Funny · Israel


Don’t you ever find yourself wishing you knew all the words to a particularly good song? I bob my head so enthusiastically sometimes that it feels like I wrote the words to this song and simply momentarily forgot them. I do this a lot with Ani DiFranco songs.

Someone (when I first got to the States and was being introduced to all the pop culture at once, games, trivia etc) told me that “people” usually say the word ‘watermelon’ to mask the fact they don’t know the words to a song, and because that word contains a lot of the different mouthings (? what would you call the different shapes your mouth makes when you mouth a word?) it actually fools people into thinking you know the words.

So we played Taboo a few days later with a different group of friends and my clue to the word “Watermelon” was “what you say when you don’t know the words to a song”. Buzzer….time out. :-) Take it from me, pop culture is difficult to fake with the perfect tone. Sometimes you’re way off.

I’m picking up where I left off, quietly, because I don’t know who reads this anymore, or who found it, or how.

Walking down from the Hadar on Friday, I stopped to buy some food, fresh ground beef and and an onion, which I carefully picked from a dark concrete hole of a store which in the storefront held only blue plastic crates filled with small beaten-up watermelons and on the ground, a few cardboard boxes full of onions. I brought it to one of the six old Arab men sitting behind the table, and one of them walked to the cash register before he looked at me, stopped, looked at my onion, and motioned me away, half-closing his eyes and nodding as he motioned, in that international non-verbal code for “I’m giving it to you, it’s a gift, go on, now go”. I breathed in and laughed, my new way of accepting the nice gesture (inhaling it in) and thanked him and walked away, still hearing my own giggle echoing in the dirty little store, selling only watermelon and onions.

I put up one of my brother’s photos as the background for my computer. I find myself clearing it often just to look at it. It’s a parking lot in California, at 3 AM. The lights give off a blue light, and two signs saying “Customer Parking Only” nailed to the wooden palissade, form the background for a perfectly parked windsurfing wishbone. A lone, solitary wishbone in a blue-lit parking lot in California at 3 AM. I think it’s such a statement. You could go so many places there. I have all the short stories that I can make up in between conversation lulls made up as I walk along my Middle-Eastern staircases, clearing the cobwebs of other stories, dusted over by something more prolific.

In conversation today, my friend mentioned that he put a person he’d read about in the New York Times on his prayer list (he keeps a personal prayer list of people, communities etc. to pray for). This man had married late in life and his ten-year old daughter was everything to him. After the siege of the school in Beslan, Chechnya, he lost both his wife and his daughter, and his world was destroyed. Unable to cope with the loss, or maybe to cope with it, he set the table for all three of them, every morning. And this man, this stranger, who somehow found his way into my friend’s heart and now mine, is being prayed for in the Holy Land, by a person unknown to him.

I like that my friend had a big enough heart to keep Vova Tumayev on his prayer list. That’s how we make effective change in the world, you start with your heart and you move forward with your heart pointed in the right direction. It’s hard to love, but I think, I hope, it gets better with practice. I learn a lot from conversations in sheruts. It will be hard to leave Israel.

In Vitro Prayerization: this is a story about how prayer may influence in-vitro fertilization results.

I remember taking a class in college about identity and the place people call home. Some French writers (it was a French lit class) called their home their books, or their childhood home, I think for me it’s becoming Israel, simply because I opened my eyes.


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