20 October 2008
That there was no on-board entertainment on the flight from Tel Aviv to Amsterdam allowed me to sleep for the majority of the flight. Although I was sitting next to a very attractive woman who ordered the kosher meal, piquing my interests, I was too tired to move my head out of the space between the window and seat to say anything.
I was on my back to the States for two weeks of refreshment and celebrating Rosh Hashanah with family. The previous months had been filled with endless bouts of procrastination in finishing papers for school, endless hours at work, and endless job interviews, all with little self-apportioned measures of success. While I still had work to finish during this trip, hopefully the change of scenery would accelerate its end.
A few hours wandering the Amsterdam airport before the transatlantic leg was already proving to be restoring. Being around a diversity of people is a pleasure for me, creating life stories and final destinations for fellow passengers.
Stuck on the plane for several hours with numerous choices for movies, I decided to lift a self-imposed ban and watch Adam Sandler’s latest movie You Don’t Mess With the Zohan. I saw Borat in Israel and laughed hysterically at the anti-Semitic jokes, acknowledging the irony of watching a Jewish comedian in Israel. But Zohan just didn’t appeal, because it was Adam Sandler and perhaps because it wouldn’t reach the social nuances that Borat had.
I was definitely wrong. I thought of the movie as not a satire of Israelis, but rather a satire of American perceptions of Israelis. The image of the hirsute, omnipotent, womanizing Sabra is an archetype still held by many, including American Jews and the title character was a caricature of all the ideals Americans want to see in the pioneering Israeli; that he wanted to lead a different kind of life, including with a Palestinian, was less a call for coexistence as it was a symbolic shattering of this mythical figure. Maybe I was over-analyzing the movie, having lots of time to spare on the flight; but if I was right, I’d have to give Sandler credit for creating a great piece of satire. Granted, it was still Hollywood and full of the requisite teenage humor expected in one of his movies.
Landing in the States, I felt like I hadn’t been away for the five previous months. The last time I had felt the same way, I was arriving in Israel to staff a Birthright Israel trip five months after a previous one. I enjoy and look for this kind of border-blurring, but it was still initially disconcerting.
A few days pass and there was little culture shock to overcome: still no heightened security on public transportation, still the same amount of overweight people as before, still the same amount of clueless tourists who stand in the middle of a Metro escalator, still the same simultaneous feelings of cultural affinity and separation.
Had I had any residual culture shock, the packed flight to the Dayton International Airport at 21.00 on a rainy night would have absorbed the last bits of it. No pushing to get a seemingly better seat for these folks, no overweight baggage or screaming at security for confiscating liquids. What a bunch of suckers, the Israeli passport in my carry-on bag sneered.
Time with family becomes more and more treasured, a fact not lost on anyone. That being said, it’s also treasured time to see the Halloween junk alongside the Christmas junk at the local Target: My mouth watered as much as it does for my grandmother’s brisket, my cousin and I pushed every moving and talking toy, I eventually constrained myself. A few days later and it back on a plane heading for Israel. It’s not so much that time flies as it escapes.
The holiday season is almost over, the few trees whose leaves change color are in full display, and the hours of sunlight have dramatically reduced to what seem like bursts of warmth and an extended dusk each evening.
Some little kid likes to scream for his mommy at the top of his lungs, particularly on Saturdays. He voice sounds like Damien from The Omen: demonic and British. “Mammmay!” “Mamaaaaaaaay!” reverberate through the stone walls of my apartment and give me the shivers, his diabolic demands likely to split open the ground with legions of macabre figure pouring out from the bowels of the Earth. Walking home today I finally found him screaming yet again at his front door – three blocks away, around the corner and up a hill. I took a quick glimpse at him, hoping to avoid his inevitably piercing eyes and the cue to some unseen dirge-droning choir. Man, I miss Halloween.