I bunk off from the ulpan. I had a 2am panic about money last night and it took me hours to get back to sleep. Still, I go to Lechem Vehavarim for breakfast. My panic about money hasn’t, yet, made me change my habits.
I speak to Raf, Isabelle’s 21 year old French son. Tall, handsome, skinny, dark skinned, he looks Israeli. He says that in France he was like a little prince, with a ‘golden spoon’. He didn’t have to work. His (divorced) parents gave him all the money he needed. But Israel is making him tougher, something he approves of.
He’s not sure if he wants to go into the army. He’s at uni now, will take a masters after that. All, at least, a delay. His friends want to, though, they think the medals and badges look ‘pimp’.
The next day I arrive at Lasalle Street on time. I hadn’t known that it’s the ulpan’s day to celebrate Purim, in the rest of the country it’s on Sunday. Shlomit is sitting outside, smoking, wearing a long, red wig, and a tiara with a peacock feather clipped to it. A couple of days earlier she had asked me, a thousand times, if I understood what she was teaching. Too forcefully, I had replied that I did. She stage-whispered to the mean girls who sit at the front, He doesn’t understand. Of course, I don’t, really, but this isn’t the way to make me.
Excuse me, I say, have you seen our teacher, Shlomit? She goes all coy, covering her face with her hair, and says, no, she hasn’t. This camp pantomime is enough to break the tension between us, and in class she goes back to asking me about Elizabeth and Birmingham Palace.
Everything stops, anyway, at ten. We, Alberto, Rufina, Nathan, Megan, Katryna, and I, my gang, go for coffee at the kiosk on the corner of Ben Gurion, as usual. I look forward to this every morning. Alberto asks Megan why she came here. She gives the same waffly answer that we all give, although I know, the others don’t, that she’s returning to Miami in the summer. I ask if there’s anything that connects us, the new immigrants. We didn’t fit in at home? says Megan, in that way that makes statements sound like questions.
We talk about how many immigrants stay here. There are a million Russians in Israel, but some come to move on to America, Alex and Milena have told me it’s their plan. It’s easier, somehow, to get there from here than from Russia. The rest of us, French, English, Americans… well, most of us don’t stay for so long. We return to where we came from.
It was time to go back, but there was only some Purim mishugas in the hall, and I left to walk on the beach. I paddle without my shirt on from the Carlton to the Orchid, the water not quite as warm as it was in October, but still clear and lovely. This is my favourite thing. I am determined to be as brown as a Greek fisherman, with white hair and a big, white moustache.
Today’s word: durkon – passport – דרכון