E-Travels With E.Trules.....full circle, tel aviv los angeles...Middle East, Scandinavia, Borneo, Malaysia, Travelogues

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july 4, 1999

tel aviv - los angeles

it's my last day in tel aviv. my last day in israel. my last day in the mideast. i'm going home. sad. i stick to my routine - do nothing new or out of the ordinary. i take my walk, buy leora and roni, my generous neve tzedek hosts, some fresh-cut flowers from the market, and oh yes, i buy a “USA today” - that's new. i see my maniacal candy stand vendor - from a distance – the one who threatened to bash my skull in with a club just a few days back. i make sure he doesn't spot me out of the crowd. to my surprise though, i'm not afraid. i have my doubts that he'd even recognize me at all. i make a small breakfast, scour leora's kitchen, clean the bathroom, and straighten the bed. i walk down to the beach, take a swim, and linger to watch the burnt orange ball of a sun set gracefully over the mediterranean. the various swimmers, walkers, tourists, frisbee throwers, and drummers on the beach are all backlit in silhouette; it's as resonant and memorable as a picture post card. in fact, i take my last photo, hearing the ratchet sound of the film rewind in the camera - like an instant replay of my entire journey.

click: white-stoned, divided and historical jerusalem; i’ve just arrived at the moravs in rehavia. click: late-night, trendy and cultural tel aviv; benny and i cruise the white beach and neon streets. click: the chaotic palestinian west bank; i reluctantly put on “tallit” & “tefillin” in the cave of makhpela. click: russian immigrant haifa and the north; yaron, the dungeon master takes me to fortified akko. click: the arid negev and too many buses back and across the parching desert. click: sinai, egypt, cairo, alexandria. bedouins, pyramids, camels, and durrell. click: upper galilee, following in the footsteps of jesus of nazareth. click: the golan heights, katushyas, jeep tours, jimmy, & tzipper. click: amman, jordan, petra, and wadi rum. moses, constantine, saladin, and sulieman the magnificent. balfour, ben gurion, barak, and arafat. click. click. click. click.

it's now nine o'clock. my last night. orlee, dan, leora, and a few other of my tel avivan friends are all inside dan's small but well-appointed apartment watching my documentary film about me and my criminal uncle harvey. i'm sitting outside on dan's doorstep, nervously waiting for the film to end and just as nervously, anticipating my long trip home. in less than three hours, i'll be in the air - between two months of adventure and the world of routine. it's funny, but here on my last night in israel, i'm actually showing the most personal side of myself to many of the people i've spent my last two months with. the film, painfully autobiographical and revealing, shows me and my family wrestling over our contentious ideas and feelings about having a professional criminal in our midst. when i blame my jewish upbringing for being one of the sources of my acquisitiveness and my trying to get away with as much as i possibly can, my parents explode and accuse me of being anti-semitic. it's a raw and uncomfortable moment in the film, and one that forever challenges my own sense of identity as a jew.

but as i sit here worrying about yet another audience's reaction to my controversial and personally revealing art, i also realize that my trip to israel has helped me come to terms with some of my eternally problematic "jewish" issues. as i've already said, i've discovered that jews come in many varieties, not all american. in fact, here in israel there are so many different kinds, that they haven't even learned how to accept one another in their own zionist, jewish state. where jews can be white, brown, black, or anywhere in between. where they can come from europe, africa, russia, or china. where they can be liberal, conservative, religious, or secular. tolerant, fanatical, open-minded or closed. rich, poor, greedy, or not. educated, ignorant, sophisticated, or crude.

and as i'm sitting here thinking about my neglected LA garden and my friendly but lonely mutt, i'm also knowing that upon my return, in my daily morning newspaper ritual, i will be noticing headlines and stories in the “LA times” - with new eyes. stories about the fractious peace process between israel and palestine. israel and syria. i'll be following the same man whose election victory i saw celebrated in rabin square to such popular acclaim - have to hammer out workable compromises with both his friends and his enemies. i'll be imagining jimmy and his pioneering neighbors having to pull up stakes and give up their homes - in exchange for peace on the golan heights. i'll be envisaging hassan and his modest wife and family welcoming back their syrian brethren to their quiet druse community of ein quena. and when i hear about the contested capital of the newly declared state of palestine, i'll picture east jerusalem and its busy damascus gate. in my mind's eye. i'll see and hear the call to prayer of the islamic muezzin from the majestic dome of the rock, sitting just above the sacred western wailing wall of the old temple - with its omni-present congregation of black-robed orthodox jews sticking folded prayer notes between the historic stones. i'll hear the tolling of christian bells from the church of the holy sepulcher. i'll see the rusty sands of joshua's jericho and the young israeli ravers in the biblical judean desert. i'll see crowded cairo, the noseless sphinx, rose-colored petra, lawrence’s sprawling wadi rum, and the azure blue waters of the gulf of aqaba.

things mideastern will now be real to me. cities, places, history, events. characters real too, no longer animated cartoons from a children's comic book. kibbutzes, mitzpehs, shekels, shabbats -- wadi, mihrab, salaam, baksheesh -- all formerly foreign words from formerly foreign languages - now - all real too.

i'm back on the plane now - from tel aviv's ben gurion to los angeles' LAX. in about fifteen more hours, i'll be watching american fireworks explode over dodger stadium for our annual fourth of july holiday. i’ll be wearing the black and white kaffia i bought from the friendly merchant in the shouk in old jerusalem’s arab quarter. my bemused friends and i - we'll be celebrating our 223rd birthday while the place i've just come from will have just celebrated her 50th. but numbers can be deceiving. just like history and politics and people and places. numbers can be the quantity of citizens lost in a war - or the sequence of characters burned into a captive's forearm. numbers can be the times promises have been broken - or the times trust has been restored. numbers can be the babies born in a newly created homeland - or the children lost to another pogrom. numbers can be - the one person who stood up to intolerance and persecution, or the uncountable masses who fell silent and succumbed. numbers can be the people around the world you call your friends - or the face of an enemy you don't know well enough to accept or love.

enough. what do i know anyway? i'm just the lucky guy who gets to travel for two months out of the busy year. i teach. i create art out of the fabric of my life. and i travel. and this time -- i got to graze with camels for just a short while. for which i am eternally grateful.

this time next year? who knows? maybe the SOUTH east...

...asia, that is.