From Chicago to Israel: What's "Good" for Israel

This is a guest post by Abigail Pickus, a writer based in Jerusalem.  Check out her site:  This article originally ran in The Jewish Week on January 31, 2012 and is being reprinted with permission.
‘Where to?” the cabbie asked.
Since I was running late to meet someone in the Old City, a place perpetually bewitching and confusing to me, it was worth my shelling out the extra moola to have a driver take me as close as possible to my destination without actually hitting the Western Wall.
Which is sadly kind of possible, considering they let cars drive in alleyways there that are barely big enough for a mule. A very skinny mule.
But this is actually a column about Obama.
Because as soon as the cabbie sniffed out my accent, he had a joke for me.
Which reminds me of something said to me during a five-hour date, which while long for a date, ended up being the shortest romance in the history of the universe. Most of that time we spent traversing Tel Aviv’s underbelly in the wee hours of the morning.
Who knew so many people were up so late?
And not only up, but, this being Israel, also eating giant sandwiches.
“Azeh sandvich!” the tiny bar wench informed us when we admired the king-sized sandwich she was downing.
But that’s not my point. Nor is my point that my “date,” one of Israel’s most notorious journalists, is such a wee little sprite himself that were he placed side by side next to one of those sandwiches, I’m not sure who would be bigger.
Which is exactly how I like my men: Bite-sized, wily and perpetually hungry.
No, the point is that he’s a smoker. Who isn’t in this country? Oh, me. But when in Rome, which is another way of saying, when on a date with the tiniest and most notorious Israeli journalist who wants to have himself a smoke in what appeared to be the “smokers room” of the bar, why not join him?
I’ll spare you the details, but I felt like I had descended into Bosh’s hell, minus the nakedness. The smoke, the strobe lights, the thumping techno music, the 20-somethings groping each other, and me, the American, in glasses, with my buttoned up coat and over-sized purse with my Kindle, in case I’m ever stranded and need to read. Oh, and my cigarette, which I could barely finish.
My date, however, had no trouble sucking his down to the very end, after which he tossed it to the floor and gave it a good stomp. This was alarming to me since, technically, we were still inside. And just as technically, everyone knows it’s unacceptable to behave like that indoors!
Not wanting to disgrace myself, but still committed to my principles, I decided to gingerly place my lit cigarette on the floor and gently pat it out, like I was planting a tree in the Land of Israel.
Which prompted my little Alexander Pope to wryly observe, “You can take Abigail out of America, but you can’t take America out of Abigail.”
So true.
Now back to the cabbie, who was just about to tell me a joke.
I’ll spare you the hilarity and instead will tell you the punch line.
“Obama didn’t win Alabama.”
The cabbie could barely deliver the line, he was laughing so hard.
“Don’t you get it?” he asked, and repeated the punch line, which, besides being completely unfunny, only works if you have an Israeli accent.
You see, to an Israeli ear, Obama and Alabama sound exactly the same. (Oh-BOMB-ah and Ahl-AH-Bomb-ah.)
I tried teaching him a thing or two, but no matter how many times I demonstrated how Obama and Alabama are vastly different, all he could do was shrug.
The whole thing got me thinking about American politics. It’s a funny thing to be so far away from home when the country is mired in what surely seems like an ugly Republican presidential race. But then again, I don’t like Republicans. Or politics.
Or this ridiculous notion that only Republican presidents are “good” for Israel. That there is only one way to be “good” for Israel is in itself a fallacy, but what is so alarming is how it manifests itself in a very scary hatred of Obama. The kind of hatred that led the now infamous Atlanta Jewish Times publisher to write such vile words about assassinating him. Who even thinks something like that, let alone writes it?
Sadly, except for the lefties who are my natural allies on both sides of the Atlantic, most Israelis I encounter also dislike Obama, whom they refer to as Barack “Hussein” Obama.
So maybe it’s actually good to be so far away as the country dukes it out over who is going to stand up as the Republican nominee.
All I know is no matter who it is, he doesn’t have my vote. Not in this lifetime or in any lifetime to come.
(Photo: Zoe J)