The flavor of Israel

Yesterday, my day was steeped in Israeli culture. This was mostly due to the fact that I had to travel down to the “Mercaz” for work meetings in Ramat Gan (a large Tel Aviv suburb).

 When you are an new immigrant living on  kibbutz in the North, and your daily life basically consists of driving from said kibbutz to your job twenty minutes away in Misgav where you work with a bunch of former Americans and Canadians, there are few opportunities to really experience Israeli culture. Some days, I could almost imagine that I am living in Colorado as opposed to Israel. If it weren’t for the crazy drivers…

But I’m getting ahead of myself.

Since I live in a fairly rural, out of the way part of Israel, travelling to the Center every once in a while is fun, if not a little bit overstimulating. It’s nice to be able to grab an espresso, to people watch, and browse the store windows. This is not something I get to do on a regular basis any more.

But as I was in Ramat Gan for meetings, there was little time to take in the scenery, save for my lunch hour at Dominique’s Bakery and Restaurant on Tuval Street.

Don’t feel bad for me, for on the drive back home from Tel Aviv with my boss, I would get my fill of Israeli culture.

Naturally, like rush hour in any major city, leaving Tel Aviv on a work day is a nightmare. Israelis have a funny word for traffic jams: P’cock. I pointed out to my boss that this Hebrew word sounds a lot like a Yiddish word my mother used to shout in the car whenever we were stuck in particularly obscene traffic: Facocked!

Is it a coincidence they sound so similar?

As we were discussing the potential entymological connections, we didn’t realize just how facocked by the p’cock we were about to be.

Seconds before it happened, I spotted a fender bender directly in front of us. I found my voice quick enough to shout, “Watch out!” My boss swerved over to the right hand shoulder just in the nick of time to miss the accident.

And, dayenu, that would have been enough for us.

But, the excitement only continued. The car who was rear-ended was a Lexus. The driver opens up his door and exits the car. A well-dressed, red-headed man who appeared to be in his late sixties or seventies steps outside.

My boss flips out.

“That’s Yoram Gaon!” she shouts.

I’m like, “Who’s that?” Thinking it’s one of our coworkers that I haven’t met yet.

“You don’t know Yoram Gaon? He’s an Israeli icon,” she says to me excitedly.

“Um, no, I have no idea who that is.” I say. My scope of recognition of non-politician Israeli celebrities include basically Naomi Shemer, Ilan Ramon, Hanna Sennesh, and Yoni Netanyahu. And they’re all dead.

“Didn’t you see Ani HaYerushalmi?” My boss asked.

My face remained blank.

I really wanted to get excited with her. I LOVE celebrity spotting. I love celebrity spotting so much that when I used to live in SoHo, I used to be late for my job at the children’s book publishing house I worked at because I would follow super hot celebrities into Dean and DeLuca across the street. (Mmmm…Jared Leto. He was buying melons.)

I used to hang with the smokers outside the lobby of the building because they were always telling me how Leonardo DiCaprio was constantly passing by on the street. Try as I did, I never once saw him myself! But I bummed a lot of cigarettes.

I did see a host of other celebs including Julia Roberts, Jerry Seinfeld, Janeane Garofalo, and Leonard Cohen when I lived in lower Manhattan. I was not a stalker, per say, but I think you’d classify my level of excitement at celebrity spotting a bit above the norm.  It was often difficult to balance my overwhelming desire to make friends with them with my rational understanding that such behavior would be completely inappropriate. Instead of grabbing their hands and leading them back to my apartment, I casually gawked and ran back to my computer to send an email to EOnline celebrity gossip, Ted Casablanca, who wrote a weekly celeb spotting column called, “The Eyes Have It.” Somehow that satisfied my urges.

Unfortuantely, I doubt Ted Casablanca would be interested in the likes of Yoram Gaon, despite the fact that this aging “gingi” is like the Frank Sinatra of Israel.

Nonetheless, I feel like I have passed a certain marker in my Aliyah experience: I have narrowly missed being in a car accident on the Ayalon freeway and I now can recognize a living Israeli celebrity.


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