Monday, December 09, 2002

Oh, enough with the felafel, already! Who cares where felafel came from? Any Israelis reading this, who had felafel this week, stand up. Last week? This month? Last month?
See? All still seated.

Guess what? I don’t invite R.T. (and from now on Dad too) every Friday lunchtime for FELAFEL, I invite them for SPAGHETTI (good stuff too). This I stole from the Italians who in turn stole it from the Chinese (wait a minute, didn’t I read recently that Marco Polo never really got past Turkey and it’s all a big lie?).

What is Israeli? Are those three-cornered “tembel” hats, they used to make us wear in summer camp when I was a kid, Israeli? For the last twenty years, no Israeli kid would dream being seen dead in one of those hats. Are felafel and tembel hats and Hava Nagila (Ugh!) more Israeli than computer engineers with Jericho handguns stuck down the back of their jeans? Or a group of settler kids, the boys with their knitted kippot (yarmulkas) hanging off the side of their heads, the girls with black skirts down to their ankles? Or a convoy of cars full of families on a trip, all with bits of blue ribbon tied on their antennas for identification? Or someone meeting someone else in the street and starting to yell at him: “You s$%t! You maniac! You lunatic! Why haven’t you called me?” and then both of them embracing, obviously delighted to see each other? Or happy toddlers coming out of a Hannuka show, hand in hand with mum or dad, on a sun-drenched Hannuka morning, squinting at the light, faces still covered with sugar powder from the doughnut they ate during the interval?

When I was a child we used to go down UN Blvd. in Haifa, which became Zionism Blvd. when the UN became unpopular, by equating Zionism with racism, to eat felafel at the King of Felafel stall. It was owned and run by Arabs. Was I busy thinking about how Israeli the felafel was while I was eating it? No. I was just eating felafel.

So some Israelis left Israel and went to live in the US. So they opened a felafel stall. They could just as easily have opened a “steakiya” which is just as much an Israeli phenomenon, which like felafel stalls, peaked during the nineteen seventies. Were they trying to make a patriotic statement by opening an Israeli felafel stall? No, if they wanted to make a patriotic statement they wouldn’t have left Israel. They would have continued doing a month’s army reserve duty a year and continued scraping a living here. They opened a felafel stall in the US because they wanted to make a better living. So do please excuse them for not putting up a big notice saying: “Yes, we are Israelis selling Palestinian felafel, this is very remiss of us, but we really need to make a living.”

I heard felafel was Egyptian. Or was it Lebanese? Maybe the Palestinians should be apologizing, too. Cultural theft? The French claim they invented cricket. How very degrading for the Brits.

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