To repair the emotional damage caused by the visit at Yad Vashem, Bonka invited me to have a cool drink and fresh cookies in the gardens of the King David which is supposed to be the most famous hotel in the city, on account that during the British Mandate, the Irgun, a Jewish terrorist organization, fed up that the Brits weren’t allowing Holocaust survivors to land in Palestine, planted a bomb in the basement which killed almost a hundred people. The history of this here holiest of holylands is writ in blood, sweat, more blood, mixed with milk – yak -, hummus – mmm, this is a delicious spread of crushed chick peas -, shawarma – double and triple mmm … I looove that pitta-wrap of shaved lamb, still hot from the grill -, and honey – that’s ok for the bees in a bonnet -, Jeezette what an explosive mixture! Did I say that before? Nevermind, I’ll repeat it as often as I want.
And I have to admit that it was real cool, surrounded as we were by flowers, trees and the singing of little fountains. A strong odor of vegetation, typical of a desert oasis wafted our way, it was almost like inhaling that eucalyptus essence my mom forces me to breathe when I catch a cold in the dead of winter in Paris, only here, I didn’t have to stick my nose into a plastic beak, and come out with puffed eyelids.
As I started to get fidgety, my uncle, who always carries the most detailed map of any city he visits – it takes him five to ten bloomin minutes to find a place large enough where he can unfold the contraption, and another five to locate the places he wants us to visit. From the hotel, we followed a path leading to Yemin Moshe, a posh neighborhood built on a hill overlooking the Old City. Passing the century-old Montefiore windmill, we walked down a grid of lovely homes laced with greenery, all made out of the Jerusalem pink stone. Apparently even the city’s high towers have to use these same thick stones, so as to preserve a certain harmony. The number of stairs we had to climb down was nobody’s business – it was mine all right! And the crickets – there was nary a sound, except their sporadic but always stupid chirping – could hear us both huffing and ‘ouching’ like a pair of stray mamelukes. So much so that, having reached the last stretch of stairs, I tripped against a broken pebble and landed tushywise on the gutter, which thank Godder, was dry and clean. But, ouch ouch ouch, it still hurt and I started to cry like a baby.
At that very moment, an old man emerged from behind a house, holding a rose he had freshly cut with his scissors.
«Poor little girl! It’s nothing serious, I’m sure.» he said in English, with a strong Russian accent, «But do come in, we’ll fix that up.» he added, addressing his invitation to both of us.
He opened the wrought-iron gate and let us in, all the while I was stroking my behind. His offer was so unexpected that I immediately stopped the sobbing and the sniffing. Then suddenly I remembered how some scribbler had spoken of the kindness of strangers.
That nice grandpa led us to a small garden full of rosebushes and seated us under a small glass awning. The place looked like an enchanted doll’s garden, coz all you could see around were climbing vines, midget palm trees and a variety of flowers. It all smelled so heavenly and we were as one, in a corner full of peace. Yeah, I too can wax E pluribus unum powetic, as well as filtersoftickle.
And you know what, to make me forget the tushy ache, Granpa Abramovitch gave me the rose he had just cut, after he’d pulled out the few thorns from the stem, serving us both a wonderful juice of home-squeezed pomegranate. Wasn’t that romantic? No one had ever had that kind of a gesture towards me, not even my dear Unky Berky, who I have to remind you once in a while, is one of the nicest, if nerdiest, persons you could meet – hey he belongs to me, and to one else, ok.
Granpa Abramovitch had been a famous violonist in the former Soviet Union, who had escaped the Red Empire of Evil – his words -, defecting to the West after a concert tour in Europe, first to England then to Canada and finally to Israel. He had lost his wife a year earlier, but still had two sons and their young families living in Saint Petersburg. Thank Goddess, after years of harrassment, they all were allowed out of Russia and rejoined their father here in Jerusalem. Now Grandpa Abramovitch was living with a girlfriend thirty years younger than he – the little rascal, he said this with a lewd kind of a wink -, but right now she was doing some shopping in town.
«Come inside, I’ll show you our little house.» said the grandpa.
In the whitewashed, airy livingroom stood the pièce de résistance, an ivory-colored grand piano, and, next to it, a violin case. The furniture was of the Danish type, modern, and in beige pastel tones. On top of the buffet hung the large framed photograph of a buxom black lady dressed to kill, all bejeweled and bedecked, and wearing a long skirt and a bolero in black organdy, dotted with a zillion pearls.
«Ah, this is my girlfriend Jessica,» the grandpa explained, «I met her at the opera while I was living in Toronto – she was singing in La Bohème. Not only does she have a golden voice but she is my sunshine. I thank the good Lord every morning for having put her in my path.» He added, with a beaming smile – he had a few missing teeth, but the ones that appeared were his all right, on account that they were the color of latte.
My uncle and I were impressed, and quite a bit non-pussied, but since we didn’t comment, the granpa added, as if on cue:
«We had a few problems with my children in the beginning. They couldn’t understand why I hadn’t chosen a Russian companion – as you may know, we’re a million in this country, and not all of us are Jewish. Yes, at first they were a bit racist, but once they learned to know Jessica and appreciated her wonderfully joyous character, they accepted her fully. Now she‘s like a sister to them. And whenever we meet, which is at least once week, we have a ball all together. Will you be staying some time in the city?» he then asked us, «If you’re still here, you could join us for dinner next Shabbat.»
«What a pity!» exclaimed Bonka, «we’ve planned to spend that day in Galilee, but we could see you again maybe one afternoon after the weekend, what do you say, Zapy?»
I don’t remember what I mumbled, though I did have the itch to meet that big lady and the rest of the family, coz I’m sure it would have been fun, only I was too bamboozled to express my wish, and in such cases – which, thank Goddess, don’t occur often -, my uncle has the upper hand and decides for both of us, even if after it I get mad at him, but it is usually too late.
After that nifty visit, we walked down all the way to the Old City, through the Arab Shuk – I didn’t say shucks, that’s how they pronounce ‘souk’ here! -, where I wanted to stop at every third stall on account of all the crafty stuff the vendors were selling, from yummy sweetmeats to Turkish delights – that gooey candy covered with powdered sugar, that sticks in between your teeth but which tastes soo goood – to handwoven jackets, to leather slippers, which the French call babouche, to jewels made of gold filigree, silver or glass beads, to shawls – thanks but no thanks, I don’t want to look like a veiled Mamamoosha, it’s against my felinist principles.
Unky Berky bought me a lovely necklace and a matching bracelet, made with a string of small green Eilat stones. And do you know what he chose for himself? A hookah, a bloomin tobacco pipe. Well I never, that uncle of mine has such weird ideas! What is he going to do with that contraption? He doesn’t smoke, either cigars or pot. Oh well, I can’t always scold him.
The guy wanted 50 shekels for my set of custom jewelery and the hookah hoopla. As my uncle was pulling his wallet out of his breastpocket, I hurled my hand against his chest and barked:
«Wait a minute, mister!»
«Ouch!» Bonka bellowed, «What’s that for?»
The Arab vendor ogled me like I was a nasty Jinnette – that’s the feminine for oriental spirit -, but I couldn’t care less and said to him:
«Mr Salaam, we’re buying three items here, and your price is far too high. This is not gold or even silver.»
Both men looked at me non-pussied, but after a few seconds the vendor started smiling and even congratulated me:
«This little lady here will go far. She knows how to defend herself. Bravo.»
This was totally unexpected and I returned his smile, while Bonka half-grinned like a wax figure at Madame Tussaud’s.
And low and bee hold, not only did the Arab vendor give us a good price, but he also handed me pretty red charm. «This is a present from me to the bright little Missie.»
Oh, we salaamed each other on and on, so much so that the other vendors thought something had happened in the stall and soon a mob formed around us, which made my uncle and me a little uneasy.
«Whoah!» I screamed, «Will you leave us in peace? We have urgent things to do, shoo all of you!»
They began to laugh their heads off and finally let us go.
After having trotted another quarter of an hour through the winding paths of the market paved with cobblestone, we came out into the open and passed a huge steel Menorah – it’s the Jewish candelabrum that has seven branches, symbolising the seven days of creation; yeah right, that’s what the religious geeks believe. We then reached a big terrace from which we had an amazing view of Jerusalem, with the mosque’s golden dome, shining like the crown of a Russian czar, sans the fur, and, beneath it, the Western Wall, a huge ruin which is all that is left of the Second Temple. The crowds ligning up against the Wall looked a little bigger than grasshoppers from here, specially that the men were bowing nonstop back and forth.
Gosh, the number of stairs we still had to climb down before we got to Wall was nobody’s business but my poor lil legs’, pricked as they were by a thousand needles that made them feel like two ridiculous baseball bats. I couldn’t feel them anymore, and had the impreshun they were going to fly away on their own, leaving me like a bloomin UHO (unidentified human object), and I suddenly thought of them sad war cripples, no one wants to take care of, now that they can’t fight anymore. Look at the wounded soldiers returning home to the US from Afghanistan, some of them are even homeless, for crying out loud, friggin ungrateful society we live in! Apparently the Israeli soldiers who come back in this sorry state are much better looked after. Here one life is worth it’s weight in diamonds, like Gilad Shalit, that unfortunate young soldier who was kidnapped more than four years ago by henchman from the Hamas who rule Gaza. They have regular demonstrations here, with his picture posted all over the country. Jeezette, he looks like a teenager no older than sixteen. If he ever gets out alive, he will probably look like his granddad, all wrinkled and maybe even toothless. War … war … war … all mongrely wrong!
One thing you can’t escape in this here holiest of places, particularly in the Yerushalaim of the Torah, the Jerusalem of the Bible and the Al Quds of the Muslims – no kudos here, I can assure you! -, where people of all faiths pray for their own salvation, while many secretly wish the other ones dead or at least maimed for life.
God Almighty, will you behave once and for all and stop letting them adore you in so many conflicting ways? Or maybe you did this on purpose, you sly, vindicative and sadistic Bozo, like having men build the Tower of Babel so that they couldn’t understand each other anymore, forcing them to speak a million different languages.
A Goddess would have been much more humane. Hey, where are you hiding dearie, nu? – pronounce ‘nooh’, that’s what the Israelis say when they expect a kosher explanation, making you feel like a nerd in the meantime.
It’s time to send us Miss Gandhiette, the Mahatma’s great-granddaughter, or that pretty Zulu Mandellette, who’s become a star in Holy Bollywood, to show the other half of our planet that MCP’s and their slavish SS’s (male chauvinist pigs and their sow souls – such traitoresses oughta be ashamed of themselves supporting the ladder), and I won’t excuse myself for calling them like that, on account that only a minority of them are nice people; they can no longer rule us so cruelly and so irresponsibly, often getting scot free. Unfortunately, the easiest way to communicate when you’re poor, skinny or obese, and destitute – here I include prostitutes of the three sexes, as well as them poor darlings who don’t know which sex they belong to, they’re so confused, both upstairs (that’s boobywise as well as brainwise) and downstairs (it’s also called family jewels) -, coz they have no business doing this kind of demeaning job, thinking they might get rich and famous like the Brangelinas or like Ugly Betty by Christmas time – and angry as hell at the world, is to use your fists, and your guns too, that is, if you’ve turned into a hooligan.
Before we knew it, we were entering the West Bank, which is part of the future State of Palestine. It didn’t look at all like it had a border, except that we were stopped by two Israeli soldiers. They sort of gawked at the pair of freaks and asked them to show their ID’s, which I quite understand in Shanty’s case, coz I myself I wouldn’t have trusted my witch-looking fellow passenger if I hadn’t met her in the past. Poor Mahmood, he looked too Arabic to be kosher, in spite of his sweet androgynous – that’s when a boy looks girlish – gestures and his doe eyes. He was blinking them something too terrible, so much so that one of the soldiers didn’t know whether to shout at him or to laugh, then, when he saw that he had an Israeli ID and asked Miki what was the reason of this trip, he dismissed us, wishing us ‘bon voyage’. Secretly I felt a bit uncomfortable but didn’t dare voice it, for I suddenly remembered that, watching the evening news on TV, a few days ago, they showed a dozen hooded thugs – anyone who hides his face and throws objects at you I call a thug, coz that’s being a coward – hurling stones at a passing Israeli car, and wounding the front- seat passenger, somewhere in the West Bank.
We bypassed a few villages and came across a couple of turbanned beduins, traveling on a donkey – you’d have thought they were good ole Mary and Joseph trotting along, in search of a place to sleep -, a much more peaceful sight than I expected, thank Goddess. Then we reentered Israeli territory and found ourselves smack in the Judean desert.
I learned something incredible about my junkie companion. She and Mahmood belonged to an Israeli-Palestinian association called Combatants for Peace, of which there were now almost one thousand members. My ears pricked up coz when you looked at this odd couple you would never have imagined them being such militants. As my eyes were getting rounder and rounder, and my mouth remained dumb, lost in this translation: «how wow whee, spit it out, this sounds so crazy!» Shanty told me the following story:
«Mahmood has an uncle in Ramallah, which is the main city of the West Bank, whose son threw a bomb in a Tel Aviv café a few years ago, killing a dozen people and dying in their midst as his bomb exploded. Well, instead of hating the Israelis like his son, Abdul decided that enough was enough with all the bloodshedding, and he and the Israeli husband of one of the victims of that terror attack founded this peace association.»
I couldn’t refrain from asking the question – the way Shanty stared at me, my face must have contorted something too terrible: «How could that Israeli widower forgive what that terrorist did, not only to his poor wife, but to the other people sitting at that café? I mean, this is much more than what the Lord Jesus asked for – remember that I’m just quoting the Bible, on account that I don’t believe in any of the stuff written there – if they slap you on the left cheek, present the right one for a double smack, then too, it is said in the Old Testament that you may pull out your enemy’s eye after he’s done the same to you, but in this case, there’s nothing left to smack or to pull, since the victims are reduced to a bloody unrecognizable pulp.»
When Shanty then explained to me how religious experts searched for every piece of flesh they could find, scattered around the place, and picked them up to be blessed – arrrgh! – I almost passed out, so mush so that she had to splash my face with cold water. What kinda friggin tradition they have here! And only a witch-looking junkie like her could give details so gruesome to such a delicate lil me.
Once my vision was restored, she said, in a sweeter tone – at times a crackling whistle escaped her lips without her wanting to:
«We’re trying to convince both the Israeli and the Palestinian authorities to support our association, but they wouldn’t listen to us. Actually, Miki thinks we’re totally off our rockers.»
I arrrumphed, on account that I didn’t want to voice my full approval of Miki’s attitude. Peace yeah, double yeah, a thousand yeahs, but first you punish the culpricks and once they’ve learned their lesson, you can start distributing cold kisses to their peace-lovin kin and kith, with or without pins and needles – you don’t understand the connection? Make an effort! Now that I know what the Holyland is all about, this here place full of sanctified horrors scares the bejesus out of me. No wonder then that so many pilgrims suffer from Jerusalem syndrome. It’s indeed so much cushier to believe that you’ve just met the ghost of Mary Magdalen as you painfully walk the cobbled Via Dolorosa, with your bunions hurting like there won’t be anymore tomorrows, than seeing the images of a terror attack for the umpteenth time. And how about them long-haired, sickly-looking, ageless guys who are convinced that they are the Son of God reincarnated? I’d like to know what the real Jesus, if he ever landed in our midst now, rescoopcitating for the second time, would tell the psychiatrist paying him a social visit in his hospital room, coz nowadays they would automatically put Jesus in a nuthouse, even if he danced naked on his head, all the while throwing flames with his tongue like a dragon, on account that nobody would believe him. How the heck did he manage to convince a bunch of shepherds that he was the son of God, two thousand years ago? Thanks to Doctor Freud and his leacherous followers, these poor folks would appear today as scatter-brained bozos in need of a father figure. I’ve read about the oedipus complex, in one of the my uncle’s numerous sexogenous books, oedipus medipus fulla pus, is what I say, coz to want to sleep with one’s mother while wishing to murder one’s father, is the conclusion of a shrink who’s just had a mega obstruction of the bowels.
When Miki and Mahmood came back to pick us up for the continuation of our journey, I couldn’t stop goggling at our Arab companion, who, by the way, looked at once happy and totally drained – just think of a smiling skeleton and you get the picture – and I kept wondering how this androidgenius of a conjuror could be a combatant, of peace, washmore, coz after the slightest effort, he couldn’t but fall into a thousand pieces, bones and knuckles lying scattered around his skull. You only have to compare him to Miki the hunk, they look like lilliput and megaput, the ladder swallowing Mahmood like a cameleon swallows a fly. Goddess knows what was Miki’s reaction when he first learned of the pair joining that association. The only fact of clearing his throat, before speaking, must have jellyfied poor Mahlood completely, who was probably staring at his toes, to avoid confronting his Israeli counterpart, he being his peer? rotten pear, yeah! No really, some things are simply too presposterous for words and quite unimaginababble.
On our way to the Dead Sea, we stopped at Ein Gedi, in the middle of the rocky desert. This tiny area is a national park and has a brook with a little cascade, at the foot of which you can dip yourself or just your lil toes, but even if it was damn hot, I didn’t want to wet myself. Shanty jumped into the shallow water like a doggess, splashing everyone around her and giggling mega loudly. Jeezette, you’d think she was younger than me – remember, I’m only twelve and a half, in spite of my being so mature (that’s what everybody says, so don’t think I’m throwing flowers at myself) -, but much dafter. She then ran towards us and dragged Mahmood into the brook, the poor guy yapped puppywise, hopping along on the slippery pebbles, trying not to fall. Miki and my uncle thought the scene quite funny and laughed themselves sick, while I asked myself what kind of a zoo I had just dropped in. Talking of the zoo, we saw two animals, a sweetie-pie of a doe, gamboling behind the shrubs, called an ibex, and a hyrax syriacus, a ratty-looking thing, the size of a rabbit, with tiny jaws, but no tail, which the naturalists say is the cousin of a rhinoceros – where the hell do they see such a resemblance? Apparently near Jerusalem they have a Biblical zoo, with a great number of the animals mentioned in the Torah – that’s the Old Testament, you ninny! – and since most of them had disappeared eons ago, they went to Africa and other places, to fetch bozos like Mr Lion, Mrs Ostrich, Master Teddy Bear, and the disgusting likes of Filth the Hyena, the bone-chilling horned snake known as a cockatrice – which has nothing to do with a cockatoo, poor lil parrot -, and other stinking guys I don’t have the patience to list here. Since I’ve been to quite a few much bigger zoos, like the one in the Bronx and specially the beautiful zoo in New Orleans, where I saw my very first white tiger, wow what a beaut he was!, I don’t think I’ll want to visit that one. Unky Berky, my walking leakypedia – he has weak kidneys and has to take a leak every ten minutes, wherever we may find ourselves, even on top of the Eiffel Tower, in the dead of winter (now, why should winter be dead? Do you say ‘in the dead of spring’? What a stupid expfression!) -, told me about a number of strange creatures that are listed in the Bible. There is the prehistoric leviathan – it means twisted creep of a kronosaurus in Hebrew -, which had strong jaws, great sharp teeth and swam like a speedy gonzalaurus, thanks to ist huge flippers -, the fiery serpent for which the Lord commanded to Moses to «Make thee a fiery serpent, and set it upon a pole: and it shall come to pass, that every one that is bitten, when he looketh upon it, shall live.” – wow, I wouldn’t mind if Goddess let me change all the shmucks that give me a dirty look in the subway into mewing kittens -, there were even dragons, for which King David complains to God, saying: «Thou hast sore broken us in the place of dragons, and covered us with the shadow of death.», the pygarg, which isn’t at all what you think, but is a sweet and gentle antelope, the horse-leech that grips poor old horses on the tongue and in the nostrils, whenever they come to drink in a pool – bugaroos! -, the dukipath, a cute name for a disgusting bird, and the basilisk, which is neither a herb nor Saint Peter’s cathedral in Rome, but the king of snakes, yuk!
In them ancient times, people loved to compare certain fellars to animals, like when Jacob says of his youngest son: «Benjamin shall ravin as a wolf: in the morning he shall devour the prey, and at night he shall divide the spoil.» The boy’s first name was Ben Oni, which means ‘the son of my pain’ (in the ass?), good for him that Jacob changed it to Benjamin, it sounds so much nicer. And last, but Babel go East – I’m getting tongue- and finger-tied already! – there’s the Ochim (did I say ho-hum, I don’t think so!) which is one of the Bible’s so-called doleful creatures, which screeeches till your ears split; guess what that could be: an owl, an owl, for crying out loud, a poor fat mustachoed bird that blinks every friggin second when it doesn’t catch a doleful lil mouse for breakfast.
Another aside here – with all them asides, both my front- and backside are bound to hurt!: Miki told us this morning that Israeli fuel experts have discovered huge quantities of gas lying in the sea off the port of Haifa, and that in a couple of years or so the country will not only be self-sufficient, but will be able to export it and become rrrich, like in ‘Tevieh the milkman’, coz you may not know it, but this holiest of lands, though modern and very high tech, ain’t resting on a bed of roses or on gold, for that matter, the earth here being very crunchy and sandy. And this underwater treasure has been named … a Leviathan.
My scrapbook is full of this kind of shit, coz, as you remember, I have to make a written presentation – ‘redact’ is the correct term here since my English teacher wants to start a school magazine, with me as the editor under-chief – of my travels when I get back to school. Jeezette Almighty, why did I have to be born a writer? That’s what she said I was, to all and sundry – so you think I’m overusing this expreshun. My tongue out to you! – in front of the class, on account that I have the imagination of the devil, and that ideas sprout out of my mind like the fountain of Jezreel (and out of my damn mouth too; sometimes I really oughta shut up!). And would you believe it, the last two clairvoyants my uncle forced me to see confirmed it. Bonka is very supertissue. What a chore that life of mine promises to be: sitting behind my computer screen for hours on end, shifting my weight from one buttock to the other, and running to the loo, after a new sentence gets written! A word is a word is a word and becomes a cock-and-bull story, is what I say.
And yet another aside – ouch! This one I learned from Mahmood, after he’d been ranting against the State of Israel for not being fair with its Arab citizens, though he admitted that if he were living in a Muslim country, like Lebanon, Syria, Irak or the United Arab Emirates, he would be a persona non grata – yeah, that’s when you’re labeled an ungrateful pig before you even think of crossing the border – and that, if he’d ever been admitted in, he could rant only against himself or his family, since Palestinian refugees there were not even considered as proper human beings. Apparently Arab solidarity only works against their arch enemy, not among themselves.
Ok, where was I? Right: ‘A heart for peace’. It’s an Israeli organization that believes in curing very sick Palestinian babies, living in both Gaza and the West Bank. Three hundred of these poor lil guys suffering from heart diseases have already been operated for free at Jerusalem’s huge Hadassah Hospital. They’re always accompanied by their mothers or by very old relatives, on account that young men aren’t trusted by the Authorities – they could come with a BB, meaning, a baby and a bomb. Apparently the Hadassah surgeons also train Palestinian doctors from these territories – the ladder are searched bodily, family jewels and all, at the border, so that they can be deemed kosher, even though in reality they are halal (they’re supposed to follow the Muslim dietary laws).
Now, how come we never hear these things on the TV news back home? All they show us is the ‘ugly and mighty’ Israeli military bombing ‘miserable’ Gaza and killing both terrorists and innocent civilians, but these targets are sometimes located in the very cellars of schools and even of mosques, from where Qassam rockets are regularly being launched into Jewish towns like Sderot or Ashkelon, scaring the wits out of its inhabitants.
Gosh, all these details are giving me terrible headaches. That’s when I need a large glass of pomegranate juice filled with ice cubes. You have the impreshun of sipping an elixir of paradise, while Satan keeps hissing into your ears something too lewdicrass.
This time we took a train to go to Haifa, which is the country’s largest port and where the Jews and the Arabs mix more than in other Israeli cities, on account that they have lived side by side long before Independence. So said Mahmood, with a twinkle in his eye.
I’m glad we came here, coz it’s a very pretty town, specially seen from the Holy shrine of the Bàb – this ain’t the nickname of my baby cousin, you ninny, I’ll explain it later, if I want to -, with its terraced gardens unfurling all the way down like a huge carpet of green velvet, dotted with star-shaped flowerbeds, and pathways fanning out, everyone of them flanked by clipped shrubs and cedar trees. The shrine which is adorned with colonnades is so white you have to look elsewhere, and its shiny dome is covered with gold-leaf, washmore, making it look like the one crowning Jerusalem’s famous mosque, only that one is bigger.
Now, ole Bàb was the founder of Babism – you think I’m joking? – who in turn was the forerunner of … don’t blink … Baha’u’llah (there are two acute accents here, but I can’t find them on my word processor – tough luck!) who may have been the great-grandfather of Tallulah Bankhead who, in turn, was a curvaceous – wow how sofisticle I can get, hey! – American actress of the silent movies, shameless hussy that she was, undulating like Pakoohah the snake – my uncle wasn’t born yet. It was thus Baha ooh and aah who invented the Baha’i faith at the close of the nineteenth century in Persia, that’s the old name of Iran, whose ratty president, if you remember, dreams of showering nuclear cookies over his enemies. Baha’i purports to unify humankind under a single religion, in which Abraham, Buddha, Jesus and Muhammad, are all brothers, ain’t that nifty! – but where the heck are the sisters? – specially since it is a very peaceful religion, which, by the way the ayatollahs in the Muslim countries, reject most violently, promising them to fry in hell. Apparently there are about six million followers of that faith, spread over 200 countries. Before coming to Haifa, neither my uncle – the walking pedeleaky – nor I, had ever heard of such a thing. Goddess almighty, how many religions are there in this battered earth of ours? I’ve also just learned that another Persian bozo, Mister Zoroaster – so sprach Zarathustra -, who was probably Zorro’s ancestor, founded a religion based on the struggle between good and evil. Uncannily, it rhymes with disaster, on account that it never zeroed in the way it hoped it would, but there still are nowadays about 200,000 people who practice it around the world. This gives me an idea: I’m going to invent my own religion and name it Zaperoonism, with Zaperetta, as its creator, and it will be personified by a majestic white tigress, like the one I saw at the zoo in New Orleans; guess who will be the head of this new faith, and its under-secretary? Ok, move on!
Shanty insisted we pay a visit to the artists village of Ein-Hod which was built in the fities by a Dadaist painter, on account that she spent some time there in her younger days – she must have had quite a few youths, coz you can’t tell whether she’s twenty-five or forty, it all depends on how mad at the world she wakes up.
The village is located in the outskirts of the city on Mount Carmel, thank Goddess, not where the fire burnt 41 people to death a few months ago. She forced us to go from one atelier to the other, and to meet all kinds of bozos and duddesses, that had paint smears over their faces and their garments, a mongrel of a man even had his hair set like a broomstick. They all looked as if they belonged to a variety of endangered species, some of them were as svelte and sinewy as lil does, others had the faces of bulldogs, there was even one sculptor who resembled a dodo, you know that bird that couldn’t fly and which became extinct, on account that the European explorers who found them on the island of Mauritius, off the African continent, in the Indian ocean – yeah yeah, learn your geography! -, thought they were mega chickens and ate them all, roasted on a spit, with local red pepper and wild mushrooms.
What these artists had in common, in spite of their being so different physically, was that they looked as if they never had the time to change clothes or to comb themselves. There was some really nice stuff though, but some crazy ones too, like the necklaces which supposedly Martian Women wore. At first, I believed they were strings of mashed up pearls. But when I got close to the so-called masterpizza, I saw what those pearls actually were: little clusters of gray cocks and pink balls. Me a pervert? Yo, how else do you call men’s shrivelled familly jewels?
That donkey of a Bonka – my uncle, remember? – was so bamboozled, he ended up congratulating the artist, the shmartist, saying: «It’s so ori … ori .. original.» Though I know that in his soft heart of artichokes, my uncle thought quite the opposite. He was out of breath and probably wanted to say: «It’s horri … horri .. terribabble.» And for his unexpected praise, he got a thumping bearish smack on his back.
«Ouch!» I uddered, like I was the compassionate puppet of my ventriloquist uncle.
I then pulled Unky Berkey’s sleeve with all the strength of my sharp lil claws, ordering him to cut out the shlemieling and to leave the place.
«Shalom Haver bro, see you soon!» bellowed the cock&balls painter.
And that nudnik of a Bonka turned his head, waving like a crazy windmill, all the while I was dragging him along as fast as I could. That is how we reached the German colony, both of us huffing and puffing; the rest of the company were following at a distance, asking themselves what bee had stung us.
«This place is very quaint.» my uncle finally managed to say, even though he almost tripped against a cobblestone, spraining his ankle. Thanks to me, he adapts quite fast to new situations, coz he knows I wouldn’t stand for any prolonged shenanigans.
«I know some nifty little eateries around here,» chanted Mahmood once he caught up with us.
Did I tell you this guy had a high-pitched voice? Well, he has! And sometimes you’d think he was a herm-afro-dyke, that’s them bozos who are both male and female. I already mentioned the fact that he acted androidous, remember? But it suits him. He might even look sexy with mascara and a little rouge padded on his cheeks.
We finally sat at the terrace of a Lebanese place where Miki and Unky Berky ordered Turkish coffee, and, listening to Mahmood’s advice, I opted for a fresh almond juice; it really smelled wonderful. We were then served a platter of oriental pastries, all smothered in honey: baklawa, fatira, kadaif – you must pronounce the ‘if’, ok – and other lil cookies filled with pistaccio, walnuts, clotted cream, sweet cheese, mastika and so fork and ding dong – no, I won’t translate! – which tasted absolutely di-vine. Only, after eating all that syrupy stuff, not only do you feel bloated – I can well imagine what pregnant women go through for nine bloomin months -, but you’re thirsty as hell and want to gobble down pints of water like a bloomin dromadery that’s been in the desert without a drink for twenty bloomin days. Yeah, I looove saying ‘bloomin this’ and ‘bloomin that’, it’s like talking to the flowers and it’s so much more poetic than ‘fucking this’ and ‘fucking that’. Ah, you don’t think so! Shoo, go open your book then tell me what you’ve found in it and who’s become your enemy, coz I’m sure you must have accumulated quite a few of them.
It was a German guy by the name of Christoff Hoffman, a Protestant Templer, who, believing that Jesus would soon come back to earth – he was convinced he would witness that ‘miracle’ -, settled in the Holy Land and the colony was built towards the end of the 19th century. Since, during World War II, the Germans living there had all become Nazis, the British, who were then occupying the land, sent a number of them to local internment camps, while the other half were sailed off to Australia, locked up in cages, like the bunch of rabid dogs that they were.