Those of us who “make time count” or attempt to “leave a footprint in history” may have our admirers, but I can assure you that at the end of the day, we aren’t a giggle-chortle, laugh-riot crowd. At best, we are introspective, deep, humorless and usually in need of a cosmetic make-over. Don’t take my word for it; just look at the different appearances of hip-hop artists (sic) and folk-singers. Case closed.
Judy called me last week, asking if I wanted to hit the Cinematheque. I wanted to give an automatic “yes,” but, instead, waited to hear what social commentary was being explored in the film she chose. “None,” she said. “This is for fun. Pure escapism. We’re going to see Sex in the City II.” Since I hadn’t seen the original or any of the television shows, there just didn’t seem to be much point. I declined. After all, what good would come out of it?
Adding another dose of intensity to my already dour spirits was that – along with everyone else in the country – I was neck deep in “Flotilla Funk” and not in the mood to be seen smiling in public or, even worse, thinking about upgrading my wardrobe after 90 minutes of watching Sarah Jessica Parker don every size zero item in her obscenely huge closet.
The resulting numbness that came after several days of (yawn) sitting in the crosshairs of international media and being lambasted for doing what any self-respecting nation would do to protect her borders and citizenry was compounded by the fury of being judged AGAIN by a double standard and yardstick that has no historical precedence. I was sick, scared, aching for the families of the Israeli navy personnel who were systematically attacked and nearly butchered by the “peace-seeking activists,” and almost paralyzed from the rage I was experiencing. The idea of finding an outlet for this despondency was way out of my reach.
Having painted a drab-enough picture of my companion mind-set, it was with great trepidation and clearly an out-of-body drive that impelled me to order tickets for a four-man comedy show. Laughter for the sake of laughter? A night that I actually ventured out in public rather than fold laundry, scrub the kitchen, or plod away by attempting to write a going-nowhere novel? Yup. I saw the ad, pulled the credit card out from beneath the cobwebs, and, in a near-narcotic trance, dialed the ticket office. The happy upshot of this uncharacteristic behavior was that, in fact, the multi-city comedy tour was being staged for a fabulously worthy cause. With reason now to smile, I reasoned that at least I’d be “laughing for charity”!
For the past few years, Israeli-born American comic Avi Liberman has managed to convince three respective guffaw-meisters to join him on a noble trip to our neck of the woods in order to raise money for Camp Koby. Named after murdered teenager Koby Mandell, the camp provides summer fun for youngsters who are bereaved from the loss of a parent or sibling due to terrorism. At 100 shekels a pop, these were not “yuks.” Most of the visiting comics are non-Jews and this, alone, is pretty funny. Their objective observations about Israel usually make for loads of fun.
Mexican-American comic Johnny Sanchez had us rolling with his descriptions of the many almost-came-to-blows fights he saw in Tel Aviv that never materialized into one Israeli punching another. He saw loads of balled-fist threats but the parties always seem to walk away after a shoulder-push or two. What did he think? That we’re all Yuri Foreman or Dmitry Salita? “This would never happen with Mexicans!” (No one informed him that all Jews carry the mobile phone-numbers of their lawyers at all times. Just in case.)
Wayne Cotter – the only lanzman in the bunch – was embarrassed that he had never gotten here before even though he and his wife just celebrated the Bar Mitzvah of their son. “Did you notice that everyone here is Jewish???” he observed. Yeah, we’ve noticed. In fact, sometimes living here has a Twilight Zone quality to it, like being stuck at a perpetual Bar Mitzvah with the same nutty relatives, but you can never go home. The host is clearly Rod Serling, and wherever you turn, Aunt Ida and Cousin Murray are still there. . . . .)
Personally, I agonized that all in attendance showed these men – including very, very funny Bob Zany – the respect they deserved. After all, they arrived just as the proverbial Flotilla-flotsam hit the fan and didn’t flinch.
We Israelis – foreign born and not – are keenly aware of being poorly perceived outside of our little sliver of land. Thus said, we wanted the visiting funnymen to walk away with an accurate perception of who we are and (but?) still like us! To recognize that we are moral and loving and real and, sadly, frustrated from being denied the same considerations and courtesies as those who would wish to harm us.
While the world continued to condemn us for behaving responsibly and cautiously and not lying down to die in the process, I allowed myself a “night off,” so that tears of laughter might flow unrestrained. Sitting among strangers who were not so different from me, I was “permitted” 90 minutes of respite, joyously able to forget that not everybody wants for us that which we want for ourselves; to live free in our own land, at peace with our neighbors and in harmony with the rest of the world.
You know, on some days, it’s enough to make you cry.