Sunday, February 12, 2006

 

Driving me insane...and they haven't even arrived

I have a new group arriving this week and I already know it is going to be hell. Most groups are great, but now and then you get the really high maintenance ones and this is one of those. How do I know? The group hasn’t even arrived yet and here is a sample of some of the questions that I have already been asked.

“Someone is lending me a phone for the trip. Please could you go to their office and pick it up for me and bring it to the airport for the start of the trip”

Them: We need to bring gifts for the children in the hospital and the soldiers on the base that we are scheduled to meet. What should we bring?
Me: Whatever you want will be fine. For the kids toys are good. The soldiers will probably appreciate American chocolate.
Them: But what kind of toys. What types of chocolate? Be more specific.

“I have a bag of toothbrushes (about 50) which I can donate for the trip. Are we interested in using them for the soldiers and/or the children??. They are from the project I did with the dental school back in the late 70"s. They are fully wrapped and safe.” (This isn’t even paraphrased. It is a their words cut and paste from my e-mail)

“Please can you urgently send us a list of restaurant recommendations for when we are in Israel? I know that you promised that a list would be available on our arrival but we need it now urgently, a month before we arrive. We can’t wait”

Saturday, February 11, 2006

 

I Confess

I have a confession to make. I am pretty embarrassed about it actually – but I feel obligated to bare my soul (at least to my half dozen or so loyal readers). I love Exodus! (The Leon Uris version not the God version although that one is pretty good too). I know it is cheesy but I can't help it. As you probably gleaned from my blog so far I am a pretty cynical person. The product of my breeding I am afraid, but somehow this book still manages to get under my skin.

Right now I am in the middle of reading it again for about the 20th time. I have a habit of reading while I walk, but as I walk into my office – or anywhere else I am likely to see people I know – I hide the book. Heaven forbid my Jewish educator colleagues, or other people I know, should know I read this shmaltz.

Exodus is the book you read before you make aliyah. It is the glorious myth of the Zionist State. Once you live here, reality sets in. Israelis are not all the battle-hardened Ari, or the sensitive David Ben Ami. They are the taxi driver that rips you off, the overweight bus driver (see the last post) and 20 year-old arse in the tight t-shirt and gelled here. Jordana and Dafna may have fought alongside their men but 60 years later women still only constitute 15% of Knesset. (That puts us at 70th place in the world rankings for female representation, tying with Angola).

As a tour guide I try not to deal with myths. I don’t speak about the heroic suicide pact on Masada. I discuss responsible Jewish choices and the issue of glorifying death. I like to call this shift ‘from collective myth to collective responsibility’. Sure I want to inspire people, but it has to be authentic.

But then there is Exodus – and despite myself I crave the myths. Tomorrow I will read Haaretz and be cynical again, but for today I will comfort myself in a world of legend and heroism where Israelis are always right and always beautiful.

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