and so, a day after possibly the most-watched / televised / commentated / media saturated event in the world shatters the tranquility of the new millenium, michael sharon, fearless commando of the new order, packs his hawaiian shirts, his rooibos tea and steps on an el al flight heading for sunshine, rosh hashanah and possibly the country with the world’s most dangerous suntanning.
wednesday the 12th of september 2001 probably went down in most people’s minds as the day they tried to grapple with the events of the previous afternoon (back here in sunny suid afrika it was a tepid quarter to four in the arvie). inconceivable. monstrous. incomprehensible. disastrous. these were some of the words jumping out of people’s mouths and into other people’s brains. i was using them to inquire if there was an alternate meal arrangement on board my flight. naturally, before take-off our flight was delayed by two hours. naturally. nobody wanted a repeat of the new york incident. although there isn’t much in the way of comparable targets in johannesburg or even africa for that matter. maybe the brixton tower. hmm. or the carlton centre. possibly the ponte. still once the flight lists had been checked and checked and quadruple-checked and even our baggage was suffering from intrusive anal cavity searches – we finally took off.
el al has a reputation for security which is unmatched worldwide according to the international herald tribune. Only one flight has ever been hijacked (in 1968) and every single flight features armed sky marshals travelling incognito with passengers. upholding this fearsome reputation must be the only explanation i can think of for them to have skimped on every single other aspect of the airline’s budget including recognisable food stuffs, leg room for human beings who are not severely vertically challenged (i.e. midgets), decent bathrooms and a friendly bedside manner in their cabin crew. ah well… i suppose i should be thankful that i got on the plane, got off the plane and there was nary a whiff of skyscraper within spitting distance.
in fact the dreaded land of the video journalist’s wet dreams was glorious. wow. the weather (look i’m starting with the obvious here and moving to the ridiculous) was kind enough to bring out a gentle middle eastern autumn (heat wave for those of you in london) which averaged about 30 degrees, served in conjunction with a delicately cooling breeze – savoured slowly at night. the family were their usual joyful selves. this was the first time i’ve seen them since they made what must be one of the most insane moves in the world from johannesburg, south africa to ra’anana, israel in early february. walked into their flat, took one look around at all the junk and clutter that i’ve known since i was a figment of imagination and felt right at home. the bliss of seeing the family for the first time in ages also didn’t prevent the sheer joy of parent-child squabbling from occurring.
israel is fabulous. tel-aviv is a lively bustling beast of a city with cooler-than-thou’s hanging out on every street corner, more punks than sex pistols concerts circa 1977 and the most absolutely eye-poppingly, gasp-worthy, loud-exclamation-of-amazement-pretty gorgeously proportioned girls. aaaaaaaaarrgh. and they’re everywhere!! its like the most welcome alien invasion known to man. it was definitely appreciated by a lone alien from the bottom of africa.
as for the food, well, put it this way, i sneaked back about 10kg’s of tsfatit cheese, bulgarian cheese, humus, malawach, burekas, bissli, halva and assorted chocolates back home. it was delicious. my routine consisted of waking up, eating, going out somewhere, eating, saying hello to friends, eating, or meeting some family, eating. i was initiated into the tales of the “secret” history behind jewish holidays. “we fought, we won, let’s eat.” and so i carried on the grand tradition of my long-nosed ancestors in a fine culinary style.
tension, war and things better left to time magazine:
there was constant tension in the air, but israel is a country that has always been at war. you don’t feel that the country is at war, until you understand that this war is the same war that george bush is blindly leading the world into. this isn’t a war of easily identifiable good and evil, where the side that is evil is a race of godless, alien bloodsuckers ready to leech the life from their enemies and wanting to oppress every single man, woman and child into a state of cowering obesiance. this is a war of attrition, where armed policemen and women and soldierboys and gals search everybody going into any public space. armed soldiers walk around open air markets. everybody is alert to baggage being left alone.
and yet. people throng the streets. the cities teem with life. its difficult to imagine a people for whom shouting and swearing is an olympic sport cowering in their homes.
so after philosophising about the israeli condition for all of 30 seconds, i proceeded to run around and meet more relatives than i have ever known have existed. ancient photo albums were sourced showing porcelain perfect portraits of turn of the century relatives in monotones and parents, cousins, uncles, aunts, grand-relatives and others all at various events which were deemed photo-worthy. i was constantly squeezed and pinched and told that i had this one’s eyes and that one’s hair and this one’s stubborn streak. nobody managed to genetically identify the original donor of my nose although one cousin had managed to assemble a remarkable family tree tracing my roots back to bloody 8th century AD. i was briefly impressed, then gave up ever trying to figure out exactly why great (ad infinitum) grand father yossie was a lady killer in a tunic.
but siblings and distant relatives aside, the highlight of my trip was going to ein gedi on the shores of the dead sea for two days. if you haven’t gone yet – go!!! pack your bags, book a ticket on an airline still afloat and rush to the depths of the lowest place on earth. wow. you cannot really comprehend the meaning of “float” until you’re doing it in the middle of an ocean full of zero critters but which is so bloody salty you get some water in your eyes and then run around squawking like a headless chicken until you find the fresh water trough and you realise that you’re not actually going blind after all. truly awe inspiring. (hint: read the sign carefully which says 1. do not aubmerge your face in the water.)
so i have returned to the bottom of africa (without serious incident (unless you count the airline food)) where the currency is rivalling those french boys in the big blue for unassisted diving, my bank balance is starting to wish it had a different owner and my car is aging very ungracefully and making plaintive requests for retirement.
i’m back!!!!! open for emails, gifts, toys, love and donations of any kind (err.. except for bodily fluids)!!
talk to me.
shout at me.
berate me for not bringing you some falafel.
come on… i welcome it..
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