segunda-feira, 17 de janeiro de 2011

When Israel Becomes Isreal (Day Six: Tel Aviv)

The heat is on in October. It’s rainy and cold in Lisbon but in Tel Aviv it feels like July and we can’t thank the Zionists enough, because otherwise we wouldn’t have had an extension of our Summer 2010. Small thinking but great temperatures. To fight the heat, and I mean fighting in the sense of helping (the two of them can go together), we put our glasses in the freezer to drink cool lemonade whenever we want.

By this time our breakfast had become the most sophisticated meal of the day, and we do it properly, with fruits, and hummus, and pita bread, and cereals, and chocolate cake, like if we were in a Portuguese soap-opera.

We had a busy schedule ahead of us in that day but there was a bit of time to go to the beach, it’s the Shabbat and all that there is to happen, happens after sunset. So we take the towels that we borrowed from the Siksik family, the Dolphin towel and the Banana towel, and hit the crowded Tel Aviv beach to swim (which is prohibited by the way) in the hot Mediterranean disputed waters, where you can walk and walk and walk and still not be able to wet your thighs. No wonder that Jesus was seen walking on water in the whereabouts, and so were we Goddamit!

Although in the Shabbat you are supposed to be observant, respectful and modest, in that particular Shabbat, in that particular beach it was all about getting laid. American loud girls being picked up by paramilitary Israeli proud hunks (with enormous Stars of David tattooed on their chests and backs), couples fondling and cuddling as if they were the last Jews on earth, and God Himself giving us porn magazines to read that were left in the sand.

With all this highly sexed atmosphere around us we begin to wonder if the perfect abs are already inscribed in the Israeli DNA, but in 30 minutes this was going to be proven wrong.

In fact this was a creation of the old Zionists, the New Jew would look unlike any Jew the world has ever seen, not anymore the pale short Jew with the crooked nose (in a way giving credit to old racist stereotypes, and we know that no one hates a Jew like a Zionist). What as laying in front of us was a muscled, tanned, sporty, shinny happy people, over concerned with their abs. Yes, it seems superficial. Achingly so. And what nation has ever been so concerned with the appearance of its citizens? Bingo!

The reason that we shouldn’t worry too much about all this was in something called Matkot, Israel's unofficial national sport. It’s a popular paddle ball game similar to beach tennis, but played incredibly fast, in a very aggressive fashion, like you are fighting for your life. And it’s so popular that the entire beach on that Shabbat was like a war zone. Dozens of pairs playing the game, some kind of Matkot Strip, shooting the ball has hard as they could as if Hitler was their fierce opponent, making it even hard to pass to the sea. The particularity of this game is that, albeit very furious and dramatic, it’s not really competitive and the funny popping sound that gets louder and louder as you walk through Gordon Beach Promenade can make you think that the beach is the setting of the reenactment of one of many Israeli wars. But the Pièce de résistance was the non-lean mean Matkot machine Queen, a middle aged housewife all dressed in white, dark shades, deep-fried tan, not in her best physical condition (obviously still a pre-Zionist), but playing the thing with a thirst for blood that I hadn’t seen since Erzsébet Báthory ruled Hungary.

Next step was our first encounter with Israeli performing arts: He Who Says Yes, He Who Says No by Bertolt Brecht directed by Michal Vaknin in Tel Nordau School, a kind suggestion of our friend Guy Birian. Impressions: very hot; nice audience members; old-fashioned mechanism of presentation (the reenactment of a school class in a school). Facts: we got in the wrong performance because there were two at the same time; we needed to participate in Hebrew and we tried our best and got some weird looks; we were all smiles in the beginning and sleepy in the end; we ran out of the space to get a taxi to the next appointment, another theatre performance in Southern Tel Aviv.

The traffic is an absolute mess and we can’t pass anywhere, so our taxi driver tries to take all the shortcuts that he can possibly know and as soon as we get do Dizengoff we see the whole picture: a demonstration. Passing right in front of us. Thousands of people marching in Tel Aviv, on a Saturday night, protesting the Lieberman’s cabinet approval the previous week of a proposed amendment to the Citizenship Law that would require naturalized citizens to pledge loyalty to Israel as a Jewish and democratic state. The lefties didn’t like that. And since we were Israeli Zeligs, so didn’t we. And so we became what was around us. Not without me having first a Bridges of Madison County Moment. My hand on the door handle. Will I jump out and run to my lover (Israel) or should I stay in the car with my husband (well… this has to be the poor old taxi driver)? It was suspenseful and heartbreaking. But the decision was easy. In the movie Meryl turned on the waterworks and stayed. In our movie Catarina dragged me out.

Embodying our legacy of children of the Portuguese carnation revolution we joined the crowd, and exactly like in the Brecht performance, we tried to imitate and scream the slogans: Lieberman fascist something… Yehudim ve Aravim something…

In the end of the street the march stops for speeches in Hebrew and Arabic and more slogans! The Hebrew slogans everyone could repeat (except us parrots), the Arabic slogans were… how can I put it… quieter.

Apparently everyone there wanted peace (and there were not so many left in the end of the march, I’ve seen Christmas Parties with more people, which means that the Israeli left is fading away as fast as falafel is being consumed in the streets) and as soon as the speech moment is over (Noa and Kalled were obviously too busy with their solo careers to attend the get together) everyone goes home to see Israeli Idol and leave all the propaganda material on the floor (it seems that it’s not very fashionable or popular to strand around with some WE LOVE ARABS banners). But for us it’s another motive of excitement. To bring home the banners and dream about the moment that we have to explain about that in the Ben-Gurion airport.

With this beautiful idea in mind we go with Oded and Arkadi to the last summer party on Gordon Beach (summer as in mid-October) where we get a pin with a random sexual orientation and with our hearts rejoicing we drink the night away.