 2009
So…. this is it, huh? This is what everybody’s talkin’ about? The whole “blog” thing? …. OK…. Let’s give it shot…
As you can see in my “About” page, I’m a half & half, one of those many Israelites-AngloSaxites wandering this earth aimlessly, in a predetermined unsuccesful attempt to figure out where we belong. But don’t get me wrong, this isn’t one of those “where’s the grass greener?” blogs, or any kind of discussion on the true meaning of Zionism or all that kinda stuff. This blog is about the unique vantage point I and my half & half brethren (you guys) have as we take in the events here in Israel, and over there in Normaldy. Do we look down on the Levant with Western eyes? Does the Western chill send a shiver down our warm Levantine spines?
Throughout their lives, Israelis are often asked what definition they prefer to stick with: Israeli Jew, or Jewish Israeli. I’ve dealt with that one, too, for most of my life (until I became an agnostic, which simplified things quite a bit).
But I’ve always had another identity crisis on my hands: being born in Israel but being raised by two American parents, and living part of my childhood in the Goldena Medina. So, what am I? An American-Israeli, or Israeli American? I’m not even going near the whole American Jew, Jewish American thing….
I’ve always noticed that there are parts of me, of my personality, that resonate strongly with aspects of the Levantine culture (accelerated heart beat while being overtaken on the road, followed by an unavoidable urge to return the favor, or devouring a falafel as if it were my last chance on earth to let tahini drip from my mouth onto the sidewalk) and also with the Western civilization (my attempt to stay calm while being over-passed, and constantly pulling out napkins from the red-coke-napkin dispenser to wipe off all that tahini my falafel was swimming in)…. See what I mean? I know what you’re saying. You’re saying, “Ami, I know a great shrink”. But when you think about it, all of us half & halfs are a bit on the quirky side, no?….
Come on, let’s face it. You gotta be just a tad loco to live in a stretch of land the size of New Jersey (I forget, when they do that whole Israel=New Jersey thing, does that include the territories? Shouldn’t it be Delaware?) surrounded by a gazillion people who don’t exactly think you’re the best thing since sliced bread. And it’s not like there are any perks for willing to live in a danger zone, either. Most of us live in flats the size of a matchbox, barely make enough to cover the rent or the mortgage, breath polluted air, deal with ridiculous third-world bureaucracy, and constantly complain.
I think I started to understand the quirkiness of us half & halfs growing up with my folks in Haifa. Sure, my folks are quirky in their own right, but I would always put that down to my teenage-rebellious-judging the parents gig. The whole idea kinda hit home as a teenager every few months, when it was our turn to host the square dancing group. Looking back at it, the whole thing seems so surreal. There I was, sitting on a chair and holding a piece of paper, calling out the dance: “Do-si-do your partner!”, “Ferris wheel!”, “Pass thru the center!”, Promenade!”. And since I spent part of my childhood in Dallas, I couldn’t help but give out a “Yee-Haw!” every once in a while, as I watched my folks and their half & half buddies swirl around and constantly bump into each other…
Those were my first encounters with real half & halfs, the guys who grew up all their lives in the States, but decided to be here. And as smart, funny, intellectual, kind, warm and lovely as they were – I always felt there was something, how should I say, a bit eccentric about them. And even with the age gap back then, I felt a bond.
Are we a bit flaky? Sure… But you know what? Whenever I visit Grandma in southern California, and we sit down to watch TV but are interrupted by the daily helicopter-car chase over the 405 freeway, I always start to wonder: just who, exactly, is flakier?….