Monday, May 11, 2009


I'm back. Living offline has some distinct advantages. You should try it some day.

While I was immersed in the real world, I came up against some colorful characters. Here's a brief description of some easily recognizable "Israeli" types among them.

The Government Minister and His Fawning Voters: At the undisclosed location where I spent the past few days there was a newly appointed government minister. We've got dozens of them, and it's a tiny country, so the likelihood of running into one of them isn't very small; since they're not allowed to go anywhere without their security detachment (and I mean literally, not allowed to walk accross a large room without the goon behind them), and their security detachment is clothed so as to stick out like a sore thumb from a mile, with badly fitting suits, bulges behind their shoulders, and squigly-things protruding from their ears, well, it's hard not to notice the minister even if you're lookng the other way.

This minister, predictably, didn't wish not to be noticed. Actually, it was very important to him that everyone notice him, which is why he positioned himself in the room the way he did, and looked around to make certain everyone was duly impressed by the honor of sharing a room with him. Since I didn't vote for any of the twelve parties that make up our ruling coalition, I wasn't blown away, but lots of the other folks there had; most of them had probably even voted for this guy's particular party, so he was their minister. So they proceded to fawn: but in a very Israeli way. No servility, decorum, or awe. Quite on the contrary. One by one they ambled over to him and held a whispered conversation, leaning towards his ear while he held their shoulder, or vice versa, depending on whose ear. All the while broadcasting to the rest of us mortals that "Me and the minister? We go w-a-a-a-y-y-y back; each time we see each other he always asks my personal opinion about Important Things, and I'm always willing to help him out with my sage advice".

Contrarian that I am, I managed not even to look his way when at one point I had to pass right near him on the way out of the room. But he was too busy whispering into someone's ear to notice my lack of proper manners.

The Real Powerbroker. The day after the government minister and his goons had gotten into his fancy car and sailed off to a government meeting, I was sitting in a public dining room eating breakfast. At the next table sat two scruffy-lookng men. One, probably in his late 60s, was wearing neat jeans and a plaid shirt. The second one, maybe ten years his junior, had a large potbelly, simple dark blue shirt, and could easily have passed for a bus driver (no offense meant). As they discussed snatches of their conversation wafted over, especially when the busdriver's mobile phone rang and he shouted into it for a bit. The old chap, it appears, runs some mildly important public organization. The busdriver, it became clear, is considerably more powerful than that minister: he's an important member of Likud's central committee or however you translate Merkaz HaLikud. Think Mayor Daley the First, back in the 1950s and 1960s: the kind of fellow who can get a young unknown senator elected President against the incumbent Vice President. This fellow made it clear that if he needed, he'd instruct the Prime Minister, and Finance Minster, and Sheldon Edelson to appear at his shindig and spout the party line, or whatever line he needed them to spout. And if you don't know who Sheldon Edelson is, that merely proves how far from real power you are. Security goons are nice things to have; real power is nicer.

The Two Scholars: sitting in a cafe, two men talking earnestly. One, the younger, wearing the black kippa that identifies him as being American, Orthodox on the outside rim of the Haredi world, and well educated. The older one, quite bald, secular, and Sabra. They sat there for at least an hour, talking about the Book of Joshua.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Living offline has some distinct advantages. You should try it some day.

maybe, but reading as a pastime with wikipedia and dictionaries and images always only a click away has become a wholly different experience ...

really glad you are back - there are not many sober voices around

and here is news about curly haired Juan Cole - sorry