I sat next to an Israeli on the plane today on my trip from Sydney to Melbourne. It was a domestic flight and it was a short hop. The journey took a little over one hour as we had a tail breeze. The Israeli and I chatted the whole way. He seemed like an intense fucker so I eased my way into a discussion about Palestine. I didn't open with it. That would have been risky and it could have been dangerous but it was always on the cards though - once I knew he was Israeli.
How could it not be?
The guy from Israel is an I.T dude. He is a software engineer and not a real engineer. He doesn't build anything. He just writes maths. The Israeli's name is Benjamin but he told me to call him Ben. I told him to call me Peter because that is my name. We sat in Business class. It is a perk of our work.
When he told me that he was from Israel I said, "Shalom Alykhem" to him. The Australian translation of this is "Hello. Howzitgoin?" and it is all the Yiddish I have got. It broke the ice. I then captured his interest when I informed Ben that I worked for an Investment Bank. A very big one. At his initiation we swapped business cards. I have lost his already. I may have left it on the plane and I don't mind in the least. I have no intention of ever contacting him again.
I have met Israeli's before. I have conversed and engaged with them. I have met them in Europe, Singapore, India and in Nepal. The Israelis who I have met in Kathmandu go there just to smoke hashish. They go there solely to get wasted. A commonality with all of the Israeli's that I have met is their declaration that it is a very strange life that they live. They tell me that they are surrounded by an Arabic world who hate them and want to kill them. They tell me that they hate and want to kill the Arabs back.
It is insane and it is madness. Ben let me know in no uncertain terms that Israel is under constant threat. This is a lot of pressure and there must be much tension. It is no wonder they go to Kathmandu - just to get wasted.
Ben told me with a great deal of passion that the world had no idea what it was like to be Israeli. When he used the word "Arab" he spat it with obvious contempt. He said the word as if it was dirt in his mouth. I greatly sympathize with the people of Palestine and their cause but I did not voice this empathy to Ben. Israelis are trained to kill with both weapons and their bare hands. They are trained to kill Arabs. They are portentous and I am a coward.
I did not wish to upset him.
I told Ben that I liked the song by the British band The Cure called "Killing an Arab". I did so in an endeavour to endear myself a little. He didn't seem to know the song even though I sang the opening few lines of the tune for him. They are:
"Standing on the beach with a gun in my hand. Staring at the beach. Staring at the sand. Staring down the barrel with a gun in my hand. I can see his open mouth but I hear no sound. I'm alive. I'm dead. Killing an Arab."
He still didn't know it.
Ben and I discussed the great change that is happening in the Middle East. We observed and concurred that with the overthrow of dictators such as Mubarak in Egypt, Gadaffi in Libya - and the current efforts to depose Assad in Syria - the Arab world is changing. Ben told me that he does not know how this will impact Israel and I told him that either do I.
I have no idea.
When the plane landed in Melbourne Ben and I disembarked together. We shook hands and we said goodbye. I said this in English and so did he.
I do not know the Yiddish for 'Goodbye".
I only know, "Hello. Howzitgoin?"