While flying all over the place, he meets charming people - and some terrible folks. But the kids are alright.
By Sayed Kashua | Nov. 7, 2015 | 12:57 PM, Haaretz.com
One week, and I can’t remember how many flights I took. Champaign, Chicago, Seattle, Omaha, Northbrook, Palo Alto and from there, home. I don’t drink on planes anymore, even though my fear of flying hasn’t abated. Laptop in separate container, remove shoes and belt, make sure pockets are empty, put toiletry articles in the special sealed packet, hold hands up in the glass booth — do you see me naked? Not that I care.
Along the way I’ve met charming people — people looking for a different place in which to raise their kids. I’ve also met some terrible people who came to the States for a year or two to make money; so far, it's been taking longer than that, but afterward they’re going back.
“What are you talking about, anyway?” they say to me. “There are Arab doctors today, there’s that guy, the department director in Afula? No ... in Nahariya maybe? There’s even an Arab judge — what’s his name? — the Supreme Court Arab?”
“And the Jews’ fears?” they say. “Why don’t you talk about the Israelis’ fear? You’re so one-sided.”
“Why do you even take part in all those events?” others ask me. “What’s your opinion of the boycott plan? Why don’t you boycott the Israeli academic world?”
Why don’t you boycott yourself, punish yourself — use your language, and mine?
What do I think should happen? What do I think about the Palestinian leadership? What do I think about Assad? What do I think about the Joint Arab List? What gives me hope? Tell us, they ask, why have you stopped being funny lately?
“What’s up? How are things at home? How are the kids?”
“Fine, nothing has changed — what do you mean, ‘How are the kids?’ They argue all the time. How are you doing?”
“Alright. Missing you, tired. But I think I’m alright. I’m doing the work.”
“What time is it there?”
“Two hours behind you. I have to leave soon.”
When I’m on the move from place to place, from hotel to hotel, I get the room numbers mixed up. All the hotels look the same to me, all the rooms look the same, only the numbers change. I have to hold onto this slip they give you at the reception desk with the room number on it, otherwise I won’t remember.
Sometimes I find myself with wonderful people after an event, who insist on taking me for a beer, one beer, on the way back to the hotel — it’ll be alright. We talk about the children, about immigration.
One young researcher whom I met in Seattle, who’s studying immigrants and immigrant children, said to me, “I think they’re doing alright.” This researcher told me how children of immigrants who were born in one country but came to the United States at a young age are known as the “one-and-a-half generation,” as distinct from first- and second-generation immigrants, who, studies show, prefer to take part in activities outside the classroom because then they are judged exclusively by their performance and not by their accent, country of origin or the culture they represent.
I thought about my daughter, who plays the piano in a youth jazz ensemble and the flute in the school band, and also practices with the basketball team. And about my son who, in addition to mandolin lessons, this week added playing recorder in an ensemble.
“You understand,” the researcher explained, “that in those places the question becomes whether they’re playing the instrument well or scoring baskets.”
“How are the kids?”
“Fine, the kids are the same. On the way to bed — here, he’s coming ... it’s Daddy.”
“How are you, sweetie?”
“Daddy, did you buy me the Lego Marvelous Super Heroes already?”
“Of course, sweetie,” I lie, but of course I will buy it, I always do. There’s a Walmart next to the airport.
What do you miss most from Israel? What don’t you miss? What has to happen for you to go back? Are you going back? What about your writing? Will you go on writing for the newspaper? What are you working on now?
I go to sleep early on trips like this; I always have to wake up early. I scan the news from Israel before going to sleep, then watch reruns of “The Big Bang Theory,” a regular habit in hotels, always on the same TBS cable channel, always familiar.
When I get up, I have a look at the news again — it’s already late afternoon in Israel, and what was going to happen that day has already happened. The Israeli sites describe the distress of the Jews, and the Arab sites that are popular in Israel carry reports about the funeral of some Egyptian actress.
“We are afraid to go out of the house,” my brother tells me. “We don’t even go to Kfar Sava anymore, we just stay home. And the storm? Do you know what happened here in Tira?”
No, the truth is that the news only talked about Kfar Sava and the Jews who live in the Sharon area, but I know from experience that when I read about flooding in Kfar Sava, Tira is probably drowning.
“No power — you wouldn’t believe what a nightmare it was. Everything just flew away in the wind. I’ll send you a video, I did a little filming. The car is totally wrecked, the roof tiles, too, and windows are broken. In your house, too, but don’t worry, we’ll fix it. You don’t need it in the meantime, right?”
“Fine. Here, I’ll put her on.”
“Where are you? What time is it there? You hear? I bought a ticket.”
“When I realized I wouldn’t be able to persuade you to come here, I decided that I would go there. I want to see you both and the children.”
“I’m so happy, Mom. That’s the best thing I’ve heard in the past year! The kids will be so happy, you have no idea. I’m so happy ... Why are you crying, Mom?”