The New York questions.

When Israeliborns ask where I’m from ‘b’makor’ there are usually a few follow up questions that I get after I answer I’m from New York. Por example:

  1. Ahhh, so you lived/you have been to Brooklyn?!
  2. Are there a lot of Arabs there?
  3. Have you been to Harlem? Is it really scary?

I wonder if you could analyze that and decide what the undertones mean.

You don’t mess with the Arab-Israeli conflict.

Last night I watched 3/4ths of Adam Sandler’s You Don’t Mess With the Zohan.

Really, it was like any other Adam Sandler character acting film; Little Nicky, Waterboy. His extreme characters are not his strongest point for me (I’m more of a Billy Madison/Happy Gilmore fan). I’m always able to enjoy the twisted nature of his characters, yes, but at the same time, I feel lonely in that fact. Hence, only seeing 3/4ths of the movie; everyone around me was either asleep or unhappy.

Then again, it wasn’t like any other Adam Sandler character acting film. It was like a message of peace wrapped in ridiculous. I was pleasantly surprised by the handful of scenes that contained real dialogue and messages between the lines concerning the cyclical nature of Arab-Israeli violence.

I found it interesting that Sandler was banking on his audience to care for a movie with Arab and Israeli characters. A lot of the jokes totally ostracize people who don’t know much about Israel, while at the same time I think there could have been even deeper jokes for those of us who do. Why stop at hummus?

Of course, I can understand why the Israelis portrayed in the film are nothing like the Israelis in real life; similarly – and even more so – the Palestinians portrayed in the film are nothing like the Palestinians in real life. But I was not ready to get angry. It was half-baked satire, and that’s all i was expecting going into it.

I guess what bothered me more – because I was never going to take this movie all that seriously – Is that Adam Sandler is so much more than toilet humor. I don’t understand what goes through his head when he makes these character movies, which tend to blend together and lack finishing touches, as if he’s reaching for something but never quite there.

Leave that to Sacha Baron Cohen…

A true face of Jerusalem: the hospital waiting room.

Today I spent quite a bit of time in a Jerusalem hospital waiting room; no emergency, I just needed an x-ray. In the past few months, I’ve actually frequented Jerusalem hospital waiting rooms and have been fascinated by the faces I see and the languages I hear.

I think the true face of any city is its hospital waiting room. Conflict or none, from Belfast to Beirut, do people have much of a choice but to face each other in this neutral, undisputed territory?

Honestly, I’m not sure about those two cities, but in Jerusalem, the waiting room hosts a rainbow of Charedi Jews to secular Jews, Ashkenaz to Mizrachi, French, Russian and Ethiopian immigrants, international students and diplomats, religious and secular Arabs. You hear Hebrew spoken in so many accents, you wonder if it’s actually the same language.

Today I observed a couple of Arab women walk in with a small boy; one of the women was religious and one was not. The boy was young, maybe three, and clearly uncomfortable being there. He whined the way any child, no matter skin color nor religion, whines… The women accompanying him – the secular one seeming to be his mother – tried to hush him but to no avail.

Out of nowhere, an elderly woman came to him and started coaxing him Arabic-accented Hebrew to relax. She pulled from her bag the currency of which all children of every nation speak: crunchy snacks. She carefully poured the crackers into a cup for the boy and offered them to him: “Kach et ze, chamud. Ze b’seder. Tochel.”

Finally, the boy reached for the cup, and a chorus of Arabic flew from his mother and her companion: “Say thank you! Thank you! Shukran! Say shukran!” The older woman, who I realized was Mizrachi, spoke softly to the boy: “Yofee… Tochel, yeled tov. Tagid todah. To-dah. Tagid todah…”

This chorus of shukrans and todahs was not stopping, and soon I found that the Arab women were telling the boy to “Tagid todah,” while the Jewish woman was encouraging him to say “shukran!”

Language, faces, hospitals, kids, snacks. All undisputed territory when they work together.