Is it just me? (Caribbean Trip, The Return)

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?


9 responses to “Is it just me? (Caribbean Trip, The Return)

  1. Are the dosim American or Israeli? Because if they are Israeli, that explains everything….

  2. I read your post nodding my head in agreement the whole time (so no, it’s not just you). You described MY last El Al trip to Israel to a tea, penguins, slighted captain, and all. And I continue to ask myself the same question too (“Is it just me?”) every time I watch fellow Israelis offer every kind of excuse (or worse, no excuse at all) to push in or try and jump a queue, no matter how illogical, inconsiderate or self-important the justification.

    As an Israeli who has lived many years in Australia and has experienced a culture with, well, manners – I think it boils down to bad upbringing, plain and simple. For a people for whom serving in the army is part of life and who should know better than anyone that rules exist to maintain order, it’s bizarre to me that “civilian” Israelis seem to ditch their respect for order (and especially basic manners) every chance they can.

    I think that manners and social etiquette should be introduced in schools here as a compulsory subject (it’s no good leaving it to the parents who have no clue themselves). Maybe then, in two or three generations, we won’t feel so embarrassed to travel abroad among our own kind…

  3. Danny Landau

    Don’t even get me started on Israelis …

  4. Being Dati, Sadly I have to tell you it is not you. Nevertheless, it is possible that it is only the Israeli penguins. Many times, I say “never again” (ELAL) alas best travel points for credit cards in Israel.
    Love your blogs – Especially Hasmo

  5. jake Rosenfield

    That’s why I travel BA!

    Your description of the plane landing in Israel & all the people standing up as soon as the wheels of the plane hits the runway, reminded me of a flight to Warsaw a couple of years ago.

    I was flying with my brother on a Polish/Hungarian budget airlines. To my horror as soon as we landed the entire occupancy of the plane bagan clapping while half the people were already standing trying to retrieve there belongings from the overhead lockers. I turned to my brother and said ” they obviously had Jewish Grandparents!”

  6. ad-hominem attacks such as these are usually generalisations and unwarranted at worst, but I’ll give you this one…

  7. Nick Kopaloff

    Lovely piece Mike and I especially like the word “corpulent”.
    You mirror the thoughts that I usually feel too uncomfortable to express.
    I did the “Breslav Hassidim” Oman trip via Vienna, which had unruly corpulent penguins matched against lean stoic Arians leaving me in a shameful quandary I dare not try to articulate.
    Let me refer you to the best book I have ever read which tries to grapple with this uneasy sentiment: “The Pity of it All” by Amos Elon. I lent it to a renowned journalist who agreed it was amongst his favorite ever books.

  8. Have just come back from NY with Elal i can tell you that in my experience the staff on no other airline is so impatient. Not being a Dos but ex Yeshiva Stream i witnessed more chilonim jump up and have their phones on than charedim but the flight was mainly chilonim –
    But i think that it is clear why charedim are up there with the early risers –
    Their lives are so regimented by rules and order that this little chance to rebel is jumped at –
    Something that shouldn’t be so hard for an ex-Hasmo boy to understand.
    PS the lines may be tense but i think that before an 11 hour flight that is understandable – on flights all over the place there are endless examples of rude behavior from all sorts. Not least Brits under the influence.
    I for one detest the rules set by those who rounded up my grandparents and put them in camps to die (and wont visit Uman ever) (and probably would again judging by world opinion). Break the rules as a way of at times giving supposed descent saxon folk the finger. They hate you anyway Jewish Mike 🙂
    If you cant beat em join em!

  9. ELAL = Every Landing Always Late 🙂

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