Tag Archives: The Big Lebowski

You see what happens, Hamas . . .

“Don’t be silly,” I reassure Itzik, as we sip on our sachlabs on Rothschild, early last Thursday evening. “Nothing will happen in Tel Aviv.”

It might as well be the cue for the siren.

There are a surreal couple of seconds, during which the occupants of adjacent tables exchange puzzled, yet pregnant, glances: “Is it . . . ? What now . . . ?”

I jump up, as if stabbed with a shot of adrenaline. The dogs bark. We dart inside the café, my spanking new Galaxy S II abandoned alongside the sachlab. Clive Dunn has only been gone a week, and I have already forgotten his famous advice (though discovering that it is true, no one “like[s] it up ’em”). It is the first time I have experienced a siren not marking the commencement of Shabbat or a Holocaust/Remembrance Day.

We all huddle together at the rear of the café. A 60-something female hears my accent and, as if encouraging a boy to consummate his transition to manhood, asks me if it is my “first time”. I nod sheepishly. She imparts advice that I am in no state to listen to.

A distant boom. Perhaps two. And, within half an hour, I am home, packed, and on Highway 1 . . . on my way to the capital. I am ‘caught’ by my neighbours in the act of attempting to wheel my bag quietly out of the building. “I am not escaping,” I protest. “I have a fortieth birthday party in Jerusalem!” And it is true. But I don’t expect them to believe me. And I don’t think they do.

I tease Itzik – a Tel Aviv real estate agent who has continually belittled my second home in Jerusalem – from the car, telling him that he won’t be getting a key (‘forcing’ the coward into having to stay, instead, with his father in Petach Tikva).

And Itzik is the first to call me, gloating, the following early evening, within seconds of the siren sounding in the capital. I have darted into the stairwell, where the neighbours are quickly gathering, before shooting back in for my flatmates. My Orthodox neighbour overcomes her fear of Stuey and Dexxy, whom, until now, she has refused to even pass on the stairs. “Shit,” I exclaim, in an attempt to lighten the tension, “I left the back window open.” But the attempt at humour is lost.

I meet an American woman on Saturday who is considering taking refuge in London. Who am I to judge? I still do. And I delete an old law school friend from Facebook after he publishes this photo (right) with the caption: “Address this, Mark Regev . . .”

In fact, the next time I hear a Palestinian talk about ‘his’ olive tree, I will make it my job to find said plant, uproot it, and stick it up his . . . well, in a place that it will get no light. These people attach no value to human life, never mind olive trees.

Make no mistake, when Hamas talks about an “end to the Occupation” (which, in principle, I am also in favour of ending), it is talking about an end to Israel. And, if it was up to me, I would bring those fuckers [complaints, please, to John Fisher – he doesn’t approve of the asterisk] to their knees before even agreeing to listen to talk about a ceasefire.

There is a wonderful feeling of togetherness here at present. I had been putting the finishing touches to a blog critical of Israelis. But I can’t publish it now. These are special people. And they are giving their all for our People . . . and – if the world would only open its eyes – for the values that civilised people everywhere hold dear.

To the residents of the south, we should have empathised more fully with your sacrifice and suffering, and with the intolerable circumstances under which you have had to live this past decade. To former Defence Minister Amir Peretz, respect for promoting – when few believed in it (or you) – Iron Dome. And to the soldiers awaiting your orders on the edge of Gaza, though it looks unlikely now that you will receive them, chazak ve’ematz.

Once again, however, I leave the last words to the great – though oft misunderstood – Walter Sobchak . . .


Hamas would have done well to heed the lesson of Mr. Sobchak – as, from now on, would Iran and even Egypt (which, respectively, have supplied and allowed unhindered passage of the missiles used to attack us) – though I sincerely hope that the IDF has been picking its targets rather more calmly and prudently!

[See also Airstrike on Gaza: Israel’s Right of Self-DefenceF*ck you, too and Days of Awe, Heroes and Whores . . . sadly, all still as relevant today as they were nearly four years ago.]


Sometimes there’s a man: Pichotka’s simcha

“Sometimes there’s a man . . . I won’t say a hero, ’cause what’s a hero? But sometimes there’s a man . . . he’s the man for his time and place. He fits right in there . . . I don’t know about you, but I take comfort in that. It’s good knowin’ he’s out there.”    

The Stranger, The Big Lebowski (1998) 

When I was a boy – or, should I say, were a lad? – my greatest wish was to meet William John Bremner.    

Footballer Billy Bremner was the captain of Scotland, but, more significantly for me, of my beloved Leeds United. And I still recall exactly where I was – on Yirmeyahu Street, in north Tel Aviv – when I heard news, on the BBC World Service, of his premature passing, in December 1997.    

I doubt that it is still an Anglo-Jewish custom – professional footballers’ salaries hardly need supplementing these days – but, growing up in the UK, the very best present that parents could give a bar mitzvah boy was to invite his favourite footballer to the party. And every Friday’s Jewish Chronicle would feature photographs of sheepish looking Gentiles, who clearly (and understandably) would much rather have been in the pub – or anywhere else for that matter – than surrounded by scores of fawning Anglo Jews.    

But, however much I may have dreamt of meeting “King” Billy, I knew that my parents had more depth than to cheapen my coming of age with so meaningless a gesture. And I respected them for that.    

At a recent family bar mitzvah in London, however, I was saddened to hear even the Rabbi (United Synagogue), in his sermon, appeal to my twin cousins purely in terms of Arsenal FC and cricket. It may come across as pompous – even as hypocritical, from “El Presidente” of the Tel Aviv Whites! – but don’t we Jews have enough of our own, genuine heroes to whom we can point?    

Indeed, a close childhood friend, as steeped in Arsenal as the worst of them, chose to name his firstborn after Yonatan Netanyahu (right), the fallen commander of Operation Entebbe. Whilst, at the time, rather tickled by the gesture (considering Graham had never even set foot in Israel), “Yoni” was by far preferable to the always more likely “Thierry”, “Dennis”, or even “Charlie”.    

A couple of weeks ago, my new squeeze invited me to the wedding of Binyamin, an old friend of hers from film school. Tali has had quite enough of having to suffer smug, boring and/or miserable (are there any other kind?!) married couples at such dos alone. And, not sharing her fear of The Wedding – what can be bad about a free bar and good scoff? – I accepted.    

As we arrived at Sadot, a delightful, rustic venue (no more miserable synagogue halls, tasteless banqueting suites, or airport hotel conference centres for me!) close to Netanya – and before I could even get to the bar for my first bottle of Goldstar – Tali pointed out Binyamin’s father, who, she informed me, is a well-known ex-ish tzava (army man).    

Brazen Zionist that I am, I was suddenly excited to be there for reasons other than grub and alcohol (and, of course, you, Tali!) And the feeling was only heightened when Tali told me his nickname: “Pichotka” (“פיחוטקה”). You can’t be a serious ex-IDF man without having a nickname like a teddy bear.    

To corroborate Tali’s account, I immediately sms’d another ish tzava, my friend Yuval, to find out whether he knew of “Pichotka”.    

“Of course!” came the instant reply.    

“I am at his son’s wedding!” I texted back excitedly.    

“Forget “Pichotka”,” Yuval responded, clearly unimpressed, “how is it going with Tali?!”    

But my feelings of privilege and recharged Zionist zeal were not to be dampened.

"Pichotka" & Ariel Sharon (1st & 2nd left), Battle of Mitla

Tat Aluf (Brigadier General) Efraim “Pichotka” Hiram was born in Poland in 1933. Ariel Sharon recruited the young Holocaust survivor, now an artillery officer, into his Paratroopers Brigade in 1956. In October of that year, during the Sinai Campaign, “Pichotka” participated in the historic Battle of Mitla – to this day, the only occasion on which IDF paratroopers have parachuted in a combat situation – and, in the following years, in numerous operations against Fatah and the PLO.    

One story, shared at our table, was of Sharon, not knowing his officer’s real name, refusing to let “Pichotka” go on a mission, but ordering that Efraim Hiram be sent in his stead!    

A confidant of Yitzhak Rabin and friend of former Chief of Staff Rafael Eitan, “Pichotka” was influential in the promotions of future IDF Chiefs Dan Shomron and Amnon Lipkin-Shahak, as well as of Major General Matan Vilnai. (Less interestingly, to me at least, he went on to become mayor of Ramat Hasharon.)    

"Pichotka" (right) with Major Saad Haddad, founder and head of the South Lebanon Army (circa 1982)

Sharing “Pichotka”’s simcha (celebration) served as a much-needed reminder for me – at a time when it is all too easy to forget – that this country is not just about high-tech and real estate.  

I know nothing about “Pichotka”’s childhood, merely that, before eventually relenting, he forbade Binyamin from setting foot in Poland. And, observing “Pichotka” during dinner, I opined to Tali – though in the knowledge that a Sabra (person born in Israel) would not quite understand – that only we Jews could have gone from the Holocaust to rustic weddings within so short a time frame.   

At the end of the evening, I made a point of approaching “Pichotka”, and wished him a warm mazal tov (congratulations). It had been a special simcha – Binyamin had been, like me, a 42-year old bachelor! – and I felt the handshake of a survivor in every sense. In his mid-seventies and white of hair, perhaps . . . but “Pichotka” still has a presence and voice that boom as loudly as any artillery cannon.    

At the kiosk on Rothschild, the following morning, I proudly announced to anyone who would listen that I had been at “Pichotka”’s simcha. What did the Sabras understand, however, or care? But I was chuffed, indeed privileged, to have been there. For a diehard Zionist who didn’t grow up here, it was the real deal.   

We employ terms such as “hero” and “legend” far too lightly. It is the “Pichotkas” of this world, ordinary people who have made extraordinary sacrifices, who are the real ones for us Jews, not the “Bremners” (whose only merit, if it is one, was being good enough to have earned a living as one of – to quote my former French master – “22 grown men chasing a pig’s bladder”).    

And “Pichotkas” live amongst us. They are not just names and stories in some ancient Book. And, on this anniversary of the day on which God is supposed to have given us the Torah, we should appreciate – indeed, tell our bar mitzvah boys about – our living Davids and Gideons.    

Happy Shavuot ! חג שבועות שמח  

Getting ready to rock ‘n’ roll with Iran

“If you will it, Dude, it is no dream.”   

".אם תרצו, אין זו אגדה"

I open my one hundredth posting to melchett mike with a quote from my all-time favourite movie character, The Big Lebowski‘s Walter Sobchak.           

This Polish-Catholic American convert to Judaism – the brilliant creation of the Coen brothers and John Goodman – was, however, quoting some other dude with a long black beard.  

And whiling away the hours at ‘our’ kiosk on Rothschild yesterday morning – I’m working part-time these days (I am 42, y’know!) –  in 27°C heat (nine times the 3°C in my native London) was enough to make me feel that I am living the “dream” . . . if not precisely the one that Theodor Herzl (above right) had in mind.                       

But, whilst we were indulgently licking the ketzef (foam) off our hafuchs (lattes), in Tehran –  on the anniversary of the 1979 Islamic Revolution – Mahmoud Ahmadinejad was letting the crowds, but more importantly Iran’s enemies, know that his terror state is already producing weapons-grade uranium. And Iran’s claim to be a nuclear state, together with yet another call from its President for Israel to “be finished off”, makes Tel Aviv’s hedonism-as-usual somewhat surreal and me considerably more concerned than I was a few months ago.                      

Amongst the sun worshippers at our table yesterday morning was Martin Goldberg, a fellow ex-Hasmo (1975-1982).          

“I don’t worry about things over which I have no control,” Martin declared when I brought up the subject of Iran.                      

But isn’t that precisely what we should be worried about?!        

The truth is that I don’t really worry about such things either. But I certainly do think about them . . .
  • My gas mask – allocated during the Second Intifada, in 2000 – was collected a couple of years ago, but never replaced. 
  • Where is my “local” (bomb shelter)?
  • Even if I find it, would there really be any point in going in?
  • Would Stuey and Dexxy be allowed in?
  • And, should the unthinkable become the inevitable, would there be a mass exodus from Ben Gurion?

I, for one, certainly won’t be going anywhere . . . other than, perhaps, to my mother’s in Netanya (surely the poisonous Persian dwarf isn’t interested in ex-pat octogenarians playing bridge by the sea?)     

Whilst it is always depressing to hear about incidents like those at the University of California and Oxford Union, earlier in the week – the sooner these knuckle-draggers find their caves in Afghanistan the better – there are no shortage of idiots here. And, though (unlike The Jerusalem Post) a proper newspaper, the daily, intellectual masturbation (left hand) in Ha’aretz never ceases to vex.    

In Wednesday’s edition, for instance, the Israeli novelist and playwright, A.B. Yehoshua – who, displaying such childlike naïvety, should probably be renamed A.B.C. Yehoshua – opined that peace with the Palestinians would neutralise the Iranian threat (full article).    

By Jove, A.B., so simple! So brilliant! Why didn’t we think of that?! A quick, lasting peace with the Palestinians . . .   

What planet do these tossers live on? Ahmadinejad is motivated by an Islamofascist hatred of Jews, not love for the Palestinians. And, until the last one of us has turned out the lights – or until he has, Allah forbid – he won’t rest.     

Iran under Ahmadinejad: entering a world of pain

Now is not the time for intellectualising or infighting – though we Jews excel at both – but for solidarity. After all, which of us would really want to be in Bibi’s or Barak’s shoes at this critical juncture in Jewish history?     

The very best that we can hope for now is that the little brown Hitler will soon, somehow, be deposed. Otherwise, quoting our antihero Walter (right) once again, Iran may well be “entering a world of pain”.    

In order to protect “three thousand years of beautiful tradition, from Moses to Sandy Koufax,” Israel will need to be prepared for all eventualities – even to “roll on Shabbos” – and will have to summon a different type of “will” than that referred to by Herzl. 

It had better be an iron strong one.