Category Archives: Israeli People

Careful what you wish for, Israel

In the civilized Kingdom from whence I came (up, I was always told), one’s voting preferences were very much a private matter. Indeed, any inquiry as to the identity of the political party for which even a close friend or relative intended to exercise his or her democratic right would have been as welcome as asking them whether their style was more missionary or doggy (currently, I’d take either).

Not so, however, in the jungle I now inhabit. On a par with every Israeli’s entitlement to know how much you forked out or received for your home is his right to be informed as to whether you will be assisting to put in place his government of choice. And not possessing the Briton’s finesse for small talk – NW4’s and 11’s “Who are you eating/davening byyy?”, for familiar instance – the native has no inhibition accosting even a virtual stranger with “Who are you voting for?”

My stock four-letter response these past months, “Bibi”, has raised quite a few eyebrows in my midweek Tel Aviv stomping grounds (though rather fewer in those of the Jerusalem of my long weekends).

Polling day for the 20th Knesset is this Tuesday, but I have taken little or no interest in the campaign . . . a sign, I am sure, of my (still) having one foot out the door, but also of having been relaxed in the knowledge that Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu would still be in Residence at the top of Rechov Aza when I return, at the start of May (coalition building in the jungle can take a good month and a half), from watching England lose its Test series in the Caribbean.

Yonit LeviBut, getting my thrice-weekly Yonit (right) fix a few evenings ago, I was rudely interrupted by her lead item: it seems that my having taken for granted a Likud victory has been more than a little misplaced, with the centre-left Zionist Union alliance now two or three seats ahead in the polls . . .

Well, I almost spilt my box of Kleenex! The thought of that spineless runt Isaac Herzog – co-leader of the alliance, but who has only been in charge of Labour for 15 months and possesses all the charisma of a lentil seed – running the country is a terrifying one, and a sure sign (if the polls are correct) that many of the natives are losing all reason. Although our late fathers were friends, the sole encounter between their sons left this one somewhat less than enamoured: see Curbing My (Irish) Enthusiasm – in just a few seconds, I had seen the ‘man’ (and my instincts in such matters are generally reliable).

In the interests of even-handedness, the following is the most flattering English-language interview with Herzog I could find . . .

“You wanna know something . . .” Dear, oh dear! Just the drone of those adenoids is enough to make one lose the will to hear. Should Herzog, heaven forfend, become Prime Minister, the ch’nun (nerd) will be exposed to non-stop media scrutiny (and bias), with every non-hearing-impaired person who cares about this country begging for their Bibi back.

Netanyahu is running for his fourth term (third consecutive). It is not difficult to see how familiarity has bred contempt (or merely boredom). And it has become über-trendy to bash him. Of course he could have done some things better. But, if you believe Israel to be “broke” merely because many of its citizens cannot afford to buy apartments in its financial and cultural capital, or that the way to go is to be more conciliatory to the Arabs, then perhaps – like the “idiots” and “lunatics” proscribed by UK legislation – you should not be allowed to vote at all.

So, come Tuesday, I will be voting along “If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it” lines. Bibi has steered a remarkably steady ship through extremely turbulent waters and years, during which for much of the world – cowed by and cowering before Islamofascism, or influenced by its all-pervading disdain for the Jew – Israel could do no right.

With Islamic State now on our borders and – thanks to that jug-eared nob in the White House – a soon-to-be-nuclear Iran, the security situation will get a whole lot worse before it gets any better. And, if Herzog becomes Prime Minister, Hamas and Hizbollah will be laughing all the way to their tunnels. It is not difficult to imagine the next war in Gaza. It is, however, to imagine Isaac Herzog leading us through it.

Changes, as Dovid Bowie once proclaimed (“I still don’t know what I was waiting for . . . and every time I thought I’d got it made, it seemed the taste was not so sweet”), are not always for the better. And those now pining for Bibi’s demise may, with a limp dick like Herzog in his place, have plenty of time to repent their naivety in having fussed over who owns what in and around Rothschild Boulevard. Bibi and Buji (November 2013)

Heidis, Milkies and Amalekites

It is no secret. I am not settled here. I need a change. I was originally thinking Cork (I bottled it). Now on the radar is Berlin.

MilkyAnd the brouhaha stirred up last week by an Israeli in the German capital encouraging others to join him is about far more than the price of chocolate pudding with a splurge of whipped cream (Times of Israel).

I can’t put my finger on what exactly has made me so unsettled here. The illness and passing, last year, of my lovely mum – I have now lost all three members of my immediate family (it is not quite as dramatic as it sounds) – won’t have helped, though my feet were already itching about a year or so beforehand. My aunt is convinced it is my still being single. But, while a wife and kids would not have left as much time for indulgent introspection, I don’t share her conviction that being tied to this country would have made me any more contented in it. Perhaps I am just experiencing some kind of mild, mid-life malaise.

Like “Pudding Man”, I still consider myself a Zionist. What I need, however, is some time (to draw on the Hebrew idiom) out of the Land. I look back at some of my more fervent postings here and wonder if it was really me who authored them. I recently deleted, as unrepresentative of it, “this miraculous little country” (though it is undoubtedly that) from the bullets under About This Blog. The locals now irritate me even more than they always have. The charedim appear more preposterous, the Tel Avivis more arrogant, and the working classes (I had better not get any more specific) more primitive. Tel Aviv feels ever more superficial, and while Jerusalem is more like home, it is also suffocatingly parochial. And there is little escape. The north disappoints (especially knowing the Lakes and Highlands as I do), and the south holds no appeal at all.

Soon into my Tour Guides’ course (which I was anyway forced to abandon in order to care for my mother), it became very apparent that my love for this place was on the wane. The sandstone was of as little interest as the lime, and the myths had lost all their meaning. On a Succot outing last week, our (excellent) guide’s enthusiasm just left me cold. And I have long stopped reading the Israeli press.

My reasons for wanting a break are not typical. They are neither economic nor security-related (though I thank the dear lady who, on the steps of Raleigh Close on Rosh Hashana, and with a grave wink hinting at the unspeakable, assured me that there would always be a spare bedroom for me in NW4 . . . should I “need it”). Unlike the Milky protesters – and there is genuine discontent amongst many Israeli twenty and thirty-somethings – I thankfully need neither cheaper housing nor grocery bills. The missiles, too, don’t faze me. It is more the arseholes who never let you into traffic, drive with a finger on the horn, jump red lights, and don’t stop at pedestrian crossings.

On Thursday evening, a delightful Jerusalem police officer chose to curse my mother in Arabic after spotting me raise my eyebrows as he overran the red light and stopped his marked 4×4 on the crossing. And, more upsettingly (who expects anything from Israeli police?), I recently witnessed the owner of the café where I drink my morning juice eject a frail gentleman in his seventies, who could only shake his head in disbelief, because he was deemed to have been sitting with his newspaper for too long following his last sip of hafuch.

I am sometimes assured, by those attempting to assuage the recent black moods, that such experiences are one-offs, exceptions and not rules. If only. I witness similar things here nearly every day. And they are signs of a society lacking class, boundaries and respect.

I am not comfortable about publishing much of the above, and apologise to anyone it offends (or depresses). But I have always endeavoured in these pages to tell it as I feel it (what otherwise is the point?) And if Yair Lapid wishes to label me an anti-Zionist, or even a traitor, I can live with that. But there is a great big world out there, and just because we have been hounded wherever we have gone in it, it doesn’t follow that we shouldn’t wish to experience it for longer than an Israir Special.

All in all, then, fresh surroundings and challenges clearly can’t come too soon.

Berlin is a wonderful city. Resonant with history, stylish, cosmopolitan, tolerant, and, yes, affordable. It is, I imagine, somewhat similar to the city of my birth . . . before it lost its identity and soul (just sit and observe, as I did a few weeks ago, from the top deck of an Ealing to Golders Green 83). And its main downside is not that history, but the very folk I need a break from: “You got rid of the very cream of world Jewry,” I always remind Oliver, my German lawyer, “and have ended up with tens of thousands of Israelis . . . serves you right!”

Resonant with history: the Neue Synagoge at dusk

Resonant with history: Berlin’s Neue Synagoge at dusk

Even though Angela Merkel’s Germany is arguably Israel’s most loyal and trusted ally (at a time when we don’t have many), on hearing “Berlin”, many of the reactions to my proposed move fall between shock and horror, often accompanied with the expression of someone biting on a pickle that has turned.

But why are we so insistent on clinging to our former enemies? Because of the shortage of current ones? Say I have a short memory, but even if the Germans are (as I was recently informed) the descendants of Amalek, Hamas, IS and Iran all cause me rather more sleep loss than the Amalekites (whom, incidentally, I would take over the Palestinians quicker than you can shriek “Allahu Akbar” and detonate your suicide vest).

Some of the double standards I have encountered have been hilarious, from friends and family whose kitchens could moonlight as AEG/Bosch/Miele/Neff/Siemens showrooms to the elderly relative who I discovered, soon after learning that he was Berlin-broyges with me, had been nailing a local fräulein while serving King and country in Allied-occupied Austria!

Perish the thought . . .

Perish the thought . . .

Indeed, folks’ greatest dread on hearing that I might move to Berlin is, of course, that I could end up in some kind of unseemly liaison with an athletic, fair-haired female with bone structure out of a human biology textbook. I don’t even want to think about that. Much. But anyway, at 47, should I still be placing national survivalism before personal happiness? (And even if Heidi has midos like the pair nearest the camera?)

Some of the ‘caring’ souls who have provided unsolicited opinions as to why I “can’t” move to Berlin are, curiously, the very same who went entirely AWOL during my mother’s illness and the second that I got up from shiva. My oldest friend, Shuli, though, is certainly an exception to that. And, while I am loath to compliment him, I do know that he genuinely cares. After I had successfully repelled his latest attempt, last week, to persuade me to pursue a future with a couple (though separately) of completely unsuitable women – his former search criteria for me long having been reduced to a criterion (i.e., Jewish) – he threw his hands up in the air and exclaimed “Don’t tell me you are happy when you are sitting alone at home with Stuey and Dexxy!” The hard truth is, though, that most dates leave me longing to get back to them.

As for Deutschland, I have a few rather loose ends to tie up here first, but am already looking forward to the new challenge. I have some exciting business ideas and the feeling that my “fascination for the [former] abomination” (to quote Joseph Conrad) could be the impetus for a renewed vigour for writing (both blogging and even something more tangible). Who knows, it might even recharge my flagging Zionism.

And, to all you young Israelis who feel the need for a change, go for it I say! The experiences, culture and Weltanschauung that many of you will eventually bring home will serve this ‘island’ far better than the arrogance and hypocrisy of those who criticise and condescend from their villas in Caesarea and Ramat Aviv.

To all my readers, a very happy, healthy and gevaldig 5775!

Looking ahead (with Vladimir Ilyich, Prenzlauer Berg)

Looking ahead: with Vladimir Ilyich, Prenzlauer Berg

The Edot (Part I): The Pasty UK Years

If pushed to give my primary reason for, on a good day (i.e., when I haven’t been induced into spasm by some impudent native), preferring life in Israel to that in the UK, then pipping even the food, weather and women (in ascending order of hotness) would have to be the rich tapestry of Jewish life here. In spite of our many detractors (and, indeed, problems), the short history of Israel has been one of startling achievement in almost every field, not least of which has been the absorption of so many disparate edot (ethnic groups) – each with its own distinctive culture and traditions – into such a remarkably united (even if we wish it were more so) whole.

But whenever attempting to relate my experiences of, for instance, Moroccan or Yemenite Jews, and especially of their womenfolk, to an Anglo Jew, I am met with a blank expression (one that Part II will attempt to address). The vast majority of British Jews lack any frame of reference in this regard, hailing from or having their origins in Poland, Galicia (today straddling Poland and Ukraine), Russia, the Baltics, Germany, and, to a lesser extent, Hungary. And, growing up in North-West London, the very marginal differences between such Jews could only be discerned from their particular shuls or shtiebls (large and small synagogues) if they had them (most now don’t), from their Shabbos meals, though mainly from their own peculiar – in both senses – sense of identity.

So, in the Isaacson household, for example, my father, of Lithuanian extraction, always appeared to delight in highlighting (in good humour, mind) the intellectual and cultural inferiority of the Galicianer Reiss family into which he had married. The Litvak, he was certain, constituted the very “cream” of European Jewry. Indeed, my father’s claim has always seemed to me to be somewhat justified, the Litvak misnagdim appearing, on the one hand, more enlightened (almost by definition) than the hassidic Galicianers, whilst, on the other, somehow more human than the anally-challenged German Yekkes. (In contrast to most Jewish immigrants to the UK, who arrived immediately before and after the turn of the last century, the majority of Hungarian Jews did not escape the Holocaust and were perhaps, therefore, considered beyond, even light-hearted, stereotype.)

The sickening history of anti-Semitism in Eastern Europe, however, made the “Old Country” a delicate subject for all immigrants. Even though they escaped Lithuania and Galicia around two and three decades, respectively, before the rise of Hitler, my parents never heard their parents or grandparents talk about the pogroms and persecutions that they had suffered in their backward, Jew-hating hellholes. Anyway, there is far more that unites Ashkenazi (European) Jews than separates them. And the differences between them would be no more recognisable to the outsider – or even to most other Jews – than those between, for instance, British Muslims of Bangladeshi extraction and those from Pakistan.

United Colors of British Jewry: Board of Deputies honorary officers, 2009

United Colors of British Jewry: Board of Deputies honorary officers, 2009

A relatively small community of Sephardic Jews – of primarily Middle Eastern and North African descent – added some much-needed colour to the rather pallid complexion of Anglo-Jewish life. My exposure was to the, largely Indian, Sephardic community of Hendon, to the Adenites of Stamford Hill (many of whom attended Hasmonean Grammar School for Boys), and to a smattering of Moroccans, Egyptians, Iraqis and Persians (most of whom had escaped the 1979 Islamic Revolution, wisely with little more than their carpets).

And these Sephardim brought a lot to the table. Quite literally. Their mealtime plenty was quite an eye-opener for the Anglo Jew, in whose kitchen meticulous Shabbos potato allocation was carried out on a Thursday morning. Blessed with an Egyptian aunt, however, I was spared a childhood of exclusively (miserably bland) Ashkenazi fare (though even that was an improvement on traditional English grub). Wary not to injure his daughter’s (my mother’s) feelings, my grandfather would play months of  ‘chess’ with the food she had deposited in his freezer, while my aunt’s wasn’t even given time to ice over.

The door policy, too, operated in Sephardic households was significantly more relaxed, with strays wandering in and out without any requirement for advance written invitation. This was a real culture shock for the Anglo Jew, who ‘greeted’ every unexpected knock at the door – which, even after positive identification, still wasn’t always opened – with a suspicious glance through translucent curtains or a built-in, magnifying peephole.

Perhaps in their attempt to blend in, however, the differences between these various Sephardic ethnicities and cultures were rarely visible to, or experienced by, their Ashkenazi ‘hosts’. And, beyond the puerile mimicking of the ‘funny’ accents of our new Persian classmates, I was never aware of any racism towards, or even light-hearted stereotyping of, our darker brothers. Indeed, many of them easily assimilated into Raleigh Close, Hendon’s very traditional United Synagogue. Moreover, the fact that the biggest “lout/wretch” (to quote the Legendary Swansean) in our school year was Morocco born and bred was neither here nor there.

In Israel, however, the richness of Jewish multi-ethnicity is celebrated, nurtured, and flourishes. And the deliciously incorrect sense of humour enjoyed here, thriving on ethnic excess and eccentricity (this kinda thing), simply could not exist without the edot. Is there anything to the inevitable, resulting stereotypes? You betcha!! And don’t believe anyone who – serving his or, of course, her ‘god’ of political correctness – tells you otherwise.

[Next on melchett mikeThe Edot (Part II): Ethnic Yentzing in Palestine. If you are offended by generalisations, and un-PC ones at that, then give it a miss. Anyway, you are probably on the wrong blog . . .]

A friend in need (of a new car) is a friend indeed

“Thirteen years I have lived in this country,” I ranted to my new classmate as we trudged out of the Hebrew University a few hours ago, “and I still don’t get it . . . in fact, I will never get it!”

I was sharing with Ofer what had been bothering me all day, probably for the very reason that I was not quite sure why . . .

After informing a friend (“Friend”) in Tel Aviv, yesterday (Wednesday) evening, that I was going to be spending today looking for a new car, he mumbled something about waiting for him to speak to the Volkswagen dealership from which he had recently purchased his Polo.

Chaver mavi chaver, I assumed – literally “A friend brings a friend”, a cash incentive common in these parts – and suggested that we split it (as is also common) “chetzi-chetzi” (fifty-fifty). “Yes,” came the reply, without really sounding meant.

Accompanying me on the short walk up Lincoln and onto Yitzhak Sadeh (where the dealership is based), this morning, Friend came clean, informing me that he had told the salesman that he was bringing me and had already negotiated a free service for himself if I, too, purchase a VW.

I ruminated over this combina (see here and here) –  some might call it chutzpah –  all the way up Highway 1, this afternoon . . .

First, there was the knowledge that nothing in this country comes free, and that Friend’s ‘free’ service will definitely be coming off my end of the deal.

Troubling me considerably more, however, was the vulture mentality: What is it about the natives, that they have to get in/have an angle on absolutely bloody everything . . . even a mate forking out 20-25 thousand quid on a new car?! The same friend in England would have negotiated a bigger discount for me, rather than instinctively thinking what he could get out of the deal for himself. And it is not as if he had introduced me to “This wonderful thing called Volkswagen!” The showroom had been top of my list.

Perhaps I am just a meany – indeed, that was Ofer’s take: “Lama ata lo rotzeh lefargen?” (effectively, “Why don’t you want Friend to receive his just reward?”) – though, more likely, it just wasn’t very comfortable having to gaze in the mirror.

[With the time constraints of being back at school, but still getting the occasional urge to write, posts from now on will be shorter . . . if, as above, not sweeter!]

Highlands and Holy Lands: Observations from Civilisation

While I find a ten-day getaway, each year, to some remote part or other of the British Isles to be conducive to my state of mental well-being, it can also leave me feeling rather worse than when I left, constituting a much-needed break from life in this mad little place, on the one hand, but also a painful reminder of the ‘small’ things that we can never enjoy here.

Pulling into passing spaces to give way to oncoming cars on single lane country roads in the Scottish Highlands in June – always accompanied, of course, with a courteous, if perfunctory, wave of the hand – it occurs to me that such an arrangement could never work back home . . .

With the British and Irish, there is instant, mutual understanding of which vehicle of the two should enter the space, based on an assessment of relative: proximity to it at the point of cognition, velocity, vehicle size, etc.

With Israelis, however, such mutual consideration, and respect for the unwritten rules of the road, would, instead, turn into a potentially lethal game of “chicken”, with the driver with the more chutzpah and chest, back and shoulder hair winning the day.

I also enjoy, on my trips, the endearing ability of the English (especially) to talk enthusiastically on any subject, however ostensibly mundane. In an Ardnamurchan Peninsula hotel bar, one evening, I sit spellbound through a half-hour discussion, between the English proprietor and a patron, of the establishment’s problematic central heating system. Until the Croatia vs. Spain Euro 2012 kick-off brings a premature end to the excitement, I learn that boiler “recoverability”, not capacity, is what really matters.

I attempt in vain to imagine a similar scenario – and without audience mutterings of “ya Allah” (dear God) and “me’anyen et hasavta sheli” (literally, it interests my grandmother) – back home, where Iran, high-level corruption, making a fast shekel and plastic media ‘personalities’ appear to be the only subjects which animate.

The realization that my all too brief reintroduction to civilisation is at an end is always harsh and sudden, upon arrival at the Departures check-in desk, with the invariable, tense standoff between incredulous gentile airline staff and my adopted compatriots, as well as Stamford Hill charedim, muttering of anti-Semitism and beseeching that:

  • the 20 kilo hold allowance really allows up to 35 kilos;
  • the one-piece-of-hand-luggage rule does not preclude it being stuffed with weights or being accompanied onboard with an unlimited number of plastic bags; and
  • the airline’s hand luggage size frame is not really binding, but for guidance purposes only.

Just in case I hadn’t  noticed that I was back in the country, on arrival at work the following morning, I am pinned to the rear elevator wall as I attempt to exit on my floor. The natives exhibit quite curious elevator etiquette: when elevator doors open here, those on the outside, rather than letting people exit, immediately stampede in, as if they have been tipped off that a buffet of burekas – cheese, potato, and spinach – awaits them at the back.

And my mind drifts back to those dreamy passing spaces . . .

The Old Forge, Knoydart Peninsula: Britain’s remotest pub

Foot in Mouth Disease: The Shortest Date

I recently had my shortest ever date (excluding, of course, the lovely Odelia). It lasted a grand total of six minutes. And it was still too long.

I am not quite sure why I agreed to meet Irit. She was a nagger even on the phone. But there was something appealing about her JDate mugshot that led me to grant her an audience.

We met on a sweltering Tuesday afternoon, the last day of July. And as Irit approached the agreed meeting point (the corner of Gordon and Shlomo Hamelech), a waddling breach of the Trade Descriptions Act, the cumulation of recent dating disappointments at once got the better of me.

“I just can’t do this anymore,” I wailed to myself, even as I was squeezing Irit’s chubby hand. “Yet another wasted hour and a half, with my brain switched off and my tongue on autopilot.”

Until that infamous afternoon, I had always been the perfect(ish) gentleman on blind dates, not budging until the ninety minutes were up (this had always seemed to me, for no good reason in particular, the minimum decent amount of time to give someone, however little interest I had in the contents of their cranial cavity and/or underwear).

On this occasion, however, as I slouched back in the moulded plastic café seat, I could not have made it any clearer to Irit, however unconsciously, that I just did not want to be there.

My initial faux pas was asking Irit to remind me where her father – estranged from her mother I seemed to recall, from our single telephone conversation the previous week – lived in the States.

“That must have been another woman,” came the reply, without so much as a smidgeon of amusement.

It had been. And while I managed to come up with some feeble, muttered excuse for that blunder, the daggers were clearly about to turn to tears – I was also, it would seem, the final straw in Irit’s dating disappointments – when, next question up, I mistook her folks’ Jerusalem-area moshav for the other’s mother’s Yavneh kibbutz.

“Look,” I said, with a completely unjustified air of defiance, “you are not the only woman I have spoken to . . .”

“It is just insulting,” Irit cut me off, clearly determined to twist the knife even further in my, now nearly fully flaked, veneer of decency. And she was, of course, entirely justified (why oh why hadn’t I heeded my own advice – see the final subheading in Dating Israeli Women: A Guide by the Perplexed – to keep notes?!)

85 minutes now seemed like a very long time indeed – an Israeli woman in revolt and one I had no interest in placating – and there was only one thing for it . . .

“Look, Irit, you don’t have to stay. I’ll get the drinks.”

And, while far from proud of my performance (even our Cilla would have had difficulty laughing it off), I was feeling more relief than guilt as Irit took me up on my offer, getting up and departing the scene. Indeed, I supped my iced coffee engrossed not in self-loathing but in Yediot’s air conditioner ads, and still with the presence of mind to get Irit’s untouched order removed from the bill!

But had I behaved any better (if less deceitfully) than the dread Odelia, who had blown me out (cf. off) with a babysitter-mayse before we had even taken our seats?

Rather than be driven to this, or nasty porkies à la Odelia, an instantaneous shake of the head and direct, Simon Cowell-style “I don’t think so (You Are Not Mike’s New Talent)” must surely be a better way, for all concerned, of terminating a date with about as much of a future as a certain chinless Syrian.

Dating Israeli Women (Part II): Freeing the Dirty Dog Within

Well, it wasn’t really The End (see Dating Israeli Women: A Guide by the Perplexed). J . . . oh, f*ck it, Jennifer forgave that e-mail, and granted me a stay of execution. A brief one. We saw each other twice more, before that dreaded pregnant pause on the telephone, on the evening before our fifth date . . .

“Mike, you are a great guy, but you feel more like a friend.”

I consider proposing friendship with “extras” – Jennifer is an almost indisputable “9”, and I haven’t had too many of those – but refrain.

So, where am I going wrong?

"Could I score with a zoynoh?"

As I explained to a friend, last week, I think I have lost that predator’s instinct. When I was less serious about settling down – and preoccupied not with the future but, largely (if not merely), on gaining access to the Kodesh Kedoshim (Holey of Holeys) – I had a far lower goal:attempts ratio. Now, however, I am like Fernando Torres (right), a forlorn centre-forward who can no longer rely on his nose for goal, but who has started to think too much . . . rather than just poking, sliding or slamming the ball into the back of the net.

Let’s face it, when it comes to matters sexual, we are animals. And I could certainly learn a thing or two from Stuey and Dexxy in that regard: When they come across a hitherto unknown canine, they don’t agonize for weeks on end about a little excess facial hair or slightly imperfect hind symmetry, but rather head, without hesitation, straight for the “box”, where they have a jolly good sniff, often a bit of a lick, and decide, purely on the basis of that, whether or not to take it on from there. (The object of this attention does, on occasion, not take too kindly to it, though – very unlike their owner – neither Stuey nor Dexxy have ever been accused of going too fast, or of being interested only in one thing.)

Therefore – while incumbent upon humans to add a moral dimension to their behaviour (take note, most recent “dirty dog”) – the great scorers, both footballing and otherwise, will be in maximum sync with their animal sides (hence the sobriquet of my childhood hero, Allan “Sniffer” Clarke).

Human blind dates, however, are – to my shagrin – considerably more fraught than their canine equivalents. And, while it is perhaps inadvisable to follow the example of the romantic JDater (of Persian origin) who, twenty minutes into his first meeting with my friend in Manhattan, announced “I want to be inside you now” (she ran out), we are guilty of complicating the natural and straightforward . . . when we should, instead, be finding and releasing that hidden dog (or, at least, centre-forward) within.

I have come to see dates in terms of the motor vehicle . . .

The blind date car

And – unlike the meeting/clash of eyes across a crowded room, of trolleys in the supermarket aisle (the SuperSol on Tel Aviv’s Ben Yehuda Street is even said to stage a weekly, unofficial p’nuyim/p’nuyot [unattached] evening), or (for the benefit of Daniel Marks) of body parts in a nightclub lavatory, where the wheels of love/lust are at once in motion – the blind date car is entirely stationary . . . and facing an extremely steep hill.

As the driver, I consider what is in front of me and decide, (rightly or wrongly) more or less instinctively, what gear to put my brain in.

On occasions, the battery is completely dead, and all attempts to start the vehicle are futile. You both want to say (though neither of you has the courage): “Listen, there is no point. Let’s just go.”

On others – a recent Saturday morning, for example, when I met a lovely woman for breakfast in Modi’in, but just couldn’t imagine filling up – I go straight into cruise control. We spent a very pleasant couple of hours, before I sent her a text message, that evening, stating that “something, I don’t know what [a white lie], was missing.”

I suffered no such shortage of imagination with Jennifer. But after screeching off in first, and moving swiftly and smoothly into second, I hit trouble in third . . . and never reached fourth. In the old days, I would have been in fifth before I (and certainly she) knew it. My changes, however, have got a little rusty, and women, I think, sense that hesitancy.

Well, the gear box is definitely due some attention. A thorough service and oiling should do it, followed by a few spins around the block (prompting me to wonder whether I should be amending the “languages spoken” field in my JDate searches to Russian).

And, as Fernando Torres must also be reminding himself – it is comforting to know that I am not alone – it only takes a second to score a goal.