Wednesday, May 02, 2007

Taking the Bait:

By: Schvach Yid

On a recent trip to the web ‘I was reminded’ (to borrow that ditty of rabbinical derush) of the existence of May Day. Now that that undeserving memorial day is over ‘I am reminded’ of my first trip to Israel. It just happened to have been a May 1st. I had no idea; in fact, I had never thought about it, having heard about that inauspicious observance (do I protest too much?) on TV as a youngster, and then instantly forgetting about it. But there I was on Rehov Kaplan in Tel Aviv on a May 1st, with a group. The Sachnut (Israel’s government agency for aliyah and absorption) is located there, and so was I. Red flags a-flappin’ in the breeze displayed atop every lamppost in sight. What? What the hell is this all about? Then I was informed by the group leader – May Day, I learned, but not in the traditional manner. No havruta, no pilpul. Communism in the Jewish Homeland? Foy! My mistake was this. I wanted to visit Israel, which until that time I never had, and I had heard so much about it, mostly from my Conservative Movement Hebrew school, where the principal and most of the teachers were Israeli, and who fed us a constant dose of aliyah propaganda. But who wanted to betray and leave America? Yet as an adult in my early 30’s I decided the time had arrived for a visit. What to do? I thought I needed permission, so I went to the Aliyah Desk (a function of the Sachnut, but who knew) where I was invited (more likely conscripted) to visit Israel as a guest of Tour V’aleh. My only expense would be a reduced priced roundtrip airfare; food and lodging gratis. Schlecht? Off I flew with Tour V’aleh, but first I needed to provide letters (or forms) of recommendation. They were stupid enough to require them, and I was stupid enough to comply (letters of recommendation to visit Israel?; in retrospect I’m left with the feeling there’s probably nothing more superfluous than Israeli bureaucracy – they learned it from the British, you know). Once feet were firmly planted on terra hakadosh (huh?) the ‘fit hit the shan’. Tour V’aleh was a commie organization (actually, it wasn’t until that night that the revelation was given, at a group meeting). Oy veh! I’m ruined! Schvach the pinko! Those red scam-aholics got me! Joe McCarthy is risen and I’m history (get it?)! It was time to scram and recalibrate. Thankfully the whole thing was only seven days or so. I spent most of it on my own, visiting all the Jewish holy places and tourist sites, and bumping into people I hadn’t seen since as early as high school (starting on the flight over). Ta ta to the Potemkin crowd (I don’t know which side they were on since I’ve never seen the flick). I certainly had taken the bait, but I didn’t swallow, I swear.

By the way, as I wrote this I turned on the radio to hear some music, and Smetana’s ‘Moldau’ was playing – one of the works from which Israel’s ‘Hatikva’ was lifted (the other is Gliere’s ‘Russian Sailor’s Dance’ from his ballet ‘The Red Poppy’). I savor these moments of coincidence, as though the Aybischter is jabbing a finger in my ribs, telling me he notices.

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