Friday, February 13, 2009

To Be Or Not To Be

Well the elections came and went. Ho hum. No big deal for me. I voted for a party that didn't get any seats in the Knesset - Green Movement/Meimad. I always seem to go for the losers. The best thing about election day on Tuesday was the day off work. I told my kids "See? THIS is what a Sunday is like pretty much all over the world." I ran to get my son shoes for the upcoming wedding, and a birthday cake for the ungrateful coot I'm married to. He turned 50 that day. 50 going on 15.

But I was reflecting on people who don't seem to be what they really are,or who others perceive of differently than they perceive of themselves or whatever....Here's the picture.

Today, my son was watching a game - not sure if it was soccer or basketball. But the names being called out by the announcer were so familiar.

"Abarbanel take the lead"
"Abuhatzeira has the ball"

I'm thinking to myself - Abarbanel is a 15th century Torah scholar from Spain and Abuhatzeira is the Baba Sali. What are all these Holy Men doing on the Sports Channel?

And my Arabic teacher met me in the lobby in the building where I learn Arabic and was talking Arabic to me, but when we entered the elevator and were surrounded by non-Arabs, he didn't seem to "hear" me when I tried to speak back to him in Arabic. He doesn't especially "look" Arab and wanted perhaps to blend in more with the surrounding Hebrew-speaking Israelis.

Last Friday I went to my Jewish Renewal service in Jerusalem. I didn't want to stay overnight that evening, preferring to relax on Saturday at home. With no public bus transportion on the Sabbath, I was grateful to have an extra 60 shekels to cab it back home. Actually, this is quite a cheap rate compared to the more expensive Friday night rates, but I had made a deal with an Arab taxi driver around a year ago to take me back home from Baka in Jerusalem at a good rate. I called him after the potluck meal around 10:00 pm. He came promptly. Driving past the guarded entrance to Maaleh Adumim, the guard stopped him, and asked him if he were coming back out in the next five minutes or so because he will have a passenger going back to Jerusalem if he does. The taxi driver answered him back in unaccented Hebrew - he was putting on "Israeli airs" I could tell - and was thrilled that this wasn't a "car check". "See" I told the cab driver. "This is the reward you get for giving me a cheaper rate. You don't have to do that for the person going into Jerusalem, though."

Sunday, I went to pick up Hubby's suit for the wedding in Maalot Daphna, an ultra-orthodox Jewish neighborhood in Jerusalem. The suit was at my sister's sister-in-law and I put on a head covering for the occasion so as not to distress her. I didn't know if she would have been more distressed at seeing my hair because of religious reasons, or because it's half gray and half blonde, in desperate need of hair color. After I had picked up the suit,I wandered around the neighborhood taking it all in. I still didn't look like a native - even though my hair was covered and I wore a modest dress. Everyone knew I was an outsider. You see "they" all dress in navy blue or beige or black. These ultra orthodox neighborhoods are rather colorless. I had on a scandalous orange coat and I could see everyone's eyes on me. I wandered into a fruit store where the owner insisted I was a psychologist. I insisted I wasn't. He continued:

"Wherever you go, they will say you look like a psychologist."

He was big and bulky and I couldn't argue with him. Who would want to? And of course he knew better than me. He knew what I was, even though I didn't. It seemed so simple.

I sat at the table this evening, and my husband looks at me with disdain. I'm wearing a dress.

"What are you? Religious now?" And goes back into his cave. He comes out later with rants.

"You buy yourself clothing and the party's over! Why don't I get clothes?? You're SELFISH!!" He repeats this a few times. I shake my head. I had offered to him the same budget I had for clothing this winter, but his answer at the time (last week) was "I don't need anything until the Spring." So - fine. Hey, I won't argue with people that don't "need" anything.

My kids' conversations around the dinner table focused on those awful Leftists. Then they looked at me and laughed. Oh no! Mom's a Leftist. I try to explain that liking the sons of Ishmael doesn't make one a Leftist. But it's no use. They know what I am, better than I do.

It seems everyone does.

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