I was really looking forward to coming home.
As well as my mum of course (and I’m not just saying that because she reads melchett mike!), I missed Stuey and Dexxy, ‘my’ kiosk on Rothschild (and decent coffee), Israeli food, and, in some strange sense, even my boss. And I had had enough of the Barmy Goyim (at least until Cape Town, January 2010).
But, not for the first time, on arriving at El Al check-in, at JFK – following my connection from Barbados – I felt strangely deflated (incidentally, most unlike all the corpulent Borough Park Jews in the queue . . . why shouldn’t they be weighed like baggage, and made to pay overweight?!)
What is it about seeing other Jews (and, no, not just Israelis) that does that to me? Might I be afflicted by the same “self-hating” disease that I have decried in so many others on this very blog?
When amongst non-Jewish friends (as I was in the Caribbean), I wear my difference with pride . . . even enjoying that they affectionately (I hope!) call me “Jewish Mike”. When back amongst my own, however, it all feels (to quote Jackie Mason) just a little “too Jewish”.
Is it just me?
There’s always a perceptible tension in an El Al queue. An impatience. And the travellers always seem so angst-ridden. Or am I just observing an unflattering reflection of myself?
Then there’s the Duty Free. Not as bad as at Ben Gurion. But my coreligionists are still very visible, frantically jostling for things they don’t need.
The umpteenth call for boarding. I push my luck and make a last-minute dash for the loo. But I needn’t have hurried. As I emerge, I am greeted by the sight of the March of the Penguins – as my chilonit (secular) work colleague refers to Hassidim – dozens of them, towards the departure gate. Where have they been? And why do they always have to be different, ignoring all the rules?
Then there’s the flight. God help me. I am only grateful that it is El Al, and that non-Jews don’t have to witness this.
Hours later, the plane has only just hit Israeli tarmac, and all the captain’s orders are immediately disobeyed. They’re standing, opening overhead lockers, talking on cellphones . . .
What is it about us?
Or is it just me?